Dodgers’ World Series championship reign ends in NLCS loss to Braves
The Dodgers were eliminated from the postseason after losing NLCS Game 6 to the Atlanta Braves. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts discusses what happened and what the offseason will bring.
ATLANTA — The Dodgers’ season effectively ended in the seventh inning Saturday night at Truist Park. It happened with runners at second and third, stranded there after Atlanta Braves left-hander Tyler Matzek mowed through three hitters.
It happened in fitting fashion, with the Dodgers unable to capitalize on a prime scoring opportunity in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.
When the sequence was over, after Albert Pujols, Steven Souza Jr. and Mookie Betts struck out in succession, Matzek pumped his fist twice. He leaped and he howled. The Dodgers had six outs left to erase a two-run deficit, but their World Series hopes were effectively extinguished there, without putting a ball in play, en route to a season-ending, 4-2 defeat.
Final: Dodgers eliminated from the playoffs with 4-2 loss to Braves in Game 6 of the NLCS
ATLANTA — This time, there was no comeback. No pennant-snatching rally. No trip back to the World Series.
Instead, the Dodgers’ season ended on Saturday night in Atlanta. With a 4-2 loss to the Braves, they were eliminated in the National League Championship Series four games to two, sending them into the winter after a failed title defense.
Walker Buehler was tagged with four runs in a four-inning start that came on short rest, after Max Scherzer was unable to pitch because of arm fatigue.
The Dodgers squandered their best opportunity to get back in the game in the seventh, striking out three-straight times against Tyler Matzek with the tying runs at second and third.
And in the ninth, they couldn’t get anything going against Braves closer Will Smith, going down in order as Atlanta clinched its first National League title since 1999.
Final: Braves 4, Dodgers 2
4-2 Braves, end 8th: Kenley Jansen escapes jam; Dodgers down to their last chance
The Braves got runners to second and third against Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the eighth, but couldn’t bring them home.
Instead, Jansen got out of the jam by striking out Austin Riley, keeping the Dodgers’ deficit at two.
The Braves will summon closer Will Smith to try and finish off the series in the ninth. The Dodgers have Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger and AJ Pollock due up. That trio has combined for four of the Dodgers’ five hits tonight.
End 8th: Braves lead 4-2
4-2 Braves, mid 8th: Tyler Matzek pitches second scoreless inning in the eighth
Tyler Matzek made that look easy.
In his second inning of work in the top of the eighth, the Braves left-hander took down the heart of the Dodgers order on just six pitches. Corey Seager struck out, then Trea Turner and Will Smith both grounded out to third.
The Braves had their closer, Will Smith, warming up that inning. They are three outs away from a pennant.
Kenley Jansen will pitch the bottom of the eighth for the Dodgers, trying to keep their deficit at two in what could potentially be his last outing as a Dodger.
Mid 8th: Braves lead 4-2
4-2 Braves, end 7th: Corey Knebel pitches scoreless inning; Tyler Matzek returns for eighth
Corey Knebel kept the Dodgers’ deficit at two, working a two-out single by Dansby Swanson to pitch a scoreless seventh inning.
Braves set-up man Tyler Matzek will return to the mound to begin the eighth. Matzek pitched more than one inning just five times in the regular season, but only threw 11 pitches in the seventh.
The Dodgers will have the heart of their order — Corey Seager, Trea Turner and Will Smith — due up.
End 7th: Braves lead 4-2
4-2 Braves, mid 7th: Dodgers strand both runners with three-straight strikeouts
In arguably the three biggest at-bats of their season, the Dodgers struck out three times in a row.
After inheriting runners on second and third with no outs, Tyler Matzek got Albert Pujols to chase a low slider, froze pinch-hitter Steven Souza Jr. with a fastball on the outside corner, then blew a 98 mph heater past Mookie Betts.
Matzek went skipping back to the dugout, the Braves’ two-run lead intact. Betts smacked his bat in frustration, knowing the Dodgers are now only six outs away from elimination.
Mid 7th: Braves lead 4-2
4-2 Braves, top 7th: Dodgers score one, have tying runs in scoring position
The Dodgers have some life in the seventh.
Braves reliever Luke Jackson entered to begin the inning, but gave up a double to Chris Taylor, walked Cody Bellinger, then watched AJ Pollock line a two-strike slider just fair down the left-field line for an RBI double.
That puts the tying runners on second and third for Albert Pujols. The Braves are bringing in their set-up man, left-hander Tyler Matzek, to face him.
There are still no outs.
Top 7th: Braves lead 4-2
4-1 Braves, end 6th: Dodgers escape jam to keep deficit at three
The Braves had a chance to potentially put the game away in the seventh, loading the bases on three straight two-out walks by newly-inserted reliever Alex Vesia.
Blake Treinen, however, escaped the jam after being summoned, striking out Austin Riley on a called third strike.
Still, Baseball Savant currently gives the Braves a 92% probability to win this game.
End 6th: Braves lead 4-1
4-1 Braves, mid 6th: Braves nine outs away from pennant
A.J. Minter has done his job, building a bridge to the back end of the Braves bullpen by throwing two scoreless innings of the relief.
The Braves are now nine outs away from a pennant. The Dodgers haven’t had a baserunner since Cody Bellinger’s hit in the fourth.
Brusdar Graterol is going back to the mound for a second inning of work in the bottom of the sixth.
Mid 6th: Braves lead 4-1
4-1 Braves, end 5th: Walker Buehler’s night ends after four innings
Entering this NLCS, Walker Buehler had gone 11 consecutive postseason starts without allowing four runs.
In two starts this week, however, the Braves did it to him both times.
Buehler’s night (and, potentially, his season) is officially over after he was pinch-hit for in a scoreless fifth inning for the Dodgers.
His final line, pitching on short rest: 4 innings, 4 runs, 7 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts
When it happened to him in Game 3, the Dodgers were able to come back and win. They’ll have to do something similar tonight, facing a three-run deficit with 12 outs to go.
Meanwhile, Brusdar Graterol took the mound in the bottom of the fifth and pitched a scoreless inning.
End 5th: Braves lead 4-1
Tied 1-1, top 4th: Cody Bellinger ties game up with RBI single
Ian Anderson has left very little in the zone for the Dodgers to hit. So, Cody Bellinger went after a pitch off the plate to get the Dodgers on the board.
After a one-out walk from Trea Turner and single from Will Smith put two aboard in the fourth, Bellinger came up with two outs and shortened up with his two-strike approach, slapping an outside changeup the other way past the shift to tie the game at 1-1.
Bellinger is now batting .364 in the playoffs with seven RBIs. He has also reached safely in eight straight games.
Mid 4th: Tied 1-1
1-0 Braves, end 3rd: Walker Buehler gets out trouble in the third
Walker Buehler got out of trouble in the third, stranding a couple runners with a strikeout of Adam Duvall.
Freddie Freeman drew a nine-pitch walk with one out, then Austin Riley singled with two gone.
But Buehler fanned Duvall on three pitches, getting him to twice chase cutters out of the zone.
Buehler was pumped up, celebrating the punch out with a yell and flex on the mound. He’s at 49 pitches through three innings.
End 3rd: Braves lead 1-0
1-0 Braves, mid 3rd: Dodgers squander first scoring chance of night
Walker Buehler bounced back in the bottom of the second with a scoreless inning, but couldn’t help his own cause in the top of the third.
After AJ Pollock doubled, the Dodgers stranded him. Matt Beaty flied out. Buehler struck out. And Mookie Betts grounded out to end the frame.
Through three innings, Brave starter Ian Anderson has only thrown 40 pitches.
Mid 3rd: Braves lead 1-0
1-0 Braves, top 2nd: Ian Anderson sharp early on
Ian Anderson is off to a perfect start, retiring the first six Dodgers he’s faced through two scoreless innings.
Early on, the right-hander has given the Dodgers very little good to swing at. So far, only 10 of his 27 pitches have been in the zone. Yet, he’s already gotten them to chase six pitches out of the zone — including four that were whiffed.
Mid 2nd: Braves lead 1-0
No score, top 1st: Dodgers go down in order to begin game
We’re underway in Atlanta … where the Dodgers offense got off to a slow start.
Despite falling behind behind to all three Dodgers he faced in the first inning, Braves starter Ian Anderson retired the side in order in the first.
Mookie Betts flied out on a low changeup, Corey Seager grounded out on a 3-0 fastball in on his hands, and Trea Turner struck out to end the inning.
Mid 1st: No score
What to know about NLCS Game 6: Walker Buehler on short rest, lineup changes and more
ATLANTA — After being down 2-0 and 3-1 in the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers have made it to Game 6.
While they’ve gotten the series back to Atlanta, where they will try to push the Braves to a decisive seventh game on Sunday, there are still plenty of factors stacked against them.
Their pitching staff is banged up and run-down, with Max Scherzer being scratched from his Game 6 start because of arm fatigue and injured Joe Kelly being replaced by David Price.
Their lineup has yet to string together consecutive strong games in the playoffs.
And, unlike their 3-1 comeback against the Braves in last year’s neutral-site NLCS, they’ll have to win twice at Truist Park this time to get back to the World Series.
“If you don’t take care of business today, then there’s no tomorrow,” infielder Trea Turner said. “So we know the situation, we know we kind of dug ourselves a hole, but at the same time they played well, so it is what it is and we got to play good baseball if we want to move on and I think we’re confident and ready to go.”
Here’s what you need to know before Game 6.
First pitch: 5:08 p.m. PDT (8:08 p.m. local time in Atlanta)
Dodgers notes: With Scherzer unable to pitch tonight — the Dodgers are hopeful he’d be able to throw in a potential Game 7 — Walker Buehler will take the mound on short rest.
Manager Dave Roberts didn’t specify a pitch count for Buehler, who struggled in a 3 2/3-inning, four-run (two earned) outing in Tuesday’s Game 3. But, Roberts said he hoped it would be possible for the right-hander to get through the Braves lineup two and a half times.
“It’s just start the game and go as hard as you can for as long as you can and get outs and we’ll have people behind you,” Roberts said.
The Dodgers tweaked their lineup against right-handed Braves starter Ian Anderson, putting left-handed hitter Matt Beaty at first base and Cody Bellinger in center field.
Another left-hander, Gavin Lux, was dropped to the bench as a result. Roberts cited outfield defense as part of the reason for the move — Lux had been in center for Games 2, 3 and 4, but made a couple defensive mistakes — and noted that Lux would be an option off the bench later in the game.
Roberts also said left-handed reliever Justin Bruihl will be able to pitch in Game 6. Bruihl’s status had been questionable after he felt arm soreness trying to warm up for Game 5.
Braves notes: Braves manager Brian Snitker downplayed the impact of the Dodgers’ late pitching switch, saying his club had been preparing to face both Buehler and Scherzer entering the weekend.
“It’s not that big a deal,” Snitker said.
The Braves will use the same lineup against Buehler as they did in Game 3, with left-handed hitters Eddie Rosario and Freddie Freeman at the top of the order, and switch-hitting Ozzie Albies batting third.
The only difference from Game 3 was flipping Dansby Swanson and Travis d’Arnaud in the seventh and eighth spots.
Anderson will take the mound for the second time this series, trying to improve upon his three-inning, two-run start in Game 2.
“He’s been through this now a few times in his brief career,” Snitker said of the 23-year-old right-hander. “He’s prepared for these games before of this magnitude, so I think he’ll be ready to go.”
Dodgers have played 86 playoff elimination games; here’s the story of each one
On Saturday, the Dodgers will play their fifth elimination game in the last 16 days, having survived a wild-card play-in game against the St. Louis Cardinals, back-to-back winner-take-all NLDS games against the San Francisco Giants and Thursday’s NLCS Game 5 against the Atlanta Braves. They have won their last 10 elimination games.
Between Brooklyn and Los Angeles, the franchise has played in 84 elimination games, defined here as a playoff game in which either the Dodgers or their opponent would see their season end with a defeat. This list includes playoff tiebreaker series or games in which the loser went home (the 2018 tiebreaker game against the Colorado Rockies to determine the NL West winner is not included because both teams’ seasons continued; the 1980 tiebreaker game against the Houston Astros is included because it ended the loser’s season).
They are 44-42 in elimination games. When down 3-2 in a series, they are 4-6. In winner-take-all seventh games, they are 5-4.
For the list of winner-take-all elimination games in Dodgers history, click here.
For the list of tiebreaker playoff games in Dodgers history, click here.
What is the Dodgers’ history of coming back from a 3-2 postseason deficit?
You have doubtlessly heard, ad nauseum, that the Braves blew a 3-1 NLCS lead to the Dodgers in 2020. And that, perhaps, this history of squandering sure things is endemic to Atlanta sports teams (see 2017 Super Bowl).
We are here to tell you that history has limited value in predicting whether the Dodgers can overcome a 3-1 deficit for a second straight year. (And that the meltdown of a football team four years ago has no predictive value).
In the post above (and below), I detail the Dodgers’ 86 previous playoff games—inclusive of tiebreaker series and games—in which the franchise is 44-42, a mark improved by their 10 consecutive wins in elimination games (defined here as a game in which either team could go home). For the purposes of this weekend, here are the most relevant takeaways:
• When facing a 3-2 postseason deficit, the Dodgers are 4-6 in Game 6. In the Dave Roberts Era, they are 2-1, having defeated the Braves last year and the Houston Astros in the 2017 World Series. Their one loss was to the Chicago Cubs in 2016 NLCS.
(• Interestingly, the franchise is 3-6 when it held a 3-2 lead in a postseason series.)
• In a winner-take-all Game 7*, the Dodgers are 5-4 overall, and 1-1 in the Roberts Era, a loss to the Astros in ’17 and the victory over the Braves last year. But we get ahead of ourselves.
The Dodgers are 44-42 in elimination playoff games. From Babe Ruth’s Red Sox to the Atlanta Braves, here’s who’s stood in their way.
*The Dodgers, then the Brooklyn Robins, played a Game 7 in the 1920 World Series against Cleveland. That, however, was part of a nine-game series and not an elimination game.
Max Scherzer cites ‘general muscle fatigue’ for scratch, could pitch in Game 7
ATLANTA — On a day when he was supposed to take the mound to help save the Dodgers’ season, Max Scherzer told reporters he isn’t starting Game 6 of the National League Championship on Saturday at Truist Park because he’s too fatigued.
Scherzer cited “general muscle soreness” as the reason why he was scratched from his scheduled start against the Atlanta Braves. He maintained he isn’t dealing with an injury and there isn’t any structural damage in his right arm.
He said he just didn’t rebound from the “dead arm” he experienced in Game 2 last Sunday in time to pitch Saturday, but believes he’d be ready to pitch Sunday if the Dodgers force a Game 7.
“After that Game 2 start, I knew I was going to be sore for a couple of days, but it was just general muscle soreness across my arm, body,” Scherzer said. ”That’s normal when you’re in the playoffs and you overcook yourself. I’ve dealt with that many times. I just wasn’t recovering. I got to basically Day 4 and it felt like Day 1 still.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts talks about the late decision to not start Max Scherzer in Game 6 of the NLCS and how Scherzer is feeling now.
Scherzer, 37, explained the decision not to have him start was made at Dodger Stadium on Friday before the Dodgers boarded their flight to Georgia. Scherzer said he and Walker Buehler were playing catch at around the same time. He reported he “turned a corner” in throwing out to 90 feet for the first time since his Game 2 outing, but the team determined Buehler was in a better position to make the start even on short rest for the second time in 12 days and save Scherzer for Sunday.
“It’s just a timing thing,” Scherzer said. “For me, personally, I need an extra day. ... An extra day will give me more gas in the tank.”
Scherzer bluntly assessed his arm’s condition after throwing 79 pitches in just 4 1/3 innings in Game 2. He said he couldn’t get loose after three innings and knew he wouldn’t be able to pitch deep into the game without risking his arm health.
He said Saturday that the fatigue is a cumulation of his workload, which included a one-inning relief appearance closing out Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants on Oct. 14. Scherzer said he didn’t regret telling the team he was available that night or pitching.
“Obviously, it’s frustrating, but I don’t know what else I would do different is kind of what I’m getting at,” Scherzer said. “Twenty/twenty hindsight, yeah, obviously, you’d do things differently, but you don’t have the benefit of that.
“When you’re in these moments, all you can do is rely on your experience. I have had experience of pitching, starting and relieving and I made the best decision possible for myself and obviously for the team, whatever I can do. That’s all we can go by.”
Scherzer said he played catch out to 90 feet again Saturday. He said he “felt even better” than he did Friday, but he doesn’t know how much he would be able to pitch in a Game 7 on Sunday.
“Today, the way he threw the baseball, gave us a lot of confidence that he can make the start tomorrow,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Asked if he would start the game or pitch in relief, Scherzer said the team hasn’t discussed the possibilities. He didn’t dismiss the idea of being available out of the bullpen only if the Dodgers need him, potentially not using him to keep him rested for Game 1 of the World Series.
“I feel pretty confident that I’ll be able to go,” Scherzer said. “I just don’t know where my line will be. I don’t know how much, how little. It’s just a feel.”
Matt Beaty gets start at first base for Dodgers in Game 6
ATLANTA — With their season on the line, the Dodgers will have Walker Buehler pitch on short rest and Matt Beaty start at first base in Game 6 of the NLCS against the Braves at Truist Park on Saturday.
It’ll be Beaty’s third start of the postseason and first since Game 1 of the NLDS against the Giants. Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers’ first baseman most of the playoffs, will play center field.
The Dodgers have had Gavin Lux play center field against right-handed pitchers. Bellinger represents a defensive upgrade over Lux, a middle infielder who started playing outfield in September.
Chris Taylor will start at third base again in injured Justin Turner’s place after hitting three home runs in Game 5. He’ll bat fifth.
Buehler will pitch on short rest for the second time in 12 days. The right-hander gave up one run on three hits and threw 71 pitches across 4 1/3 innings on three days’ rest in Game 4 of the NLDS on Oct. 12 against the Giants. He then gave up four runs (two earned) in 3 2/3 innings in Game 3 of the NLCS on Tuesday.
The Braves will counter Buehler with Ian Anderson. The right-hander yielded two runs in three innings in Game 2 of the NLCS last Sunday.
The Dodgers trail in the best-of-seven series three games to two. A Braves win and they’ll advance to the World Series for the first time since 1995 when they won their only championship since moving to Atlanta. A Dodgers win and the teams will play Game 7 on Sunday.
MLB’s worst team didn’t want him. Now, Evan Phillips is the Dodgers’ unsung hero
When the game starts at 5 o’clock, dinner comes early. Evan Phillips was eating his dinner Thursday afternoon when Josh Bard, the Dodgers’ bullpen coach, stopped by to talk.
Not for long. The Dodgers were about to run a bullpen game, with their season on the line. They listed nine relievers on their lineup card. Joe Kelly would start, and Bard scampered around the clubhouse, letting every other reliever know when his turn might come up.
Early in the game, Bard told Phillips. But not this early, not replacing an injured Kelly in the first inning, with two balls and two strikes on the batter, with the Dodgers already down two runs in an elimination game.
“He was in a couple scenarios,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “but I don’t know if he was in the A scenario right there.”
Chris Taylor revives Dodgers’ NLCS lives with a jolt of ‘C-T-Three!’ power
Dodgers players Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, Albert Pujols, AJ Pollock and manager Dave Roberts talk about the offense waking up in NLCS Game 5.
The Dodgers were deflated, decimated and desperate for one reason, any reason, to continue clutching to the fraying fringes of a season.
Second inning, fastball, boom. Fifth inning, sinker, boom. Seventh inning, change-up, boom.
Heard enough? The Atlanta Braves certainly have.
Seen enough? The Dodgers certainly did.
Hold the eulogy. Keep the lights on. Clear your weekend. This National League Championship Series lives.
Trailing three games to one and on the verge of elimination, the Dodgers used a historic three home runs by Taylor on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium to pound out an 11-2 victory and maybe tighten those Braves’ dark blue collars.
ICYMI: Chris Taylor fuels Dodgers with three home runs in Game 5 win over Braves
Chris Taylor was late heeding to the roaring crowd’s pleas. The spotlight isn’t for him. The soft-spoken Dodger prefers to sidestep flattery. But 51,363 people are difficult to ignore, and his teammates urged him to absorb the adulation. Not every day do you hit three home runs in a postseason elimination game at Dodger Stadium.
So Taylor eventually emerged from the Dodgers’ dugout for a curtain call, a little late and only halfway, not reaching the top step to tip his batting helmet to the mass of jubilant fans grateful for the best performance of his baseball career Thursday night.
“That was my first one,” Taylor said. “I think anytime you do something cool, when you do it in Dodger Stadium, it makes it that much sweeter. This is a special place.”
On a day that began with a waft of despair for a club staring at a long winter, Taylor supplied the Dodgers’ season oxygen masks in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. The All-Star utilityman, needed at third base Thursday, went four for five with three home runs and six RBIs to propel a mercurial offense as the Dodgers staved off elimination with an 11-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Walker Buehler to start Game 6 of NLCS for Dodgers on short rest
For the second time in two weeks, Walker Buehler will start on short rest with the Dodgers’ season on the line.
With Max Scherzer unable to pitch in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series as originally expected because of arm fatigue concerns, the Dodgers announced it will be Buehler taking the mound on Saturday night, when the team will try to stave off elimination for a fifth time this postseason and push their series with the Atlanta Braves to a seventh game.
Like he did in Game 4 of the NLDS, Buehler will be pitching only three days rest, after giving up four runs (two earned) and throwing 76 pitches in a 3 2/3-inning outing against the Braves in Tuesday’s Game 3.
Max Scherzer will not start for Dodgers in NLCS Game 6 against the Braves
ATLANTA — Max Scherzer was scheduled to speak to the media via Zoom soon after the Dodgers landed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Friday night. News conferences are customary for starting pitchers the day before scheduled playoff outings and Scherzer has been slated to start Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.
But Scherzer didn’t address reporters. The team touched down at around 8:15 p.m. EDT and canceled the session minutes later because Scherzer isn’t going to start Saturday after all, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
Scherzer won’t make the start because of arm fatigue concerns, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. The Dodgers haven’t announced a starter for the game.