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Dodgers defeat the Braves, 4-3 and are in first place in the NL West

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Justin Turner slides home with the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.
(Associated Press)

The Dodgers move into first place in the NL West with win and Giants’ loss to Milwaukee.

The Dodgers score two runs in the bottom of the eighth to defeat Atlanta, 4-3

Dodgers beat the Braves, 4-3

An object that has been looming in the San Francisco Giants’ rearview mirror for more than four months is no longer closer than it appears. It just passed them in the fast lane and pulled a half-car length ahead in the race for the coveted National League West title.

The Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves with a 4-3 come-from-behind victory Wednesday night, Max Scherzer battling through a tight right hamstring to throw six shutout innings and Justin Turner and AJ Pollock delivering clutch two-out, run-scoring hits in the eighth.

Their 20th win in 24 games, combined with San Francisco’s 5-2 loss to Milwaukee, moved the Dodgers (85-49) a half-game ahead of the Giants (84-49) with 28 games left, the first time the defending World Series-champion Dodgers have held first place in the NL West since April 28.

They fell a season-high five games behind the Giants after a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 12 but have won 16 of 19 games since to put themselves in position to pounce when the Giants finally stumbled.

“It’s a start,” manager Dave Roberts said of his team’s perch atop the NL West. “We’re getting there. We have to continue to play good baseball. There’s a lot of baseball left. I just like the way our guys are so resilient and pick each other up.”

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We go to the ninth, 4-3 Dodgers

Braves: Left-hander Alex Vesia now pitching for the Dodgers. Orlando Arcia, batting for Pederson, flied to left. Swanson homered to right-center. Freeman grounded to second. Right-hander Phil Bickford now pitching for the Dodgers. Riley grounded to second.

Dodgers: Arcia in left. Rosario in center. Duvall in right. T.Turner doubled to left. Muncy grounded to first, Turner to third. Betts struck out swinging. Right-hander Chris Martin now pitching for the Braves. J.Turner singled to left, scoring T.Turner. Seager walked on six pitches. Pollock singled to left, J.Turner scoring, Seager to second. Taylor struck out looking.

Score after eight: Dodgers 4, Braves 3

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Dave Roberts pulls Max Scherzer after six, then Braves tie it

Braves: Right-hander Brusdar Graterol now pitching. Not sure why Scherzer was removed. He doesn’t appear to be injured. Riley grounded to short. d’Arnaud singled to right-center. Rosario homered to center. And we’re tied. I’d love to know why Scherzer was pulled. Duvall singled to right. Adrianza struck out swinging. Jorge Soler, batting for Fried, struck out looking.

Dodgers: Right-hander Richard Rodriguez now pitching for the Braves. Seager flied to deep center. The ball was caught with the fielder’s back up against the wall. Pollock struck out swinging. Taylor walked on seven pitches. Barnes grounded to short and it ticked off Swanson’s glove for a single. Cody Bellinger was announced to hit for Graterol. That brings left-hander Tyler Matzek into the game to pitch for the Braves. Bellinger grounded to short.

Score after seven: Dodgers 2, Braves 2

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Dodgers lead 2-0 after six

Braves: Pederson lined to center. Swanson struck out looking. Freeman flied to right. Through six inning, Scherzer has given up only three hits and no walks while striking out nine. He has thrown 76 pitches.

Dodgers: T.Turner walked on four pitches. Muncy struck out swinging. Turner took second on a wild pitch. Betts struck out looking. J.Turner lined to second.

Score after six: Dodgers 2, Braves 0

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It’s 2-0 Dodgers after five

Braves: d’Arnaud grounded to short. Rosario singled to right-center. Duvall struck out looking. Adrianza singled to center, Rosario to second. Fried struck out swinging.

Dodgers: Taylor grounded to short. Barnes struck out looking. Scherzer struck out swinging.

Score after five: Dodgers 2, Braves 0

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Dodgers lead Braves 2-0 after four innings

Braves: Swanson struck out looking. Freeman struck out swinging. Riley lined to center.

Dodgers: J.Turner struck out looking. Seager grounded to first. Pollock struck out swinging.

Score after four: Dodgers 2, Braves 0

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Max Muncy joins elite company with his 30th homer

Max Muncy hit his 30th home run of the season on Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves, becoming only the ninth Dodger with at least three 30 home run seasons. The list:

6-Gil Hodges, Duke Snider

5-Eric Karros

4-Roy Campanella, Mike Piazza

3-Max Muncy, Pedro Guerrero, Raul Mondesi, Gary Sheffield

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Dodgers take 2-0 lead on Austin Barnes’ homer

Braves: Ehire Adrianza grounded to second. Max Fried flied to center. Pederson struck out swinging.

Dodgers: Austin Barnes homered to left, estimated at 374 feet. Max Scherzer grounded to second. T.Turner grounded to short. Muncy tripled off the fence in center. Betts struck out looking.

Score after three: Dodgers 2, Braves 0

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It’s 1-0 Dodgers after two

Braves: Travis d’Arnaud struck out swinging. Eddie Rosario popped to third. Adam Duvall struck out looking.

Dodgers: Corey Seager grounded to the pitcher. AJ Pollock grounded to short. Chris Taylor struck out swinging.

Score after two: Dodgers 1, Braves 0

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Dodgers take quick 1-0 lead on Max Muncy’s homer

Braves: Right-hander Max Scherzer pitching for the Dodgers. Joc Pederson struck out swinging. Dansby Swanson flied to right. Freddie Freeman singled to left. Austin Riley flied to left.

Dodgers: Left-hander Max Fried pitching for the Braves. Trea Turner lined to left. Max Muncy homered to left, estimated at 379 feet. Mookie Betts struck out swinging. Justin Turner grounded to second.

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Dodgers will attempt to sweep Braves without Kenley Jansen or Blake Treinen

Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen pitches against the San Diego Padres.
Blake Treinen
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

The Dodgers will attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night without the relief duo that Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, calls a “two-headed monster at the end of games.”

Closer Kenley Jansen, who pitched in three of the previous four games, and setup man Blake Treinen, who pitched in five of the previous seven games, will both be “down,” manager Dave Roberts said before the game.

“Could they pitch? Certainly, but the cost of preventing potential injury certainly outweighs it,” Roberts said. “We have other good, viable options. The season isn’t gonna be over tonight, regardless. I still feel very good about our chances of winning tonight.”

Treinen, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander who mixes a lively 98-mph sinking fastball with a nasty 86-mph slider and 93-mph cut-fastball, has thrived in a setup role, going 5-5 with a 1.97 ERA in 59 games, with 69 strikeouts and 18 walks in 59 1/3 innings.

The Dodgers have had the luxury of deploying Treinen anywhere from the seventh through ninth innings, often against the heart of the opposing lineup, because Jansen has solidified the closer role after bumpy 2019 and 2020 seasons and a rough patch after the All-Star break this season.

Jansen, a 6-5, 265-pound right-hander, is 2-4 with a 2.60 ERA and 30 saves in 55 games on the season, striking out 68 and walking 32 in 55 1/3 innings, and he passed Rollie Fingers for 14th on baseball’s all-time saves list with his 342nd save Tuesday night.

The 12-year veteran, who turns 34 on Sept. 30, has been almost untouchable in 16 games since July 24, going 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA and nine saves in nine opportunities, striking out 24, walking six and limiting opponents to a .136 average (eight for 59) in 17 innings.

“Outside of a five-day stretch,” Friedman said, “he’s been as consistent and good as any reliever out there.”

That was one ugly five-day stretch. In three appearances from July 18-22, Jansen suffered a blown save and two losses against the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants, giving up eight earned runs in two innings. He was booed off the Dodger Stadium in both games against the Giants.

“He’s continued to work really hard, he’s drowned out all the negative noise around him and is focusing on the positive stuff in the clubhouse and helping us win baseball games,” Roberts said. “It’s a good formula.”

As much as it hurt Jansen, who has spent 17 years—half of his life—in the Dodgers organization, to be booed off his own mound, it motivated him.

“There are very few guys who work as hard and care as much as he does, so he wears a lot of that very personally because of how much he cares,” Friedman said. “He had a hard time sort of navigating that, figuring out how to channel it in a way that’s productive.

“He wants nothing more than to perform well for our fans and help our team, so he made sure to block out the noise that was running counter to that.”

Jansen had a career-high 3.71 ERA in 62 games in 2019 and a 3.33 ERA in 27 games in a pandemic-shortened 2020 before losing his closing job in the postseason.

Julio Urias got the last nine outs of a National League Championship Series-clinching Game 7 win over the Braves and the last seven outs of the World Series Game 6 clincher over Tampa Bay.

Jansen revamped his winter workout regimen, replacing heavy weightlifting with exercises that would promote more agility and explosive movements, and the results have been obvious.

The average velocity of his cut-fastball has jumped from 90.9 mph in 2020 to 92.6 mph this season. He’s also improved command of a 94-mph, two-seam sinking fastball that he began throwing in 2017 and an 82.1-mph slider that has kept hitters off-balance.

He got Austin Riley to pop out on a sinker, struck out Travis d’Arnaud with a cutter and whiffed Dansby Swanson with a slider to end Tuesday night’s game.

“He’s pitching more, using his fastball, cutter and breaking ball,” Friedman said. “I care a less about his velocity than I do his movement and execution. When he has great velo with it, all the better. But his ability to execute a pitch and mix his pitches is gonna make him good for a long time.”

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Dodgers and Braves to get Max efforts on mound in series finale

The Dodgers will go for a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night in Chavez Ravine, where both teams will get Max efforts on the mound, Dodgers right-hander Max Scherzer (12-4, 2.51 ERA) opposing Braves left-hander Max Fried (11-7, 3.54 ERA).

Scherzer, acquired along with infielder Trea Turner in a trade-deadline deal with the Washington Nationals, is 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA in five starts with the Dodgers, giving up 19 hits, striking out 41 and walking five in 29 innings.

Fried, a former Harvard-Westlake High star, is 5-2 with a 1.90 ERA in his last eight starts, striking out 52 and walking nine in 50 innings.

The Dodgers have won 15 of 18 games to move to within a half-game of the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

First baseman Albert Pujols, who had been starting against left-handers for most of his Dodgers tenure, is not in the lineup against a Braves left-hander for the second time in three days. Nor is Cody Bellinger, the left-handed-hitting center fielder who has been reduced to a platoon role.

Former Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson will bat first and play center field for the Braves.

With teams allowed to expand rosters from 26 to 28 players on Wednesday, the Dodgers added utility man Zach McKinstry and right-hander Ryan Meisinger, who was claimed on Tuesday from the Chicago Cubs.

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Dodgers defeat Braves, 3-2

On most days this season, before he returned from a second stint on the injured list, Mookie Betts probably doesn’t score from first base on the double Corey Seager ripped into the gap in right-center field on the eighth pitch of his at-bat Tuesday night.

He probably doesn’t race around the bases for the go-ahead run and the Dodgers might not emerge with a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium.

“He might have, but it might’ve come at a cost,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

But Betts said he was pain-free when he returned last week. He said the bone spur in his right hip, the source of the discomfort that hampered him for the first four months, wouldn’t be a problem after a second cortisone shot.

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We go to the ninth, 3-2 Dodgers

Braves: Right-hander Blake Treinen now pitching for the Dodgers. Adrianza struck out swinging. Soler struck out swinging. Freeman struck out swinging.

Dodgers: Betts walked on five pitches. J.Turner flied to right. Seager doubled to right-center, scoring Betts. Smith popped to first. Pollock was walked intentionally. Bellinger struck out swinging.

Score after eight: Dodgers 3, Braves 2

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Dodgers tie it in the seventh

Braves: Duvall flied to center. Pederson grounded to first. Guillermo Heredia, batting for Morton, struck out swinging.

Dodgers: Right-hander Luke Jackson now pitching for the Braves. Smith struck out swinging. Pollock walked on six pitches. Bellinger singled to right, Pollock to third. Chris Taylor, batting for Buehler, flied to center, scoring Pollock. We’re tied. T.Turner singled to left, Bellinger to third. Left-hander Tyler Matzek replaces Jackson. Muncy flied to right.

Score after seven: Dodgers 2, Braves 2

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It’s 2-1 Braves after six

Braves: Freeman grounded to first. Riley singled to left. d’Arnaud flied to center. Swanson flied to center.

Dodgers: Muncy struck out swinging. Betts walked on seven pitches. J.Turner grounded to the pitcher, Betts to second. Seager grounded to first.

Score after six: Braves 2, Dodgers 1

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It’s 2-1 Braves after five

Braves: Pederson walked on six pitches. Morton sacrificed. Albies fouled a pitch off his left knee and is in tremendous pain. He is carried off the field and Ehite Adrianza finishes his at-bat. It’s 0-2, so tough way to have an at-bat. Adrianza grounded to first. Soler struck out swinging.

Dodgers: Adrianza at second. Bellinger grounded to second. Buehler struck out looking. T.Turner grounded to third.

Score after five: Braves 2, Dodgers 1

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It’s 2-1 Braves after four innings

Braves: Freeman grounded to the pitcher. Riley singled to right-center. d’Arnaud doubled to left, Riley scoring. Swanson grounded to third. Duvall fouled to first.

Dodgers: Muncy lined to left. Betts homered to left-center, estimated at 381 feet. J.Turner singled to left-center. Seager walked on five pitches. Smith lined to left. Pollock grounded to second.

Score after four: Braves 2, Dodgers 1

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Braves take 1-0 lead in third on Joc Pederson’s homer

Braves: Joc Pederson homered to right. Charlie Morton struck out swinging. Albies grounded to first. Soler grounded to second.

Dodgers: Cody Bellinger grounded to first. Walker Buehler struck out looking. T.Turner struck out swinging.

Score after three: Braves 1, Dodgers 0

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It’s scoreless after two innings

Braves: Austin Riley struck out swinging. Travis d’Arnaud flied to deep right with Betts making a nice running catch. Dansby Swanson walked on four pitches. Adam Duvall struck out swinging.

Dodgers: Justin Turner doubled to left. Corey Seager struck out swinging. Will Smith struck out looking. AJ Pollock struck out looking.

Score after two: Dodgers 0, Braves 0

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No score after one inning

Braves: Right-hander Walker Buehler pitching for the Dodgers. Ozzie Albies flied to left. Jorge Soler grounded to third. Freddie Freeman grounded to short.

Dodgers: Right-hander Charlie Morton pitching for the Braves. Trea Turner flied to center. Max Muncy struck out swinging. Mookie Betts grounded to third.

Score after one: Dodgers 0, Braves 0

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Dodgers claim two more relievers off waivers

The Dodgers kept busy on the waiver wire Tuesday, claiming right-handed relievers Jake Jewell and Ryan Meisinger off waivers from the Chicago Cubs.

Jewell and Meisinger are the fourth and fifth players claimed by the Dodgers this month. They’ve claimed seven right-handed relievers off waivers since the beginning of May.

Both pitchers were added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, filling in spots opened by two unidentified players placed on triple-A Oklahoma City’s inactive list for COVID-19-related reasons, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Jewell, 28, gave up 11 earned runs in 10 innings across 10 appearances for the Cubs this season. He broke into the major leagues with the Angels and posted a 6.99 ERA in 21 appearances over two seasons.

Meisinger, 27, surrendered 10 earned runs in 7 1/3 innings over seven games for Chicago. He began his major-league career with the Baltimore Orioles in 2018 and appeared in two games for the St. Louis Cardinals last season.

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Clayton Kershaw set to throw two-inning sim game

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to the plate during the third inning.
Clayton Kershaw
(Associated Press)

A day after Clayton Kershaw threw off a mound for the first time in nearly two months, manager Dave Roberts said he expects the left-hander to proceed to the next step in his return from the injured list by the end of the week.

Roberts said he thinks Kershaw, on the injured list since July 7 with forearm inflammation, is scheduled to throw a two-inning simulated game Saturday. Kershaw logged one inning Monday, throwing 15 pitches, at Dodger Stadium. Most importantly, he rebounded well Tuesday.

“He felt good,” Roberts said.

Kershaw played catch before the Dodgers’ game against the Braves on Tuesday. He is slated to throw a bullpen session Wednesday or Thursday, according to Roberts.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner last pitched July 3. He’s 9-7 with a 3.39 ERA in 106 1/3 innings across 18 starts this season.

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Dodgers lineup at full strength vs. Braves on Tuesday

Cody Bellinger is back in the Dodgers’ lineup Tuesday after sitting against a left-hander Monday as the Dodgers look to beat the Braves for the second straight night with their full projected lineup.

Charlie Morton will take the mound for Atlanta. Cy Young contender Walker Buehler will put his league-best 2.02 ERA on the line for the Dodgers, who begin the night 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Giants in the National League West.

DODGERS (82-50)
Trea Turner 2B
Max Muncy 1B
Mookie Betts RF
Justin Turner 3B
Corey Seager SS
Will Smith C
AJ Pollock LF
Cody Bellinger CF
Walker Buehler P

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Dodgers defeat Braves, 5-3

Braves: Treinen still pitching. Riley grounded to third. d’Arnaud singled to right. Swanson singled to right, d’Arnaud to second. Duvall struck out looking. Stephen Vogt, batting for Jackson, flied to center.

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We go to the ninth, 5-3 Dodgers

Braves: Right-hander Corey Knebel now pitching for the Dodgers. Former Dodger Joc Pederson, batting for Heredia, grounded to second. Albies singled to second. Albies tried to steal second, but Soler, the batter, interfered with the throw and was called out, Albies being sent back to first. Man on first, two out. And that’s it for Knebel. Right-hander Blake Treinen is now pitching for the Dodgers. Cody Bellinger in at center. Taylor moves to right. Betts out of the game. Freeman grounded to second.

Dodgers: Pederson in at center. Right-hander Luke Jackson now pitching for the Braves. Pollock grounded to third. Seager walked on five pitches. Taylor lined to short. Smith singled to left and was thrown out trying to advance to second.

Score after eight: Dodgers 5, Braves 3

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It’s 5-3 Dodgers after seven

Braves: Right-hander Phil Bickford now pitching for the Dodgers. d’Arnaud grounded to second. Swanson struck out swinging. Duvall homered to center. Ehire Adrianza, batting for Chavez, grounded to first.

Dodgers: Right-hander Chris Martin now pitching for the Braves. Muncy struck out swinging. Betts flied to center. J.Turner flied to right.

Score after seven: Dodgers 5, Braves 3

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Braves get two solo homers to close gap to 5-2

Braves: Heredia struck out looking. Albies flied to center. Soler homered to right. Freeman homered to right-center. Riley flied to center.

Dodgers: Smith struck out looking. Billy McKinney, batting for Urías, flied to left. T.Turner struck out swinging.

Score after six: Dodgers 5, Braves 2

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Dodgers maintain 5-0 lead through five

Braves: Riley hit a shot to third. Turner backhanded it, threw on a bounce to first, but Muncy couldn’t scoop it. Really tough play. First hit for the Braves. d’Arnaud struck out swinging. Swanson flied to right. Duvall singled to left, Riley to third. Rosario grounded to second.

Dodgers: J.Turner grounded to the pitcher. Pollock was hit by a pitch. Seager struck out swinging. That’s it for Smyly. Right-hander Jesse Chavez now pitching for the Braves. Duvall to left. Guillermo Heredia in to play center. Pollock stole second. Taylor struck out looking.

Score after five: Dodgers 5, Braves 0

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Dodgers lead 5-0 after four

Braves: Albies hit a shot to third that Turner snared and threw to first. Great play. Soler popped to shallow right, Muncy made a nice running catch. Freeman struck out swinging.

Dodgers: Urías struck out swinging. T.Turner grounded to second. Muncy singled to center. Betts grounded to third, forcing Muncy.

Score after four: Dodgers 5, Braves 0

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Mookie Betts homers on Mookie Betts bobblehead night, Dodgers lead 5-0

Braves: Adam Duvall flied to left. Eddie Rosario fouled to left. Drew Smyly struck out swinging.

Dodgers: Betts homered to left, on his bobblehead night. J.Turner singled to left-center. Pollock grounded to third, forcing Turner. Seager homered to left. Taylor grounded to third. Smith flied to left.

Score after three innings: Dodgers 5, Braves 0

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Dodgers take 2-0 lead on Will Smith’s homer

Braves: Austin Riley struck out swinging. Travis d’Arnaud grounded to third. Dansby Swanson lined to left.

Dodgers: Corey Seager struck out swinging. Chris Taylor struck out swinging. Will Smith homered to left, estimated at 383 feet. Julio Urías singled to left. T.Turner singled to right, Urías to second. Muncy grounded to the pitcher.

Score after two: Dodgers 2, Braves 0

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Dodgers take 1-0 lead on Max Muncy’s home run

Braves: Left-hander Julio Urías pitching for the Dodgers. Oscar Albies struck out swinging. Jorge Soler struck out looking. Freddie Freeman fouled to left.

Dodgers: Left-hander Drew Smyly pitching for the Braves. Trea Turner struck out swinging. Max Muncy homered to right, estimated at 405 feet. Mookie Betts flied to left. Justin Turner singled to right. AJ Pollock grounded to third.

Score after one: Dodgers 1, Braves 0

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Dodgers option Mitch White, activate Evan Phillips from injured list

Mitch White throws to a Pittsburgh Pirates batter during the second inning.
Mitch White
(Associated Press)

The Dodgers continued the constant reshuffling of their bullpen Monday, optioning Mitch White and activating Evan Phillips from the injured list.

White has been sent to the minors after each of his last two appearances for the Dodgers. The 26-year-old right-hander was shipped out Monday after giving up three runs across 3 1/3 innings in the Dodgers’ loss to the Rockies on Sunday.

A second-round pick in 2016, White has a 3.49 ERA in 38 2/3 innings over 18 appearances for the Dodgers this season.

Phillips, another 26-year-old right-hander, appeared in one game for the Dodgers before landing on the injured list with a right quad strain.

Phillips began August on the Orioles’ Triple-A roster, recorded a save for the Rays, and was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers in a three-week span. He surrendered a run on three hits across 2 1/3 innings against the Dodgers in his Dodgers debut Aug. 19.

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Clayton Kershaw faces hitters at Dodger Stadium

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to the plate during the third inning.
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers against the Chicago Cubs on June 27.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Clayton Kershaw faced hitters Monday for the first time since landing on the injured list with forearm inflammation July 7.

The left-hander opposed two minor league batters from single-A Rancho Cucamonga twice each. He threw 15 pitches, mixing in his fastball, slider and curveball.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw will next throw a bullpen session and a two-inning simulated game — if he rebounds well — before possibly getting activated.

“It was really good,” Roberts said. “I don’t even want to be cautiously optimistic. I think I’m optimistic. I’m excited. He’s excited. It was one inning, but he let it go.”

Kershaw struck out the first batter Monday — outfielder José Ramos, a right-handed hitter — on a slider.

MLB’s playoff format means the Dodgers could face the very real prospect of being relegated to a wild-card playoff contest even if they win 100 games.

He then surrendered a line drive up the middle to Edwin Mateo, a switch-hitting outfielder who batted left-handed. Ramos then skied a routine fly ball to center field.

Kershaw ended the session by striking out Mateo with a slider. Mateo batted right-handed in the second plate appearance, to Kershaw’s surprise.

“You’re a switch-hitter?” Kershaw asked when he stepped to the plate.

Kershaw pitched between two innings from Tony Gonsolin. The right-hander was put on the injured list with shoulder inflammation July 31. Roberts said “a three-inning stint at an affiliate is in his near future.”

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Cody Bellinger sits against left-handed starter again

Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger hits against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 17.
The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger hits against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 17.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Mookie Betts’ return from the injured list last week created a logjam for the Dodgers. Four people for three outfield spots. Barring injury, one of Betts, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock will start games on the bench almost every game for the remainder of the season.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had been vague about how the club planned to divvy up the playing time, but he acknowledged the obvious answer Monday: Bellinger will sit against left-handed starting pitchers.

“I think that we have other guys that have performed really well all year long against left-handers,” Roberts said. “I think it gives Cody a day to reset. When left-handers play there might be times that I put him in there, but I think for the most part, I don’t see him against left-handers at this time.”

Bellinger didn’t start Friday night against Colorado Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland, and he isn’t in the lineup Monday night against Atlanta Braves left-hander Drew Smyly. Those are the two times the Dodgers have encountered a left-handed starter since Betts was activated Thursday.

Instead, Taylor will start in center field with Pollock in left and Betts in right. All three are right-handed hitters as the Dodgers attempt to tackle their biggest weakness: scoring against left-handed pitching.

The Dodgers open an important three-game series against the Atlanta Braves this week, with Julio Urías, Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer set to start.

Bellinger has struggled overall this season, batting .171 with nine home runs and a .566 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 287 plate appearances after undergoing major offseason shoulder surgery and missing two months with a fractured fibula early in the season.

His splits are worse opposite lefties. In 79 plate appearances against left-handers, he’s nine for 70 (.129) with a .428 OPS. Those numbers are expected for overmatched pitchers, not a former MVP making $16.1 million this season.

The Dodgers, as a result, are willing to sacrifice his elite defense in center field for a better offensive option as they begin a three-game series against a club that appears to be en route to a fourth straight National League East Division title.

“It’ll give him time to get off his feet, work on his mechanics and get the body strong and be ready when called upon,” Roberts said. “This is where we’re at with our ballclub as far as — yeah, that’s where we’re at.”

DODGERS (82-49)
Trea Turner 2B
Max Muncy 1B
Mookie Betts RF
Justin Turner 3B
AJ Pollock LF
Corey Seager SS
Chris Taylor CF
Will Smith C
Julio Urías LHP

BRAVES (70-59)
Ozzie Albies 2B
Jorge Soler RF
Freddie Freeman 1B
Austin Riley 3B
Travis d’Arnaud C
Dansby Swanson SS
Adam Duvall CF
Eddie Rosario LF
Drew Smyly LHP

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Commentary: Dodgers playing as a No. 4 seed in NL playoffs? Fix this, MLB

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts meets with catcher Will Smith, third baseman Justin Turner and first baseman Max Muncy.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, second from left, meets with catcher Will Smith, left, third baseman Justin Turner and first baseman Max Muncy, right, during a game against the Chicago Cubs on June 26.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

In 2007, the NBA changed its playoff format so that the teams with the best records in each conference could not meet until the conference finals.

Too bad the Dodgers do not play in the NBA.

The Dodgers have the second-best record in the National League. They are on pace to win 101 games. Under an NBA-style format, they would be the second seed in the NL playoffs.

Alas, under the Major League Baseball format, the Dodgers could be one and done in the NL playoffs. They would be seeded fourth among the five NL playoff teams, relegated to a wild-card game in which they could be eliminated by a team on pace to win 87 games.

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Dodgers have their top arms lined up to battle Braves, not Giants

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer works against a San Diego Padres batter.
Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer delivers against the San Diego Padres on Thursday.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

The Dodgers will have their top three pitchers — Julio Urías, Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer — lined up to start a big three-game series against the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

But if they had started the trio on regular rest this past week, Urías would have pitched against Colorado on Sunday, and Urías, Buehler and Scherzer would have been lined up to start an even bigger series at National League West-leading San Francisco next Friday through Sunday. Instead, only Urías and Buehler will pitch against the Giants.

To manager Dave Roberts, it’s more important to give Urías, a 25-year-old who has thrown a career-high 144-2/3 innings, 65 more than his previous high of 79-2/3 innings in 2019, and Buehler, a 27-year-old in his fifth full season, extra rest when he can.

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ICYMI: Dodgers lose to Rockies again, miss on prime chance to close gap on Giants

For the second time in three days, a San Francisco Giants loss to the Atlanta Braves was posted on the right-field scoreboard for most of a game in Chavez Ravine, teasing, almost taunting the Dodgers in their third base dugout.

Another rare chance to gain ground on the National League West-leading Giants with a win over fourth-place Colorado was there for the taking, and the Dodgers let it slip through their hands. Again.

A decision to pitch to one of baseball’s hottest hitters with first base open backfired when C.J. Cron crushed a three-run homer in the first inning, and right-hander Antonio Senzatela blanked the Dodgers on two hits for seven innings Sunday to lead the Rockies to a 5-0 victory before 37,569 in Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers remain 2 ½ games back with 31 games left, and have plenty of time to overtake the Giants, but they can’t keep wasting opportunities the way they did this weekend in losing two of three to the worst road team in baseball and scoring seven runs while hitting .184 (16 for 87) in the three games.

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Betting odds and lines for Dodgers vs. Braves on Monday

The Dodgers host the NL East-leading Braves at 7:10 p.m. PDT Monday in the first game of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers, who are 2½ games behind the Giants in the NL West, opened as -180 favorites on the overnight lines in Las Vegas with Julio Urías (14-3, 3.17 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) facing Atlanta’s Drew Smyly (9-3, 4.54 ERA, 1.38 WHIP). However, early money has come in on the Dodgers and they’re up to -210 favorites as of 9 a.m.

The Braves lead the season series 2-1 from the three-game series in Atlanta from June 4-6, but Urías picked up the Dodgers’ lone win as he held the Braves to just one run on four hits in five innings of work.

The Over/Under is set at 9 runs with the Under favored at -120. The Dodgers average 5.1 runs per game while the Braves average 4.89 for a combined 9.99 runs per game, but it makes sense for the total to be lower with this pitching matchup.

VSiN, the Sports Betting Network, offers more expert sports betting content in a free daily email at VSiN.com/email.

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