After jumping out to an impressive 2-0 NLDS lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday night, the Milwaukee Brewers took to Chase Field in Phoenix with high hopes of sweeping Kirk Gibson and company and moving on to the NLCS, where they would face either the Philadelphia Phillies or St. Louis Cardinals. Needless to say, Milwaukee played uninspired baseball in both Game 3 and Game 4, allowing the suddenly confidence-saturated Diamondbacks to even the series at two games apiece.
Game 5 will be Friday night at 5:00 p.m. ET in Milwaukee, with a trip to the NLCS on the line.
Here are five things that must happen for the Brewers to take the series’ final matchup.
Yovani Gallardo MUST Pitch Brilliant
This goes without saying.
More or less the only Brewers pitcher to have any noteworthy success against Arizona up to this point, Yovani Gallardo, must duplicate his Game 1 performance from Saturday afternoon if Milwaukee intends to advance. Allowing just one earned run over eight solid innings of baseball in Game 1, Gallardo now boasts a career 5-0 record, 1.20 ERA and a stunning .188 BAA against these same Diamondbacks. If he can limit Arizona as he did on Saturday, Milwaukee will be on its way to the team’s first-ever appearance on the NLCS stage.
They MUST Keep Willie Bloomquist in Check
Willie Bloomquist has to be one of the most underrated leadoff hitters in the game today. In four games, Arizona’s shortstop is batting .353 (6-for-17), scored six times, walked twice and has stolen two bases. Bloomquist’s aggressiveness at the plate has become an integral part of Arizona’s comeback, and unless Brewers pitchers make a few adjustments in Game 5, Milwaukee will be watching the NLCS at home.
Carlos Gomez MUST Be in the Starting Lineup
Don’t get me wrong—I love Nyjer Morgan as much as the next guy. But, after Carlos Gomez’s exceptional performance in Game 4, I’m convinced he’s the man who should be patrolling center field for Milwaukee.
Gomez is not only immensely better defensively than Morgan, but he is the most lethal weapon on the basepaths and is playing with a colossal chip on his shoulder right now. His two-run home run and stolen base on Wednesday night proves he’s the best option, even though righty Ian Kennedy will be on the bump for Arizona. Baserunners will be crucial in this winner-take-all Game 5, and there’s no doubt Gomez is the best option.
John Axfod MUST Close the Door Late
In Milwaukee’s victories in Game 1 and Game 2, John Axford was able to close the door in convincing fashion against the Diamondbacks, recording three combined punchouts between the two contests.
Should the Brewers take a slim lead into the top of the ninth, the 28-year-old Axford absolutely must be able to shut the door the way he’s demonstrated he’s capable of doing during the regular season.
Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder MUST Show Up
It all comes down to this. After five historic seasons together, Friday afternoon’s contest in Milwaukee may be the last Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder ever play together…ever. In Game 1 and Game 2, Milwaukee’s dynamic duo combined for a .563 BA (9-for-16), including two home runs and six RBI. On the road, it was a different story, as the two combined for a .214 BA (3-for-14) while accumulating just one RBI.
Braun and Fielder are obviously Milwaukee’s biggest offensive threat, and things could get ugly fast if the two aren’t able to deliver in Game 5.