Will Smith, Dodgers seek sweep of Brewers in clash of division leaders

Will Smith will take aim at the fences and his second consecutive All-Star Game appearance when he guides the Los Angeles Dodgers into the finale of a three-game series Sunday against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers.

Smith, a hopeful to become a National League All-Star reserve catcher, hit a first-inning home run Saturday as the Dodgers went on to a 5-3 victory over the Brewers in a battle of first-place teams. The long ball came after Smith hit three home runs in a victory on Friday.

The Dodgers now will try for their first series sweep since taking all three from the Chicago White Sox on June 24-26. The Dodgers have six sweeps of at least three games this season.

Smith was in a 2-for-34 slide when he went through extra hitting work before a series at San Francisco last weekend and made what he called “minor swing adjustments.” His four home runs in his past two games came after he had two in the 23 games before the series started.

“I think that’s baseball,” Smith said. “There’s always ups and downs. … I think over the last week, there has been better contact.”

The past few weeks haven’t soured Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on his catcher.

“He’s just so consistent and he just doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves of being one of the top two catchers in the game,” Roberts said of Smith.

The Dodgers are set to give left-hander Justin Wrobleski the start in his major league debut Sunday. A Single-A All-Star in the Midwest League last year, he’s 5-3 with a 3.23 ERA this season in 15 starts combined at Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City.

The Brewers have their own top catcher in William Contreras, who already landed an All-Star Game spot when he was named the National League starter earlier this week. Milwaukee outfielder Christian Yelich also will start, giving the Brewers more starters than the Dodgers and their MVP-laden lineup.

Contreras had eight hits in his first four games of July, but went hitless in Friday’s series opener before he had one hit and two walks on Saturday. The Brewers tied Saturday’s game at 3 in the eighth inning on Yelich’s home run, but the Dodgers pulled away on home runs from Miguel Vargas and Shohei Ohtani in the bottom half of the inning.

The Brewers are set to send left-hander Dallas Keuchel (0-0, 6.75 ERA) to the mound Sunday. Keuchel was acquired from the Seattle Mariners on June 25 and has given up seven runs on 12 hits in two starts for Milwaukee, with nine strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings.

Keuchel allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings in a start at Colorado on Tuesday as the Brewers rallied for a 4-3 victory.

“We’re feisty,” Keuchel told reporters after a pair of no-decisions. “I don’t know how many times I faced the Brewers, but it always seems like they find a way. Everybody is very resilient.”

Rhys Hoskins proved Keuchel’s point with a grand slam Friday and another home run Saturday against the Dodgers.

For the record, Keuchel has faced the Brewers six times, losing five of those games. Surprisingly, however, the 13-year veteran with 280 appearances to his credit has never thrown against the Dodgers.

–Field Level Media