Brewers reliever Devin Williams and his ‘Airbender’ out for series against Dodgers

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Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Devin Williams was left off the roster for the first-round series against the Dodgers because of right-shoulder soreness.  (Morry Gash / Associated Press)

The playoff hopes of the Milwaukee Brewers were dealt a serious blow Wednesday when right-hander Devin Williams was left off the roster for the first-round series against the Dodgers because of right-shoulder soreness. The best-of-three series opens with Game 1 in Dodger Stadium tonight at 7.

Williams may have been baseball’s best reliever this season, going 4-1 with a 0.33 ERA in 22 games, striking out 53 and walking nine in 27 innings. His 17.67 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate in a 60-game season tied Aroldis Chapman (2014 Reds) for the best single-season mark in baseball history.

The 26-year-old rookie, who features a 97-mph fastball and a screwball-like, 84-mph changeup called “the Airbender” that fades down and away from left-handed batters, allowed only one run all season, on a solo homer by Pittsburgh’s Colin Moran on July 27.

With ace Corbin Burnes (4-1, 2.11 ERA) sidelined by a left-oblique strain and left-hander Brett Anderson off the playoff roster because of a blister on the index finger of his pitching hand, the eighth-seeded Brewers (29-31) were counting on Williams, left-hander Josh Hader and the rest of their relievers to cover the bulk of the innings against the top-seeded and heavily favored Dodgers (43-17).

But it will be much more difficult for the Brewers to upset the Dodgers without Williams, who held opponents to an .090 average and .339 on-base-plus-slugging percentage this season.