If Los Angeles Dodgers fans were concerned about an early playoff exit in 2023, the Milwaukee Brewers exacerbated that fear because they're a bit of a matchup nightmare. The one thing that can effectively handle the high-octane Dodgers offense is elite starting pitching.
The Brewers lead MLB with a 3.71 ERA and a .226 batting average against. They're second in WHIP with a 1.19 mark, and in shutouts with 16. Their starting staff is sixth in ERA (3.94), third in WHIP (1.17) and first in batting average against (.229).
The unit, led by Corbin Burnes, has gotten admirable support from Freddy Peralta, Wade Miley and Adrian Houser. The Brew Crew received a late-season reinforcement in Brandon Woodruff, who returned from a shoulder injury to make 11 starts and finish the regular season with a 2.28 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 74 strikeouts in 11 starts (67 innings). Milwaukee was getting stronger at the perfect time.
But they were delivered a blow on Monday when manager Craig Counsell announced Woodruff would miss the Wild Card series due to a shoulder issue. His availability for the postseason is also "up in the air," which obviously puts the NLDS in jeopardy for him.
The Dodgers play the winner of the Brewers-Diamondbacks series (Milwaukee is favored) and may avoid facing Milwaukee's second-best starter if the NL Central champs advance. Either that, or they face the Diamondacks, who they should make quick work of.
Brandon Woodruff Injury: Dodgers might catch up break in NLDS
Woodruff has legitimately been one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball dating back to 2019, but his prime has been interrupted by various injuries. He was an All-Star in 2019 and 2021 (and only wasn't one in 2022 because he missed a month in the first half), but has only made 30 starts once in his last four full seasons (he made 13 in the shortened 2020).
In his career as a starter, the right-hander has pitched in 115 games and accumulated a 3.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 754 strikeouts in 653.2 innings. His five-pitch mix -- four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, slider and curveball -- makes him as unpredictable as anybody.
His most recent start against the Marlins saw it all come crashing down, and though the Brewers made it as far as they did without him, the hope was to have a healthy and well-rested Woodruff ready for October when they'd be facing the league's best offenses.
The Brewers still have the starting pitching edge over the Dodgers, as most other teams do, but LA's offense has made up for their underwhelming rotation, and any matchup advantage they can get on that front will help them stay alive longer.
They'll still have to face Burnes, Peralta and Miley if the Brewers advance, but that's a lot less daunting with Woodruff potentially out of the mix, which should take pressure of Clayton Kershaw (shoulder), Bobby Miller (rookie) and Lance Lynn (role up in the air).