For just the third time in his Hall of Fame career, Mariano Rivera has given up homers in back-to-back relief appearances. However, It didn’t prevent him from notching his 30th save Thursday against the Angels.
Rivera, who gave up a two-run homer to Bobby Abreu in a loss to the Angels on Tuesday, came into a 6-2 game with two on and one out in the ninth inning today. He promptly allowed a three-run homer to Russell Branyan, making it 6-5. However, he was able to retire the next two batters he faced to end the contest.
The previous times Rivera gave up homers in consecutive appearances came in Aug. 2003 against the Orioles and in April 2009 versus the Red Sox and Tigers. It also happened to him twice as a rookie in 1995, but he started both games the first time and one game during the second streak.
On the positive side, Rivera’s save today gave him 14 seasons of at least 30, tying Trevor Hoffman’s major league record. Lee Smith is the only other pitcher with double-digit 30-save seasons, and he finished with just the 10. Billy Wagner had nine.
One team has punched its ticket to the Fall Classic. Two teams are looking to join them, with the Dodgers carrying the distinct advantage. Los Angeles needs only a split in the final two games of the NLCS while Milwaukee needing to win both games at home. Doable? Absolutely. But to do it, the Brewers are going to have to wake up their sleepy bats.
NLCS Game 6
Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:39 PM Eastern
Pitchers: Hyun-Jin Ryu vs Wade Miley
The Dodgers will give the ball to left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who tossed seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but allowed two runs and tossed 72 pitches, failing to get out of the fifth inning, in Game 2 against Milwaukee. Even if he again turns in a short outing Dave Roberts should feel pretty confident, however, as the Dodgers’ bullpen — considered a question mark coming into this series — has allowed only three runs in in 21 and two-thirds innings of work.
For Milwaukee it’s once again Wade Miley, who was the Game 5 “starter,” but who pitched to only one batter. I suppose it’s possible that Craig Counsell will burn him like that again, but it seems more likely that Miley will actually pitch in this game rather than be used as a decoy.
As I noted the other day, though, the Brewers’ pitching gamesmanship has not really been a factor in this series. The real problem for them has been their offense. They’ve scored only 16 runs in five games while batting .219. That’s actually identical to the Dodgers’ run total and average overall, but L.A. has been better at distributing that meager offense. Milwaukee has been cold at the worst times, too, going 5-for-35 with runners in scoring position in the series, including one for their last 11. If that doesn’t change, their season ends tonight.