MILWAUKEE — Craig Counsell still hasn’t decided who will throw the first pitch Thursday when the Milwaukee Brewers face the Colorado Rockies in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Miller Park.
Whoever it is likely won’t be pitching very long.
Counsell announced Wednesday that the series opener will be a “bullpen day” for the Brewers and it likely won’t be the only time he turns to “Johnny Wholestaff” during what the team hopes is a long playoff run.
“We’re going to use a bunch of guys and are still deciding on the exact order of that scenario,” Counsell said. “Everybody is rested.”
The Brewers have used this approach before, most notably last Monday when Dan Jennings faced one batter before handing things over to Freddy Peralta for 4 2/3 innings of work in a victory over the Cardinals.
“There aren’t going to be hard and fast rules to how we use any of our pitchers,” Counsell said. “We really think when we’re going to put together our pitching staff for this series, every one of the guys we’re adding is going to pitch significant innings … that’s what allows us to consider different ways to get 27 outs.”
The Rockies, playing in their first full postseason series since 2009, turn to Antonio Senzatela for the series opener.
Senzatela, 23, will be making his first-career postseason appearance in the same stadium he made his major league debut last season. Senzatela held Milwaukee scoreless over five innings, scattering four hits in a 2-1 Rockies victory on April 6, 2017.
“I feel ready,” Senzatela said. “I’m focused on the game, just like any other game.”
The right-hander went 6-6 with a 4.38 ERA in 13 regular season starts but was spectacular down the stretch, going 3-1 with a 3.25 ERA including a seven-inning outing against the Diamondbacks on Sept. 22 in which he held Arizona to just a run on three hits.
He’ll be facing a Milwaukee offense featuring threats up and down the lineup but none more potent these days than outfielder Christian Yelich, who flirted with the National League’s first Triple Crown since 1937 after finishing with the league’s best batting average while coming in second in RBI’s to Chicgao’s Javy Baez and in home runs to the Rockies’ own Nolan Arenado.
Arenado, who like Yelich grew up in Southern California and became good friends with the NL MVP candidate while playing on youth scout and traveling teams, was impressed but not surprised by his friend’s breakout season.
“I think he was the best player in the National League this year,” Arenado said. “It was unbelievable. He had an amazing year. He’d be my vote for MVP.”
Both teams come into the series on a high note. Milwaukee won seven straight games to finish the regular season tied atop the NL Central with the Cubs, then made it eight straight by knocking off the Cubs for the division title Monday at Wrigley Field.
Colorado, meanwhile, won nine of its last 10 to also force a one-game playoff, but a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers Monday sent the Rockies to Chicago for the NL Wild Card Game. It took 12 innings, but the Rockies finally punched their ticket to the NLDS with a 2-1 victory over the Cubs.
Now, after a chance to catch their breath, the Rockies are ready to get back to work.
“They have a good offensive team, we have a good offensive team, Arenado said. “They’ve got a good bullpen, we have a good bullpen. We have some good starters and they do, too. It’s going to be a tough battle.”