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Braves defeat Dodgers 3-2 on walk-off single in Game 1 of the NLCS

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Chris Taylor sits on the field after being caught in a rundown between second and third base.
Chris Taylor sits on the field after being caught in a rundown between second and third base in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Austin Riley’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning lifts the Atlanta Braves to a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS.

Dodgers’ mistakes, missed chances costly in NLCS Game 1 walk-off loss to Braves

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VIDEO | 02:05
Dodgers’ Dave Roberts and Trea Turner discuss NLCS Game 1 loss

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and second baseman Trea Turner talk about the team’s 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday.

ATLANTA — The Dodgers were one timely hit, one blast, one crooked number away from withstanding the Atlanta Braves’ best punch Saturday night.

They successfully countered Atlanta ace Max Fried with a mix of relievers to give themselves chances against their opponents’ weakest link — a bullpen that doesn’t feature the depth of the Dodgers’ relief corps. All the Dodgers needed to take Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, a clash they’re heavily favored to win to advance to the World Series again, was some life from a lineup with blinding star power.

But the mercurial offense didn’t produce for the final five innings, and the disappearing act cost them in a 3-2, walk-off loss at Truist Park.

Moments after Chris Taylor blundered on the bases to squash a two-out rally in the top of the ninth inning, Atlanta’s Austin Riley went to the plate to face Blake Treinen with one out after Ozzie Albies singled. Albies then stole second base on the first pitch to Riley to get into scoring position, leaving first base open.

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Final: Braves win 3-2 on Austin Riley’s walk-off single

Atlanta Braves' Austin Riley reacts after hitting the game winning RBI single to score Atlanta Braves' Ozzie Albies.
Atlanta’s Austin Riley reacts after driving in Ozzie Albies on a walk-off single in the ninth inning of a 3-2 win over the Dodgers.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The Braves walked it off in the ninth against Blake Treinen, after Ozzie Albies singled, stole second and then scored on a game-winning RBI single from Austin Riley to take the first game of the NLCS.

Final: Braves win 3-2

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Top 9th, tied 2-2: Chris Taylor gets caught in rundown to end inning

The Dodgers seemed to threatening in the top of the ninth, after Chris Taylor drew a two-out walk and pinch-hitter Cody Bellinger lofted a line drive into right field.

But as Bellinger pulled into first, Taylor got punished for an over-aggressive turn around second, getting caught in a run-down between second and third that ended the inning.

Going to the bottom of the ninth tied, Blake Treinen will take the mound and try to get the game into extras. He’ll be facing the heart of the order.

Mid 9th: Tied 2-2

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End 8th, tied 2-2: Kenley Jansen pitches scoreless eighth

Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen delivers during the eighth inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Kenley Jansen was summoned early, called upon to face the Nos. 8, 9 and 1 spots in the Braves order in the bottom of the eighth.

He took care of business, retiring the side in order on eight pitches. So far this postseason, Jansen has yet to surrender a run in four innings.

End 8th: Tied 2-2

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Bottom 7th, tied 2-2: Joe Kelly keeps it knotted up; Kenley Jansen begins warming up

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts reacts after making a play on a pop fly in the fourth inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers couldn’t have asked for much more out of their pitching staff so far.

They’ve used six pitchers to get through seven innings, with Joe Kelly retiring the side in order in the bottom of the seventh to keep a 2-2 tie intact, and have their most trusted leverage arms lined up to pitch the final innings.

They even had Kenley Jansen begin warming up in the seventh, potentially preparing him to face the top of the Braves’ order in the eighth.

But their lineup still hasn’t pulled away. In the top of the eighth, they’ll have Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Will Smith due up against newly-inserted right-handed reliever Luke Jackson.

End 7th: Tied 2-2

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Top 7th, tied 2-2: Dodgers can’t capitalize on Chris Taylor’s bloop double

Dodgers second baseman Trea Turner reacts after striking out in the seventh inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

For the third time tonight, the Dodgers left a runner stranded in scoring position.

Chris Taylor led off the top of the seventh with a bloop double that landed just out of first baseman Freddie Freeman’s reach in shallow right. Taylor then advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by pinch-hitter Austin Barnes.

That turned the lineup over, but the Dodgers couldn’t take advantage. Mookie Betts chased a high fastball and popped out. Trea Turner whiffed on a slider to end the threat.

The Dodgers are now out-hitting the Braves 9-4, but are also only 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

Mid 7th: Tied 2-2

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End 6th, tied 2-2: Alex Vesia pitches scoreless sixth, Braves turn to the bullpen to begin the seventh

Atlanta, GA - October 16: Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Alex Vesia pitches during the sixth inning.
Dodgers relief pitcher Alex Vesia delivers during the sixth inning against the Braves.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Alex Vesia got through the sixth inning unscathed.

He retired both left-handed batters he faced, including a strikeout of Freddie Freeman, his third of the night. Then, after Ozzie Albies reached on a swinging bunt, Vesia stayed in the game against right-handed hitting Austin Riley and struck him out on three pitches — an elevated fastball whiffed on the outer edge of the plate.

So far tonight, the Dodgers have been used the bullpen platoon to their advantage, matching up right-on-right or left-on-left in 13 of 22 plate appearances.

Meanwhile, the Braves are making a pitching change to begin the seventh. Max Fried exited after six innings in which he gave up two runs, eight hits and struck out five batters.

Though Fried was only at 81 pitches, the Braves summoned Tyler Matzek, a left-hander with reverse splits, for the top of the seventh.

End 6th: Tied 2-2

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Top 6th, tied 2-2: Max Fried works around more traffic

 Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried delivers during the first inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

This hasn’t been Max Fried’s most dominant outing, with the left-hander having surrendered eight hits through six innings — none of which have seen the Dodgers go down in order.

Yet, he has done enough to keep the game tied, limiting hard contact and working around traffic.

The top of the sixth provided the latest example.

After Justin Turner led off with a single, Fried got Will Smith to go after a first-pitch slider that was hit decently and caught in left field. Albert Pujols also tried to attack a slider in the next at-bat, but grounded out. Then AJ Pollock hit a soft line drive off the handle that Ozzie Albies corralled with a leaping effort at second base.

Meanwhile, Tony Gonsolin’s night is indeed finished. Left-hander Alex Vesia is entering to begin the bottom of the sixth.

Mid 6th: Tied 2-2

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End 5th, tied 2-2: Tony Gonsolin survives hard contact in the fifth

Dodgers starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin delivers during the fourth inning against the Braves.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Tony Gonsolin and his internet-famous cat cleats (more on that here) scampered down to first base on an infield single in the top of the fifth, though the Dodgers didn’t make anything of it, then returned to the mound in the bottom half of the inning and retired the side in order.

Gonsolin was hit hard in the first two at-bats of the inning — a Travis d’Arnauld fly ball that died at the wall in left, and a line drive by Dansby Swanson that Chris Taylor snagged in center — before striking out Max Fried to end the inning.

It might have been Gonsolin’s final contribution of the night. Left-handed reliever Alex Vesia was warming up in the bullpen that inning, and the Braves will have a couple left-handed hitters due up to start the sixth.

End 5th: Tied 2-2

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Bottom 4th, tied 2-2: Austin Riley ties game with home run off Tony Gonsolin

Atlanta's Austin Riley rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run off Dodgers reliever Tony Gonsolin.
Atlanta’s Austin Riley, left, rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run off Dodgers reliever Tony Gonsolin during the fourth inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Tony Gonsolin’s first action of the postseason got off to a bad start, as the right-hander was taken deep on Austin Riley’s scorching solo home run to tie the game at 2-2.

Justin Bruihl began the bottom of the fourth on a high note, fanning Freddie Freeman on three pitches for his third strikeout.

But then, with a string of Braves right-handers due up, the Dodgers brought Gonsolin out of the bullpen. After getting Ozzie Albies to fly out, Gonsolin tried to sneak an inside fastball past Riley. But the pitch caught too much plate, allowing Riley to sting a 110.7 mph line drive to middle deck in left field.

It will be interesting to see how long Gonsolin will get in this game. Dave Roberts said he is stretched out to at least 60 pitches, but he hasn’t pitched in a real game since the regular season and struggled in limited playoff time last year.

Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin was the cat's meow of diamond fashion with his cat-themed cleats.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

End 4th: Tied 2-2

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Top 4th, Dodgers lead 2-1: Will Smith mashes solo home run

Will Smith celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers made plenty of soft contact against Max Fried in the first three innings.

Will Smith barreled up a seemingly misplaced fastball to lead off the fourth.

In an 0-2 count, Fried left an inside fastball belt high that the Dodgers catcher launched to left, hitting his third home run of the postseason to put the Dodgers in front for the first time tonight.

Normally a proficient ground ball pitcher, Fried has had a tough time keeping the ball out of the air against the Dodgers so far tonight. Of the 13 balls the Dodgers have put in play, only three have led to groundouts.

Fried did get his third and fourth strikeouts of the night to end the inning, but will now be pitching from behind as the Braves lineup tries to figure out the Dodgers bullpen.

Their first time through the order, the Braves struck out five times — including twice against left-hander Justin Bruihl after he replaced Phil Bickford with one out in the bottom of the third.

Mid 4th: Dodgers lead 2-1

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Mid 3rd, tied 1-1: Phil Bickford, Max Fried trade zeros

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner watches in the on-deck circle as Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried delivers.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, left, watches in the on-deck circle as Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried delivers during the first inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

After impressive second inning in which he retired the Braves in order with two strikeouts, Phil Bickford is going back to the mound for his second inning of work in the bottom of the third.

The Dodgers got another baserunner in the top half of the inning on a Trea Turner single, but couldn’t do anything with it.

Mid 3rd: Tied 1-1

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Top 2nd, tied 1-1: AJ Pollock doubles, then scores on Chris Taylor RBI

Atlanta, GA - October 16: Los Angeles Dodgers' Chris Taylor runs to first after hitting an RBI single.
Chris Taylor hits a run-scoring single for the Dodgers in the first inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers evened the score with a two-out rally in the top of the second.

After Will Smith and Albert Pujols were retired, AJ Pollock drove a first-pitch curveball the other way into right field where former Dodger Joc Pederson appeared to take an over-aggressive route, leading to a double.

In the next at-bat, Chris Taylor got a full-count curveball over the middle that dumped into left field for an RBI single.

That both hits in the inning came against Max Fried’s curveball was notable. The Dodgers weren’t great against curveballs this season, and that pitch is arguably Fried’s best.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers will go to their second pitcher of this bullpen game in the bottom half of the inning, summoning Phil Bickford to replace Corey Knebel.

Mid 2nd: Tied 1-1

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Bottom 1st, Braves lead 1-0: Braves score first on wild pitch

Atlanta's Eddie Rosario slides into home after a wild pitch by the Dodgers' Corey Knebel, left, during the first inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Braves turned a leadoff single in the bottom of the first into the game’s opening run.

Eddie Rosario — the Braves’ leadoff hitter in lieu of Jorge Soler, who is on the COVID IL — roped a single into right, stole second in the next at-bat, advanced to third on a grounder and finally scored when Dodgers pitcher Corey Knebel yanked a fastball that grazed the tip of catcher Will Smith’s glove and went to the backstop.

The play was ruled a wild pitch, though it looked like Smith probably could have still snagged the ball.

End 1st: Braves lead 1-0

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Top 1st, no score: Corey Seager doubles, but Dodgers come up empty

The Dodgers and Atlanta Braves stand for the national anthem before Game 1 of the NLCS.
The Dodgers and Atlanta Braves, including former Dodger Joc Pederson, stand for the national anthem before Game 1 of the NLCS.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers had a chance to open the scoring out of the gate, after Corey Seager doubled with two outs in the top of the first.

But then Justin Turner struck out to end the inning, getting rung up on a check-swing call at first base.

A reminder that last October, Seager had a monster series against the Braves in the playoffs, hitting .310 with five home runs to earn NLCS MVP honors.

Mid 1st: No score

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What to know about NLCS Game 1: Dodgers’ bullpen game, Max Fried’s track record against Dodgers and more

Dodgers players warm up before Game 1 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on Saturday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

ATLANTA — The Dodgers tonight open their fifth National League Championship Series in the last six years, and they do so against a familiar foe.

After overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against the Atlanta Braves in this round last year, the Dodgers will have to knock off the Braves once again if they want to win back-to-back pennants for the seventh time in franchise history.

Ahead of Game 1, here’s what you need to know.

First pitch: 5:08 p.m. PT (8:08 p.m. local time in Atlanta)

TV: TBS

Lineups:

Dodgers notes: Corey Knebel will start a bullpen game for the Dodgers, who decided to push Max Scherzer back to Game 2 in order to give him an extra day of rest.

After Knebel, one pitcher who could feature prominently is right-hander Tony Gonsolin, who hasn’t pitched yet this postseason but is capable of throwing 60-75 pitches, per manager Dave Roberts.

The Dodgers loaded up their lineup with right-handed hitters against Braves southpaw Max Fried, leaving Corey Seager as the only left-handed bat to start the game.

The Dodgers have struggled in NLCS openers in recent history, going just 1-6 in the first game of the series in their seven prior appearances since 2008. The last two times it happened, however, they still went on to reach the World Series.

Braves notes: After dispatching the Milwaukee Brewers in four games in the NLDS, the Braves will turn to Fried tonight.

The 27-year-old Santa Monica native has a strong track record against the Dodgers and the type of pitching profile that has caused them problems.

In two starts against the Dodgers in the regular season this year, Fried gave up only three runs in 12 innings, struck out 13 batters and walked one.

He was good against them in two starts during the NLCS last year, as well, giving up only four runs in 12 2/3 combined innings.

A ground-ball specialist, Fried attacks with a lot of fastballs, sliders and curveballs. The curveball is not only Fried’s best pitch, but one the Dodgers have struggled with in general this season (they batted only .209 against curveballs with a .313 slugging percentage).

Fried also had reverse splits during the regular season, limiting right-handed batters to a .223 average and .611 OPS. Left-handed batters hit .240 against him with a .707 OPS.

“He can get his fastball in on guys,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s got a two-seamer, the curveball and the slider and he’s efficient with all of them. [He’s] always on the attack. It’s a tough at-bat for a right- or left-handed [hitters].”

The Braves lineup is headlined by 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman, though former Dodger outfield Joc Pederson enters as their hottest hitter after going 3-for-7 in the NLDS with two home runs and five RBIs.

While other Braves players downplayed the importance of trying to get revenge against the Dodgers after last year’s NLCS, Ozzie Albies didn’t shy away when asked pregame if the Braves see this year’s rematch as a chance for vindication.

“It’s a big chance,” he said. “We got to go out there and win it this time. Can’t lose it again.”

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Max Muncy says his left elbow is ‘still really painful’

Max Muncy tosses the ball around during batting practice at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 5.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

ATLANTA — Max Muncy has worn a black brace around his left elbow since Jace Peterson ran through his arm, bending it backwards, in the Dodgers’ regular season finale two weeks ago Sunday. He wears it all day. He wears it to sleep.

“It’s not light, that’s for sure,” Muncy said before the Dodgers played Game 1 of the NLCS against the Braves on Saturday. “It’s not very comfortable. I’d love to have it off, but it’s not and that’s where we’re at.”

Muncy is seemingly not close to playing in a baseball game. The first baseman said the Dodgers’ training staff has been encouraged by the elbow’s range of motion, which has bred some optimism that he could play in the World Series if the Dodgers advance that far.

But even if he does play, he would be limited because of the substantial ligament damage in the elbow. He said the elbow is “still really painful.”

“Yeah, I’ve had better days,” he said.

The Dodgers will avoid a hangover after an historic NLCS win over the Giants, rolling past the Braves thanks to far better talent, experience and focus.

Muncy danced around questions relating to is rehabilitation process. He offered a “no comment” twice when asked if he’s swung a bat. He declined to say if he’s doing any baseball activity.

“I hold a baseball. It feels good in my hand,” Muncy joked. “It’s one of those things where we’re trying to work through and figure out what we can do and it’s trying not to put much out there but, yeah, we’re trying to work through some things.”

Muncy said he’s still not sure if he could worsen the injury if he somehow does play. That’s a question he probably won’t have to answer. Game 1 of the World Series is scheduled for Oct. 26 – 10 days from Saturday. If the Dodgers think Muncy would be available later in the series, they’d have to use on their 26 spots on someone who wouldn’t be able to contribute.

Without him, the Dodgers have had Cody Bellinger, Matt Beaty and Albert Pujols start playoff games at first base. Pujols started Saturday against Braves left-hander Max Fried after going 2 for 2 in his only previous postseason start in Game 3 against the Giants. Bellinger, meanwhile, had two hits, including the go-ahead RBI single in Game 5.

A healthy Muncy would provide an upgrade in the middle of the lineup. He and the Dodgers are holding out the sliver of hope, at least publicly, but fully healthy Max Muncy won’t make another appearance in 2021 – if he makes one at all.

“Not playing has been one of the worst things I’ve ever had to experience,” Muncy said. “But supporting these guys has been awesome. It’s been fun.”

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Max Scherzer to start Game 2 of NLCS

Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer delivers during the ninth inning of a 2-1 win over the Giants in Game 5 of the NLDS.
Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer delivers during the ninth inning of a 2-1 win over the Giants in Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

ATLANTA — At the end of a workout day Friday, not even 24 hours removed from his National League Division Series-clinching save against the San Francisco Giants, Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer offered to start Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves.

But both Scherzer and the team also knew he could benefit from an extra day of rest.

So, after opting for a bullpen game in Saturday’s series-opener at Truist Park, the Dodgers will turn the ball over to Scherzer for Sunday’s Game 2 instead, confident doing so will allow the 37-year-old right-hander to pitch without restraint.

“For us, it was a no-brainer,” manager Dave Roberts said Saturday afternoon, when he also announced that the Dodgers will go with Walker Buehler in Game 3 and Julio Urías in Game 4.

The Braves set their early-series pitching plans Saturday, as well, announcing that Ian Anderson will start Game 2 and pushing Charlie Morton to Game 3.

To both Scherzer and the Dodgers, waiting for a Game 2 start made the most sense.

Not only was Scherzer’s arm tired after his 13-pitch outing in the ninth inning on Thursday — “you close that game, I would expect my arm to be tired,” he said — but he likely would have been limited had he started in Game 1 to somewhere between 60 and 90 pitches.

By going in Game 2, he said he’ll be back on a “full slate.”

Scherzer did something similar with the Washington Nationals in the 2019 NLDS against the Dodgers, pitching an inning of relief in Game 2 of that series before making a start in Game 4 three days later. In the latter outing, he threw 109 pitches and gave up only one run in seven innings.

“I have zero experience of trying to pitch on one day of rest, like relieving and come back [to start],” he said. “I do have experience of pitching on two days … and that was a very taxing start in and of itself.”

Pushing Scherzer to Game 2 and Buehler to Game 3 -- Buehler will also get the benefit of a couple extra days after making his most recent start last Tuesday on short rest -- should also still allow both pitchers to start again in Games 6 and 7, if necessary.

“We’re just trying to navigate this as best as possible,” Scherzer said. “I would love to be out there for Game 1, but it makes more sense for me to start Game 2.”

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From Freeman to Fried, from d’Arnaud to Matzek, these Braves have deep SoCal ties

Cusack, Anne –– B582108209Z.1 ENCINO, CA. – MAY 17, 2012: Harvard Westlake High School pitcher Max Fried.
Max Fried pitches for Harvard-Westlake during a Southern Section Division 2 playoff game against Ventura in 2012.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Seems odd, but the Atlanta Braves have players as connected to the Southern California sports scene as the Dodgers. Max Fried, Tyler Matzek, Freddie Freeman and Travis d’Arnaud were high school baseball standouts at Studio City Harvard-Westlake, Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley, Orange El Modena and Lakewood, respectively. They’ll have plenty of fans supporting them when they come to Dodger Stadium for the NLCS.

Here are three things to know about each player‘s high school days:

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Dodgers to start Albert Pujols and six other right-handed hitters vs. Braves’ Max Fried

Albert Pujols tosses his bat after hitting a single in Game 3 of the NLDS.
Albert Pujols tosses his bat after hitting a single in Game 3 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

ATLANTA — The Dodgers will load up their lineup with seven right-handed hitters, not including the pitcher, against Braves left-hander Max Fried in Game 1 of the NLCS at Truist Park on Saturday.

Albert Pujols is one of them. The 41-year-old first baseman will bat sixth in his first NLCS appearance in a decade.

Chris Taylor will start in center field and AJ Pollock, who didn’t start in the final two games of the NLDS, will play left field. Gavin Lux, a left-handed hitter, will start the game on the bench after starting in center field in Game 4 and Game 5 of the NLDS.

Corey Seager is the only left-handed hitter for the Dodgers. He’ll bat third between Trea Turner and Justin Turner.

Fried is a left-handed pitcher, but he had reverse splits during the regular season, meaning right-handed batters had better results against him than lefties. Righties batted .223 with with a .611 OPS in 497 plate appearances. Left-handed hitters batted .240 with a .707 OPS in 170 plate appearances.

Fried held the Brewers three hits over six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves. The Dodgers will counter him with a bullpen game, opening with right-hander Corey Knebel, who also opened the Dodgers’ Game 5 win over the Giants on Thursday.

The Braves, as a result, populated the top of their lineup with left-handed hitters. Eddie Rosario will bat second followed by Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies, a switch-hitter.

Joc Pederson, a familiar lefty slugger, will bat fifth. The former Dodger clubbed two pinch-hit home runs in Atlanta’s four-game series win over the Braves, resurfacing the “Joctober” tagline he established with his October success for the Dodgers.

“I think it’s real,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Joctober. “He’s always come up with big hits in October. He’s going to be tough, we’re going to have to find a way to get him out.”

Dodgers vs. Braves in Game 1 of the 2021 NLCS lineup.
(Allison Hong / Associated Press)

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Five things to know about Corey Knebel, NLCS Game 1 opener

Corey Knebel pitches against the San Francisco Giants during Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday.
(John Hefti / Associated Press)

Corey Knebel will be the Dodgers’ Game 1 starter Saturday night.

Again.

Just like everyone expected — maybe.

As was the case in the winner-take-all showdown against the San Francisco Giants, the veteran right-hander likely won’t pitch very long. He pitched a scoreless inning before yielding to Brusdar Graterol, who in turn gave way to Julio Urías.

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Betting odds and lines for Dodgers vs. Braves on Saturday

The Dodgers and Atlanta Braves will meet in the National League Championship Series for the second consecutive season, and both teams enter the season on top of their respective pitching games.

The Braves are fourth in bullpen ERA since the All-Star break and the Dodgers rank second in bullpen ERA on the season. The Dodgers have allowed four runs or fewer in eight consecutive games.

Max Fried will get the start the Braves. He has led the team to victory in four of his five postseason starts over the last two seasons with a 2.43 ERA. Since the beginning of August, Fried has a 1.35 ERA with four home runs in 80 innings. The Braves have allowed four runs or fewer in 10 of their last 11 games.

The Dodgers are 13-1 with Max Scherzer on the mound and, despite closing Game 5 of their series with the San Francisco Giants, Scherzer could start Game 1 on Saturday.

DraftKings opened the Dodgers as a -135 favorite. That number has remained steady while the opening total of 8.5 got bumped down to eight.

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Dave Roberts is right — the Dodgers won’t suffer a letdown against the weaker Braves

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts signals for a pitching change as he walks to the mound.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts signals for a pitching change as he walks to the mound to pull Walker Buehler during Game 4 of the NLDS against the Giants.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Dave Roberts was emphatic.

“There’s no letdown,” he said.

Now in his sixth season as Dodgers manager, Roberts could speak with certainty.

Roberts knows the Dodgers won’t take for granted they will beat the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. He abided by baseball’s longstanding tradition of not making any guarantees, but the mind set he described is precisely why his team will thump the Braves.

Leave open the final week of this month, as well as maybe the first few days of November.

The Dodgers are returning to the World Series.

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Corey Knebel will start for the Dodgers in likely bullpen game

Dodgers pitcher Corey Knebel throws the ball.
Dodgers pitcher Corey Knebel delivers against the Colorado Rockies on April 4.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

ATLANTA — It looks like the Dodgers will be going with a bullpen game to begin the National League Championship Series.

The team announced several hours before Saturday’s first pitch that Corey Knebel will start Game 1 against the Atlanta Braves, seemingly lining up Max Scherzer to pitch in Game 2 and Walker Buehler in Game 3.

On Friday night, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the team would either start Scherzer in Game 1 or pitch a bullpen game, something they did regularly while their starting rotation was shorthanded in the regular season.

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VIDEO | 02:59
Dave Roberts on NLCS Game 1 being a bullpen game

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts discusses his decision to go with a bullpen game over starting Max Scherzer in the Dodgers’ NLCS opener against the Atlanta Braves.

Roberts said the club had been waiting to see how Scherzer felt following his 13-pitch save in Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday before making a final decision.

“He’s gonna go out there, play catch and get treatment, and if he says he’s good enough and feels like he can take down a start, then he’ll be our Game 1 starter,” Roberts said Friday.

Instead, it appears Scherzer will get an extra day of rest before going Game 2, and Buehler — who started in Game 4 of the NLDS on short rest — will get two extra days before a potential Game 3 start on Tuesday back at Dodger Stadium.

It’s unclear how the Dodgers might follow Knebel, who served as an opener in Thursday’s series-clincher in San Francisco, for Saturday’s series opener at Truist Park, but Tony Gonsolin will likely be a big part of the plan. Roberts said the right-hander, who didn’t pitch in the NLDS, would be featured in the event of a bullpen game.

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VIDEO | 02:47
Dodgers’ Max Scherzer and Dave Roberts on using openers

Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer and manager Dave Roberts discuss their feelings on baseball’s new trend of using openers to start games.

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2020 NLCS: Look back at every game of the Dodgers’ dramatic series win over the Braves

Julio Urías is greeted by catcher Will Smith as Dodgers teammates rush on the field after Game 7
Julio Urías is greeted by catcher Will Smith as Dodgers teammates rush on the field after a 2020 NLCS Game 7 win over Atlanta.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

ATLANTA — During a title drought that began in 1989, Dodger fans dreamed of the day they’d see their team lift the Commissioner’s Trophy and bring a World Series celebration back to L.A.

During their run to a championship last fall, some of the most memorable moments came before the Fall Classic even began, in a stadium thousands of miles from Southern California, over the course of a wild mid-October week that will forever live in franchise lore.

It might have only been the National League Championship Series, but the Dodgers comeback from a three-games-to-one hole against the Atlanta Braves last year was every bit as dramatic, emotional and important as the World Series that followed.

And ahead of the Dodgers-Braves rematch in this year’s NLCS, which will begin Saturday night at Truist Park, the memories remain fresh.

“It’s probably the most proud I’ve been of a team and an organization and a staff,” manager Dave Roberts said Friday, smiling as he looked back on his team’s rally last season. “To stick together and find a way to win one game each night, to come out the other side.”

Before the opening game of this year’s series, here’s a look back at last year’s meeting, which left one team home in disbelief and sent another toward its first title in a generation.

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Dodgers’ NLCS roster is set without Max Muncy, David Price and Billy McKinney

Dodgers starting pitcher Justin Bruihl winds up to pitch against the Pirates
Dodgers starting pitcher Justin Bruihl winds up to throw against the Pirates on Aug. 16 in Los Angeles.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

ATLANTA — The Dodgers will carry 13 pitchers and 13 position players on their NLCS roster. As expected, Max Muncy isn’t one of the 26.

David Price and Billy McKinney were left off the roster after making the Dodgers’ NLDS roster. Right-hander Evan Phillips and left-hander Justin Bruihl replaced them.

The Dodgers refused to rule out Muncy until Saturday morning’s announcement even though it was never likely he would be ready. Muncy suffered a gruesome left elbow injury in the team’s regular season finale Oct. 3. He didn’t need surgery, but suffered ligament damage.

The Dodgers’ immense playoff experience certainly didn’t hurt during their winner-take-all Game 5 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants.

Price wasn’t included after not being on the wild card game roster and not appearing in the NLDS. The left-hander, who made $32 million this season, hasn’t appeared in a game since Oct. 2. He’s logged just 6 1/3 innings since Aug. 29.

Bruihl replaces Price as the Dodgers’ second left-hander in the bullpen alongside Alex Vesia. He was more effective against left-handed batters, holding them to a .150 batting average and .359 OPS in 43 plate appearances during the regular season. Righties batted .292 with an .830 OPS in 30 plate appearances against him.

Phillips gives the Dodgers a multi-inning option out of the bullpen. The right-hander gave up five runs (four earned) in 10 1/3 innings over seven appearances as a Dodger during the regular season.

McKinney has appeared in four playoff games off the bench at first base. He is 0 for 1 in the postseason. The left-handed hitter made the cut over outfielder Steven Souza Jr., a right-handed batter.

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