When Jhoulys Chacin signed a two-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers in January, he did so with the hope of pitching in the postseason for the first time in his 10-year major league career.
He helped fulfill that dream with an impressive regular-season, going 15-8 with a 3.50 ERA in a major league-best 35 starts and played a major role in Milwaukee’s NL Central Division Championship, holding the Cubs to a run over 5 1/3 innings in the Game 163 tiebreaker.
Now, after not allowing a run over 10 1/3 innings of his first two career postseason starts, he’ll take the ball with a trip to the World Series on the line when the Brewers take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at Miller Park Saturday night in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.
“It’s way more than I ever dreamed about,” Chacin said Friday afternoon, before Milwaukee forced the decisive final game with a 7-2 victory. “Just to think about it, it just blows my mind.
“To be pitching in October … it’s something I guess I can’t explain.”
Brewers manager Craig Counsell will have nearly his full arsenal of relievers available behind Chacin. Only Corbin Burnes, who threw two innings to close out Friday’s victory, is likely untouchable. Corey Knebel pitched 1 2/3 innings, but Jeremy Jeffress only worked one inning while left-handed relief ace Josh Hader never entered thanks to a much-needed breakout performance by Milwaukee’s offense.
“Best-case scenario for sure for us,” Counsell said. “You’ll see him tomorrow.”
That’s not reassuring news for the Dodgers, who have managed only four hits while striking out eight times in 18 at-bats over 4 2/3 innings against Hader during the series. Overall, he’s made six appearances during Mlwaukee’s playoff run and hasn’t allowed a run while striking out 12 over seven innings.
“That’s their best reliever and obviously you would have liked to have kept (Game 6) close enough to have them use him,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “They got away (Friday night) because of the run differential and they didn’t have to use him.”
Roberts named Dodgers rookie Walker Buehler for the Game 7 start. The 24-year-old right-hander has been knocked around a little bit this postseason, allowing nine runs in 12 innings spanning two starts, and was charged with four runs on six hits over seven innings last Monday in Milwaukee’s 4-0 Game 3 victory.
“This is a big one,” Buehler said. “But at the end of the day it’s the same game and the same thing I’ve got to go do.”
With the Dodgers’ season on the line, Roberts will again have all hands on deck and available, including Clayton Kershaw, if necessary.
“Outside of (Game 6 starter Hyun-Jin) Ryu everyone will be available,” Roberts said. “So with that we’re in a good spot.”
Saturday will mark the eighth Game 7 in Dodgers history. The team’s last Game 7 came in the World Series a year ago, when the Astros won the title, 5-1, at Dodger Stadium.
The Brewers have played just one Game 7 in their existence, a 6-3 loss to the Cardinals in the 1982 World Series — a game played exactly 36 years ago to the day on Saturday — and are 5-4 all-time when facing elimination.
It will be the 10th Game 7 in NLCS history. The home team has won six of the previous nine matchups.