MILWAUKEE — Jesus Aguilar violently slammed his arms against his legs. Mike Moustakas waved his hands toward the dugout. Erik Kratz signaled toward the crowd. Ryan Braun screamed as he held his arms in the air, as if thanking the heavens.
With each run-scoring hit against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Friday, the Milwaukee Brewers sent the crowd at Miller Park into a fever pitch. With each run-scoring hit, they awakened a lethargic offense. With each run-scoring hit, they saved their charmed season.
A 7-2 Brewers victory over the Dodgers guaranteed that this compelling series of managerial chess and unconventional pitching strategies, this showdown between the smallest market in baseball and the second-largest, would live another day.
A ticket to face the Boston Red Sox in the World Series will be on the line Saturday.
The last N.L.C.S. to go seven games was the 2012 meeting of the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants, who went on to win the World Series.
The Brewers last reached the final round in 1982, when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, whereas the Dodgers reached the World Series last year, losing to the Houston Astros.
As soon as Game 6 started, the thousands waving yellow towels at Miller Park were silenced. Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts did something unusual with the lineup: He moved the right-handed David Freese, usually a No. 3 hitter, to the leadoff spot, hoping to squeeze as many at-bats out of him as possible against the Brewers’ Wade Miley, a left-handed starting pitcher.
In Game 5, Miley had served mostly as a decoy, facing only one batter before he was replaced by Brandon Woodruff, a right-handed reliever. Miley was going to get a lot more work this time.
Freese, who is especially productive against left-handed pitching, made his leadoff at-bat count. He deposited the fifth pitch of the game past the right field fence for a home run. As they have done often during big moments this postseason, the Dodgers danced on the infield dirt outside their dugout.
Four batters later, the crowd came back to life, but not because of anything the Brewers did. Dodgers third baseman Manny Machado, whose pugnacious baserunning in this series has angered some Brewers, was forcefully booed — first in pregame introductions, then when he stepped to the plate in the first inning. Miley struck him out, and the crowd cheered.
The really throaty roars came in the bottom of the inning. The Brewers had lost the previous two games of the series partly because their offense sputtered, particularly from their best hitters. Entering Friday, Christian Yelich, the favorite to win the N.L. Most Valuable Player Award, was 3 for 20 with no runs driven in this series.
The Brewers lost a marathon Game 4 when they could not push a second run across the plate. They fell in Game 5 after they had Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ star starting pitcher, on the ropes but could not land a knockout blow. In their last 22 innings before Game 6, the Brewers managed just three runs.
“Honestly, we haven’t been close at all,” said Lorenzo Cain, the Brewers’ center fielder, when asked after Game 5 if his team’s offense was near a breakout. “One run here, two runs there, that’s not going to cut it against the Dodgers.”
Their bats provided much more against Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Dodgers’ left-handed starter. Ryu had pitched solidly this season, but his command was off from the start of Game 6. Cain singled to lead off the game, and Braun drew a one-out walk.
After Travis Shaw struck out, Aguilar came to the plate. Despite an All-Star regular season in which he hit 35 home runs and drove in 108 runs, Aguilar had just one run batted in during this series. He doubled that total when he poked a Ryu changeup down the right field line for a double that scored Cain and Braun.
The outburst did not end there. In the span of three pitches, the Brewers took a 4-1 lead. Moustakas doubled in Aguilar. Kratz drove in Moustakas with a single.
Before the game, Brewers Manager Craig Counsell said he hoped the home crowd would help his team put pressure on the opposing pitching staff.
“As we get rallies going, that can add to the pressure,” he said.
It certainly did in the first inning. And in the second inning, when Yelich doubled and Braun doubled him home for a 5-1 lead.
The Brewers drove Ryu from the game after three innings. The Dodgers, the highest scoring team in the N.L. during the regular season, chased Miley in the fifth after Freese doubled in a run and Max Muncy walked.
In handling his bullpen, Counsell had to strike a balance between doing all he could to win this game and also protecting his best relief pitchers for a Game 7 about 24 hours later.
Because the score was so close, Counsell deployed some of his best relief pitchers: Corey Knebel (one and two-thirds innings), Jeremy Jeffress (one inning). In all, the Brewers bullpen did not allow a hit over four and two-thirds innings.
A Milwaukee run in the seventh inning gave Counsell a bigger cushion to use Corbin Burnes to complete the game and to save Josh Hader, the Brewers’ best relief pitcher, for Game 7.
Milwaukee will start Jhoulys Chacin, who has not surrendered a run this postseason, on Saturday, while the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler, who coughed up four runs in Game 3, will try to vex a resurgent offense. The season is on the line again.