MILWAUKEE — Can you win the most games in your league during the regular season and still be an underdog in the postseason?
When it comes to the Milwaukee Brewers, Las Vegas says yes. But the Brewers players aren’t so sure, with some difference of opinions there.
The consensus of Las Vegas oddsmakers has the Los Angeles Dodgers listed as -150 favorites to win the National League Championship Series, meaning that gamblers would bet $150 to win $100. The Brewers are a +140 underdog, where a $100 bet would earn $140.
While the players can’t be involved in any of that kind of stuff, they can contemplate the whole premise about their team’s perception heading into Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday night at Miller Park.
Infielder Travis Shaw, for one, fully embraced the notion that the Brewers enter the series in an underdog role. He sees it as part of the DNA of a team representing Milwaukee against a team from Los Angeles.
“I think we’re taking the underdog mentality,” Shaw said before the team’s workout on Wednesday. “Look at the four teams that are left. It’s the Astros the Red Sox, the Dodgers and the Brewers. We’re the smallest market out of the four.
“We’re kind of the no-name out of the four, but we kind of like that role. We like that underdog mentality. We’re used to it. We were underdogs all year and won the most games in the National League, so we’ll take on that role again.”
Third baseman Mike Moustakas was involved in a similar matchup in 2015 when he helped the Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets in the World Series. But other than the demographics, he doesn’t see market size as a relevant issue.
“We’re not concerned about the markets,” Moustakas said. “We’re concerned about going out and beating those guys. That’s a great team over there. No one feels like an underdog in the (Championship Series). Both teams deserve to be here, all four teams deserve to be here.”
One area where the Brewers figure to have an edge on the Dodgers is in the bullpen. Accordingly, those guys have a hard time buying into any underdog talk.
“You take a look at the lineup and the bullpen and the starting pitchers, we have really good talent in here,” veteran reliever Joakim Soria said. “They do have a good team but we have a good team, too.”
Rookie reliever Corbin Burnes was thinking along the same lines.
“I don’t know if we’re really considered the underdog,” Burnes said. “The only thing that you could consider us underdogs is the payroll and the market size. But as far as who had the better season, the record, I’d say we’ve had the better year to this point. I don’t think we’re going into this thinking we’re the underdog at all.”
The Dodgers figure to start three left-handed pitchers in the first four games of the series, beginning with ace Clayton Kershaw on Friday, with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill starting two of the next three games.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell said that will impact his lineup, although he avoided any specifics. He started lefties Christian Yelich, Moustakas and Shaw each of the three games against Colorado in the NLDS against right-handers. Shaw has shared time at second base with either Hernan Perez or Jonathan Schoop.
“They have a very left-handed rotation,” Counsell said. “It means you’re going to see different lineups. You won’t see one lineup. We think we have the players for it but you’ll definitely see different names in the starting lineup because of it.”
The Dodgers platoon several spots in their lineup, changing the makeup of their bench from game to game. But Counsell said he doesn’t factor that in much when lining up how he plans to use his bullpen.
“The way that I think about our bullpen I don’t really think about matchups that much, which is easier on my end,” Counsell said. “Different teams, according to personnel, are going to go about it different ways. I think the most important thing for us is to get our best guys into the game and let them get outs.”
Counsell opened the NLDS with a bullpen game, with rookie Brandon Woodruff starting and going three innings, before using regular starters Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley the next two games.
As of Wednesday Counsell was still being coy about his pitching plans.
“I don’t have names for you,” he said. “We have to think about this series differently. Covering the number of innings we have to cover, it’s definitely something we have to think about differently.
“We’ve done things differently a whole bunch of the season. It’s always going to be a part of the conversation, but we also have to understand that this is a different season and there’s different requirements for our pitching staff and we have to keep that in mind.”