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Reactions from Dodgers’ 15-3 defeat of Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of NLCS

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Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger circles the bases after hitting a home run off Braves relief pitcher Grant Dayton
Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger circles the bases after hitting a home run off Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Grant Dayton during the second inning of Game 3 of the NLCS on Wednesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers started right where their bats left off in Game 2, scoring 11 runs in the first inning of a 15-3 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NLCS.

A historic 11-run barrage in the first inning propelled the Dodgers to a 15-3 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, on Wednesday.

The Braves still lead the series, 2-1, heading into Game 4 on Friday.

Here’s a recap of the game.

Former closer Kenley Jansen relegated to mop-up role for Dodgers

The Dodgers led by two touchdowns. They already had given Mookie Betts and Corey Seager the rest of the night off. The Atlanta Braves had done the same for Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr.

Suspense had vanished in the first inning. This was the sixth, and time for an arm the Dodgers would be hesitant to trust with the game on the line. The bullpen gate opened, and out trotted the most enduring closer in franchise history, the Dodgers’ all-time saves leader.

Kenley Jansen, the three-time All-Star who has pitched his way out of the closer’s role this October, entered the game with a 15-1 lead.

“This is not a save situation,” Fox announcer Joe Buck informed the national television audience.

The Dodgers used 10 relievers in the first two games of this National League Championship Series. Jansen was the only reliever they did not use.
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Offense explodes in historic rout over Braves in Game 3 of NLCS

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dodgers asserted that anxiety was absent in their clubhouse before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. They faced an 0-2 series deficit but said the mood was light. They cracked jokes. They remained calm. They were confident their superior depth would emerge. The team with the best record in the regular season was poised to pounce.

“We weren’t worried about anything,” first baseman Max Muncy said. “And tonight, we went out and showed what we can do.”

Riding the wave of a seven-run burst over the final three innings of Game 2, the Dodgers erupted for a record-setting 11 runs in the first inning Wednesday to launch a 15-3 rout.

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What did the Dodgers think of their flogging of the Braves?

Max Muncy celebrates with his teammates after hitting a grand slam in the first inning.
Max Muncy celebrates with his teammates after hitting a grand slam in the first inning of Game 3 of the NLCS on Wednesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Falling to the Braves by one run in Game 2 after a ninth-inning rally inspired the Dodgers. They came into Wednesday’s game trying to carry over the momentum. Mission accomplished.

Here’s what some of the Dodgers had to say about the barrage of runs:

Max Muncy: “I felt like we put together pretty good at bats right out of the gate and we got the bat to the ball pretty good and good results happened for us.”

Joc Pederson: “That was a fun to be a part of. I think some of the momentum from last night, the last inning, definitely carried over and it got us feeling a little bit more comfortable at the plate.”

Corey Seager: “That was a big first inning for us. We kind of built off last night. It was nice to see it translated into today’s game. But a lot of credit goes to Julio [Urías, the starter]. He sat for 40 plus minutes that first inning and still came out and attacked guys and was in the zone, making pitches all night. It was really impressive outing.”

Urías (through interpreter): “I was actually trying to stay hot. I went into the cage and threw around some of the balls that were in there and tried to move around. It’s a little hard, but you could also say it’s a good thing. I’m not going to have a problem with what happened.”

Dave Roberts: “For me, it’s just you’re just happy for the guys. You know the hitting coaches put in a lot of work preparing the hitters, and the hitters put in their work. So for it to play out like that, you just feel the energy and it’s a lot of excitement.”

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Player of the game? Max Muncy says Joc Pederson

Joc Pederson, front, celebrates a three-run home run during the first inning of Game 3 of the NLCS.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Max Muncy, who hit a grand slam in the half-hour-long first inning, did not hesitate to name a teammate other than himself when asked who he thought had the most impressive performance at the plate Wednesday.

Joc Pederson.

“Every single at-bat he had, he grinded out pitches, he got the barrel to the ball,” Muncy said. “He had a big hit for us and to me, Joc was most impressive tonight. That’s kind of what he does in these situations.”

After a disappointing regular season in which he batted .190 and drove in a mere 16 runs, Pederson has taken advantage of his playoff starts. He pinch hit in the second game of the wild-card series and in the first two games of the division series and came up empty each time. But he has logged at least one hit in each game that he has started since.

Pederson went 4 for 6, including a three-run homer in the first inning. Of the six balls he put in play, only two were hit softer than 104 mph — a pop-out and the ninth-inning single he stroked to the left side of the infield.

Pederson has seven hits in his last 12 at-bats.

The 28-year-old couldn’t come up with answer when asked to name the key to his success. But he dedicated his home run to daughter Poppy, who celebrated her second birthday Wednesday.

“I hit a homer for Poppy,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”

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Clayton Kershaw to start Game 4

Clayton Kershaw will start Game 4 for the Dodgers, manager Dave Roberts confirmed postgame.

Kershaw was scratched from his originally scheduled Game 2 start because of back spasms. But Roberts said Kershaw came to the park feeling better Wednesday and doesn’t expect the left-hander to be limited in his first start in more than a week.

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Braves preparing to face Kershaw in Game 4

It isn’t yet certain whether Clayton Kershaw (back spasms) will start Game 4 for the Dodgers on Thursday. The Braves, however, are treating it that way.

“As of right now, we’re planning for him,” manager Brian Snitker said. “We’ll game plan and get ready to face Clayton tomorrow until I hear different.”

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Braves manager Brian Snitker: “If we had to lose a game, that was probably the best possible way.”

Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker watches batting practice before Game 3 of the NLCS on Wednesday.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

On a night his team lost by 13 runs, Braves manager Brian Snitker found a few silver linings to take into the remainder of the series.

The Braves were beaten so soundly, they had no reason to call upon the core of their already heavily-worked bullpen. They were able to give outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., first baseman Freddie Freeman and catcher Travis d’Arnaud a few innings off. And while his team’s series lead has been cut to two-games-to-one, Snitker is hopeful the club is set up to manage the next couple of games before staff aces Max Fried and Ian Anderson can pitch again.

“Quite honestly, we’re in better shape than if we’d grinded out a 7-5 loss,” Snitker said. “We wanted to win the game and all but ... if we had to lose a game, that’s probably the best possible way.”

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Two runs score but Dodgers hang on for their historic win

Dodgers players celebrate their win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NLCS on Wednesday.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Johan Camargo hit a two-run double off Dodgers’ reliever Adam Kolarek, slicing the Braves’ deficit to 15-3. But there were no crazy rallies in this game of the NLCS.

The Dodgers’ rout cut the Braves’ lead in the series to 2-1.

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Braves’ Charlie Culberson did not pitch in this game after all

Maybe Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz only stopped to talk to Charlie Culberson in the dugout for a daily check-in?

At any rate, Culberson, the Braves’ utility man, did not go to the mound in the ninth inning. He remained in right field, where he has played since the sixth inning.

Let’s see if the Dodgers can close out this 15-1 game in the bottom of the ninth...

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Dodgers quiet since the early barrage, Braves stunted

Dodgers relief pitcher Adam Kolarek pitches the ninth inning of a 15-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Dodgers relief pitcher Adam Kolarek pitches the ninth inning of a 15-3 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NLCS on Wednesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

No runs have scored in this game since the third inning.

Understandably, the Braves’ energy has plummeted in the wake of the early flogging.

The game remains 15-1 heading into the ninth.

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Kiké Hernández vs Johan Camargo for play of the game

Atlanta Braves third baseman Johan Camargo catches a fly ball as Austin Riley looks on.
Atlanta Braves third baseman Johan Camargo catches a fly ball hit by the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson as Austin Riley looks on the third inning of Game 3.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Joe Buck made his choice clear, calling Johan Camargo’s sixth-inning grab in foul territory the play of this 15-1 game.

But where does that leave Kiké Hernández’s diving stop from a half-inning earlier?

You choose. Which of these plays was better?

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A rookie’s long-relief appearance has saved Braves’ bullpen

Braves rookie Huascar Ynoa is out of the game after putting runners in scoring position with two outs in the seventh.

He threw four scoreless innings, striking out four as he went, after teammate Grant Dayton departed with two outs in the third.

The appearance saved the Braves from burning too many relievers on a hopeless game, which is the fate they had been doomed to after starter Kyle Wright faced nine batters in the first without securing three outs.

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Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen replaces Julio Urías...in the sixth

Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen throws against the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning of Game 3.
Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen throws against the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning of Game 3 of the NLCS on Wednesday.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

Kenley Jansen is getting some work in this game. The Dodgers’ beleaguered reliever — he has essentially retained the “closer” title in name only — emerged from the bullpen to pitch the sixth inning.

And he retired the three batters he faced. Though a deep fly ball to left-center field likely would have been a homer in any other ballpark.

Jansen had not pitched since last Wednesday, when he gave up two runs in Game 2 of the NLDS and nearly blew a save. The outing reignited discussions about whether Jansen could be trusted in the ninth inning.

The Dodgers have not explicitly said Jansen isn’t the closer. But he didn’t pitch the ninth inning in a tie game Monday.

If you thought it was strange that Jansen entered Wednesday’s game in the sixth inning...there’s a reason for that.

Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations, expressed confidence in Jansen earlier this week.

“There’s some stuff in the delivery that I know [coaches Mark Prior and Connor McGuiness] are kind of keying on,” he said. “But to his credit, all he is saying right now is, ‘I want to be a part of helping us win a championship.’ It’s a text message he’s sending to the other bullpen guys. ... I think there are really good runs for different relievers and just how to deploy them and when. Obviously, it depends on how certain games play out, but I do expect him to be a big part in helping us win a championship.”

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Julio Urías’ excellence in postseason continues

Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urías delivers during the fourth inning of Game 3 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Julio Urías’ night appears over after five innings of three-hit, one-run ball.

One can make an argument that no Dodger has pitched better than Julio Urías this postseason. The left-hander has now thrown 13 innings without breaking. He has only given up two runs — one on a balk, and another on a homer.

Manager Dave Roberts was asked before the game if he thought Urías could take over as closer in the future. He tabled the discussion for later. He believes Urías “can do anything on the mound.”

“His heartbeat is next level,” Roberts said. “This guy wants to be the guy, but really has that resolve, that humility, that amazing compete. This guy’s a budding superstar.”

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Charlie Culberson is in but he’s not pitching for Braves...yet

Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Huascar Ynoa throws against the Dodgers during the third inning of Game 3 of the NLCS.
(Associated Press)

The Braves replaced Ronald Acuña Jr. with Charlie Culberson, the very same player Atlanta’s pitching coach was spotted talking to in the first inning.

Culberson singled in the bottom of the fifth inning and moved into right field for the sixth inning. He could eventually move to mound.

For now, the Braves are sticking with Huascar Ynoa. Before issuing a one-out walk to Edwin Ríos in the sixth, he had retired eight of nine batters since entering the game with two out in the third inning.

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Corey Seager won’t hit for the cycle

Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager hits a run-scoring single during the first inning in Game 3 of the NLCS.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Dave Roberts subbed out some more players in the bottom of the fifth inning, including Corey Seager. That means the Dodgers shortstop won’t have the opportunity to complete the cycle.

Seager was a triple shy of logging the first postseason cycle since Brock Holt of the Red Sox did it Oct. 8, 2018 in an ALDS game against the Yankees.

Seager’s would have been the second playoff cycle in MLB history.

The Dodgers have only had two players log a hit of each type — single, double, triple, homer — in the same game in the 21st century: Cody Bellinger in 2017 and Orlando Hudson in 2009.

Matt Beaty took Seager’s spot in the lineup and entered the game in left field.

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Julio Urías is on a roll for the Dodgers

Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urías delivers during the fourth inning.
Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urías delivers during the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NLCS.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A Cristian Pache home run aside, Dodgers starter Julio Urías hasn’t had much trouble retiring Braves batters since the two walks he issued to begin his outing.

He has retired 12 of 14 since then. He has also struck out four.

His curveball has been key. He has used it to draw seven of 10 whiffs in the game. The pitch has also been called for strikes six times.

Urías has been on a roll all postseason. He pitched three scoreless innings in a wild-card series outing and gave up one unearned run over five innings in game 3 of the NLDS.

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Braves take a cautious approach with players

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kyle Wright is pulled from the game.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kyle Wright is pulled from the game during the first inning of Game 3 of the NLCS.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

Down 15-1, the Braves aren’t risking hurting some of their key bats. Manager Brian Snitker has removed first baseman Freddie Freeman and catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

In their spots are veteran catcher Tyler Flowers and former San Francisco Giant Pablo Sandoval.

The Braves acquired Sandoval, 34, after the Giants released the aging slugger Sept. 10. He only appeared in one regular-season game for the Braves but he has remained with the team during the postseason because of his experience. He was a pivotal piece of the Giants teams that won the World Series in 2010, ’12 and ’14.

“He’s been really good for our young guys,” Snitker said. “He’s a lot of energy, works extremely hard and he’s ready. He’s been through these moments more than once.”

Mookie Betts was removed from the game by the Dodgers after grounding out in his fourth-inning at-bat. It is safe to assume the Dodgers will sub out more players in short order.

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Braves’ rookie outfielder ends Dodgers shutout

Atlanta's Cristian Pache hits a solo home run against the Dodgers.
Atlanta’s Cristian Pache hits a solo home run against the Dodgers in the third inning of Game 3 of the NLCS.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

The Braves offense...lives?

Outfielder Cristian Pache, a rookie making just his third MLB start, clobbered Dodgers starter Julio Urías’ 1-0 fastball for the first home run of his major-league career. He yanked the pitch 388 feet into the left-field corner.

The leadoff cut the Dodgers’ lead to 15-1.

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Dodgers force Braves reliever out of game after eight more runs

Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager rounds the bases after hitting a home run off Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Grant Dayton.
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager rounds the bases after hitting a home run off Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Grant Dayton during the third inning of Game 3 of the NLCS.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

It was not a good day for Grant Dayton.

The Braves left-hander gave up eight runs and recorded only six outs. The third inning was brutal:

Corey Seager - HR
Justin Turner - 1B
Max Muncy - 2B
Will Smith - 6-3, RBI
Cody Bellinger - 1B, RBI
Joc Pederson - 1B

All that after Dayton, who pitched for the Dodgers in the 2016 playoffs, retired Mookie Betts.

Huascar Ynoa took over and struck out Edwin Ríos.

We remain on Position Player Pitching watch.

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Historic playoff blowouts? Dave Roberts has experience

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts speaks with pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts speaks with pitcher Clayton Kershaw before Game 3 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

The Dodgers are now ahead 15-0 after an RBI groundout from Will Smith and RBI single from Cody Bellinger. That is only one run shy of largest all-time margin of victory in an MLB playoff game.

That record was set in the 1999 ALDS, when the Boston Red Sox walloped the Cleveland Indians 23-7 at Fenway Park. A pinch-hitter in that game for the Indians? Dave Roberts, who struck out in his one at-bat before finishing the game in center field.

The Dodgers’ manager is probably enjoying today’s rout a little bit more.

You can read more about that 1999 Red Sox-Indians game from our own Mike DiGiovanna, who was at the park that night, HERE.

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Braves can strain bullpen ... or call on position player to pitch

Atlanta Braves' Charlie Culberson pitches against the Washington Nationals on Sept. 4.
(John Amis / Associated Press)

This game just might feature a position player pitching.

According to Tom Verducci of the FS1 broadcast team, Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz was spotted speaking to veteran utility player Charlie Culberson in the first inning, right before Max Muncy drilled his grand slam to extend the Dodgers’ lead.

Culberson, a former Dodger, has pitched 3 ⅓ innings since joining the Braves in 2018. He has never given a run.

Maybe Culberson can do what left-hander Grant Dayton has not. Dayton, who took over from starter Kyle Wright in the first inning, just gave up a third-inning solo homer to Corey Seager. It is the sixth run Dayton has yielded.

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Seager solo blast makes it 13-0 Dodgers

Make it a baker’s dozen now. Corey Seager has homered to right with out in the third to make it 13-0 Dodgers. It’s their fifth home run of the game, setting a new club postseason record, and also leaves Corey Seager only a triple shy of the cycle today.

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Bellinger homers in the second to make it 12-0

Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger hits a home run against the Atlanta Braves.
Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger hits a home run against the Atlanta Braves during the second inning of Game 3 of the NLCS on Wednesday.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

And, they’re off again. After making a leaping catch at the wall to end the first inning, Cody Bellinger swats a solo home run to right to lead off the second. It’s 12-0 Dodgers. They already have eight hits and four home runs.

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Julio Urías extends Braves a life-line but quickly reels it back

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias throws against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in Game 3.
Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urías throws during the first inning of Game 3 of the NLCS.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

Julio Urías took the mound for the Dodgers with an 11-run lead, something no other pitcher has done in postseason history. And he almost blew part of the advantage.

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freddie Freeman drew back to back walks and saw a combined 15 pitches. Urías seemed poised to make a mess of the inning.

But he settled quickly and retired the next three batters without incident.

Braves reliever Grant Dayton, who was charged four of the Dodgers’ 11 runs in the first, returned to the mound.

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Recapping a historic first inning

Dodgers' Joc Pederson celebrates a three-run home run during the first inning of Game 3 of the NLCS.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

In case you missed anything, here’s how the Dodgers scored 11 – ELEVEN! – runs in a historic first inning:

  • Mookie Betts infield single
  • Corey Seager RBI double (1-0 LA)
  • Justin Turner groundout
  • Max Muncy groundout
  • Will Smith RBI double (2-0 LA)
  • Cody Bellinger walk
  • Joc Pederson three-run home run (5-0 LA)
  • Edwin Ríos solo home run (6-0 LA)
  • Chris Taylor walk
  • Mookie Betts walk
  • Corey Seager RBI single (7-0 LA)
  • Justin Turner hit-by-pitch
  • Max Muncy grand slam (11-0 LA)
  • Will Smith strikeout

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Braves head to plate after historically bad first inning on mound

Enough said:

This isn’t the first time in recent history the Braves have seen their pitching implode so early. In Game 5 of the NLDS last year, the Braves gave up 10 runs to the St. Louis Cardinals. They went on to lose 14-3.

The difference? Last year’s game was a must-win. In this case, the Braves can still head into Thursday leading the series 2-1 — assuming they don’t pull of a miracle Wednesday.

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Max Muncy grand slam. It’s 11-0 Dodgers ... in the first inning

History has been made. The Dodgers have scored the most runs in any single inning in MLB postseason history, breaking the mark with a Max Muncy grand slam that made it 11-0 Dodgers in the top of the first.

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Braves replace starter but Dodgers extend first, take 11-0 lead

Edwin Rios celebrates after hitting a home run for the Dodgers in the first inning of Game 3 of the NLCS.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

The Braves’ pitching change did not stop the Dodgers. Reliever Grant Dayton, a left-hander, issued a walk to Mookie Betts then gave up an RBI single to Corey Seager.

With runners on the corners, Dayton’s next pitch was determined on review to have hit Justin Turner.

Dayton did not escape the bases-loaded jam. Max Muncy cranked a grand slam for an 11-0 lead.

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At least one Dodger already knew Braves starter Kyle Wright

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kyle Wright reacts after giving up a three-run home run to Joc Pederson.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kyle Wright reacts after giving up a three-run home run to Joc Pederson during the first inning.
(Associated Press)

The Braves trotted out a rookie pitcher for the second straight game. This time, it was someone at least one Dodger knew well. Starter Kyle Wright was a first-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2017, two years after the Dodgers selected Walker Buehler out of the same program.

Wright was a freshman at the time, so he wasn’t a member of the Commodores’ rotation. But Buehler, a junior starter in 2015, saw Wright put together a 1.23 ERA on the team’s way to a runner-up finish in the College World Series.

Did Buehler have some intel that he shared with his Dodgers teammates? They scored six runs — five with two outs — off the Braves pitcher and sent nine to the plate.

Wright was replaced by reliever Grant Dayton.

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Back to back home runs. 6-0 Dodgers

The first inning barrage continues. With two on and two outs, Joc Pederson drilled a three-run home run to left-center field, landing it in a Braves bullpen that is already beginning to get loose. In the next at-bat, Edwin Ríos homered to staight-away center. That’s 13 Dodgers runs in their past four innings in the series.

6-0 Dodgers. The Braves has still yet to hit...

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Will Smith makes it 2-0 with an RBI double

After missing two big opportunities early in Game 2, Will Smith comes through a two-out RBI in the first inning today to extend the Dodgers’ early lead to 2-0. The catcher got in a 3-and-1 count against Braves starter Kyle Wright, then smoked a sinker that tailed away from Cristian Pache in center field. It easily scored Corey Seager from second and Smith turned it into a double with some heads up baserunning.

The exit velocity on that one: 109.5 mph

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Two pitches, one Dodgers run

Dodgers baserunner Mookie Betts scores past Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud.
Dodgers baserunner Mookie Betts scores past Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud on a double by Corey Seager during the first inning of Game 3 of the NLCS.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

The Dodgers hoped their big ninth inning last night would carry over. In the first two at-bats today, it has.

Mookie Betts legged out an infield single on the game’s first pitch, barely beating out a grounder to third that was originally called an out but overturned by review.

In the next at-bat, Corey Seager smoked a first-pitch sinker into the left-center gap. Betts was able to score all the way from first after left fielder Austin Riley tripped up fielding the ball.

It’s the Dodgers’ first lead of the series. 1-0 in the first.

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What to know about Dodgers-Braves NLCS game 3

A Dodgers fan watches during batting practice before Game 3 of the NLCS on Wednesday.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

First pitch: 3:05 p.m. PT

TV: FS1

Lineups:

Dodgers notes: Left-hander Julio Urías is making his first postseason start since Game 4 of the 2016 National League Division Series, in which he gave up four runs and walked two. The Cubs, who had trailed in the series 2-1, went on to win that game and two more on their way to the World Series. Manager Dave Roberts isn’t worried about a repeat of that performance. The key to success for Urías will be limiting early-game damage. Urías gave up 10 of 20 earned runs this season in the first inning. … The Dodgers aren’t discouraged by their 0-2 start in the NLCS. Roberts said the morale remains high among players, who hope to carry over the momentum from their ninth-inning rally in Tuesday’s one-run loss. “There’s a good vibe in the clubhouse, there really is. It’s a very focused, loose group,” he said. … Production from the top of the lineup has been virtually nonexistent in this series. The Dodgers’ top five batters have combined to go 7 for 39. Three of the hits came in the ninth inning Tuesday.

Braves notes: First baseman Freddie Freeman’s arm went numb after being hit by a pitch in the right elbow during his eight-inning plate appearance Tuesday but he was fine Wednesday. Freeman is 3 for 8 with four RBIs in this series. He has homered in each game. … The Braves have poured on runs, outscoring 13-8, but they haven’t taken advantage of every opportunity. They have hit 3 for 19 with runners in scoring position. For comparison, the Dodgers are 2 for 11 in those situations. … Atlanta pitchers have trailed in only five of 67 innings thrown this postseason. … The Braves have never lost a league championship series when taking a 2-0 lead.

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Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw ‘likely possibility’ to start NLCS Game 4 against Braves

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw watches from the dugout during the fourth inning of Game 2.
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw watches from the dugout during the fourth inning of Game 2 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, scratched from his scheduled Game 2 start because of back spasms, is a “likely possibility” to start Game 4 against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, manager Dave Roberts said.

Kershaw’s back issue flared up after Saturday’s bullpen workout and forced the Dodgers to start Tony Gonsolin in Game 2 — an 8-7 loss to the Braves — on Tuesday. Kershaw had “a pretty aggressive” bullpen workout before Tuesday’s game in Globe Life Field and received treatment Wednesday.

“He was letting [the ball] go, and he came out of it great,” Roberts said before Game 3. “Every day it’s been better. … I talked to him briefly [Wednesday]. He’s in a good head space. I just know that we’re in a better place than we were [on Tuesday]. What that means, I don’t know quite yet.”

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Dodgers still have reasons for optimism despite huge NLCS hole against Braves

Only one time this regular season did the Dodgers take a true “punch in the mouth,” as Mookie Betts called it.

It came on Sept. 14, when the San Diego Padres pulled within 1 ½ games of the Dodgers’ division lead with a 7-2 win at Petco Park. Afterward, the team “had a talk amongst ourselves,” according to Betts. They resolved to bounce back from the blindside blow.

Then, they closed the season on a 10-2 run, clinched the best record in baseball and swept the first two rounds of the playoffs.

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Dodgers’ pitching, once a strength, suddenly a problem as season hangs in balance

Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez delivers during the fifth inning of Game 2 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

The Dodgers didn’t start hitting until the game already was lost, but ignore that for a moment.

Another problem came into sharp focus before, during and after their 8-7 defeat to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday.

Their pitching is unraveling.

This was expected to be their greatest advantage over the Braves, the reason they believed they would win this National League Championship Series regardless of how it started.

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Braves get a reminder to stay focused after almost giving game away

Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger yells out "let's go!" after hitting a run-scoring triple against the Atlanta Braves.
Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger yells out “let’s go!” after hitting a run-scoring triple against the Atlanta Braves in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the NLCS on Tuesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

One half-inning, closer Mark Melancon was high-stepping and high-fiving in the Atlanta bullpen after catching a home-run ball off the bat of Ozzie Albies for the second straight night, and Albies was posing for a pretend selfie with teammates in the Braves dugout.

The next, the Braves were white-knuckling through potential disaster in the bottom of the ninth, pushed to the brink of a collapse that might have rivaled the Falcons’ 25-point blown third-quarter lead in a Super Bowl LI loss to the New England Patriots for Atlanta sporting flops.

Almost all of a seven-run, seventh-inning lead had disappeared, and the potential tying run was on third base for the Dodgers when Melancon got AJ Pollock to ground out to third to close Atlanta’s nail-biter of an 8-7 National League Championship Series Game 2 victory at Globe Life Field.

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Dodgers’ decisions in fateful fifth inning backfire in NLCS Game 2 loss to Braves

Dodgers starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin is pulled from the game during the fifth inning of Game 2.
Dodgers starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin is pulled from the game during the fifth inning of Game 2 of the NLCS on Tuesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers trailed by seven runs at one point Tuesday. There is not much sense in scrutinizing the anatomy of a blowout.

But, for the Dodgers, there is something incredibly painful about this one-run defeat, and not just because the Atlanta Braves are halfway to the World Series.

The Dodgers’ 8-7 loss in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series compelled a close examination of the fifth inning. In a game they rallied and ultimately lost by one run, that was an inning in which they gave up four, amid a series of questionable decisions.

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Watching the Dodgers from Chavez Ravine parking lot sparks camaraderie among fans

A fan cleans off his windshield to see through the late afternoon glare during a drive-in viewing party at Dodger Stadium.
A fan cleans off his windshield to see through the late afternoon glare during a drive-in viewing party at Dodger Stadium on Monday.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Huddled with his little sister in the trunk space of his SUV, Erik Garcia looked out over a parking lot at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday afternoon and preened at the primo spot he had acquired.

Garcia was one of roughly 300 drivers to buy a ticket to the Dodgers’ drive-in watch party for Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. He arrived at the gates about two hours before first pitch, eager to claim a parking space near the 60-foot screen set up in the center of Lot 2.

For Garcia, the opportunity to watch the team he has spent the last 19 years cheering on was too enticing to pass up — even if he all could do was sit in the back of his vehicle, with 7-year-old Melissa and a spread of pizza, chips and soda.

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Dodgers tab left-hander Julio Urías to start the NLCS Game 3 against the Atlanta Braves

Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías pitches against the Colorado Rockies last month.
Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías will start Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Julio Urías will start Game 3 of the National League Championship Series for the Dodgers on Wednesday, the team announced.

It will be the left-handed pitcher’s first start of the postseason and third appearances of these playoffs. In two relief outings in the first two rounds, Urías allowed a single unearned run over eight total innings while striking out 11.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday prior to the team’s announcement that Urías will start Game 3, manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw’s injury had made the Dodgers reconsider Urías’ swingman role out of the bullpen.

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Photos from Dodgers’ 8-7 loss to the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of NLCS

Here are some of the best images from Los Angeles Times photographer Robert Gauthier from the Dodgers’ 8-7 loss in Game 2.

Dodgers left fielder Joc Pederson reacts in disgust after popping out.
Dodgers left fielder Joc Pederson reacts in disgust after popping out in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of the NLCS.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin delivers against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of the NLCS.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager is congratulated by Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor after hitting a three-run home run
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, right, is congratulated by Joc Pederson, center, and Chris Taylor after hitting a three-run home run in the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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Spirited ninth-inning surge not enough for Dodgers in NLCS Game 2 loss to Braves

ARLINGTON, Texas — After 16 innings, after a listless loss and another one possibly ahead, the Dodgers’ offense finally swung to life in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday.

The Dodgers had compiled just two hits in the first six innings. The offense they were so confident would not fail them entering the series was failing them again. Then, with Los Angeles trailing 7-0, Corey Seager cracked a three-run home run into the Braves’ bullpen beyond the wall in left-center field in the seventh inning.

Two innings later, with the Dodgers down 8-3, Seager lined an RBI double. Two batters after, with the Dodgers down to their last out, Max Muncy smashed a two-run home run. Next, Will Smith reached on an error. Cody Bellinger lined an RBI triple to right against Braves closer Mark Melancon, cutting the deficit to one. Suddenly, the Braves, riding a high just moments earlier, were reeling. The Dodgers, late-game offensive specialists, were poised to overcome their bullpen’s second collapse in 24 hours.

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