Ninth-inning woes continue in Dodgers’ loss to Braves
ARLINGTON, Texas — Every October for the past seven, since the Dodgers started winning the National League West every year in 2013, the ninth inning belonged to Kenley Jansen. But this year is different. Jansen isn’t the Dodgers’ closer anymore. His recent struggles have earned him a demotion, whether the Dodgers publicly acknowledge it or not. They’ve decided giving him the ball with the game on the line doesn’t give them the best chance to win the World Series.
Instead, the high-leverage late innings will be distributed on a case-by-case basis. On Monday, manager Dave Roberts chose Blake Treinen to pitch the ninth inning with the score tied against the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
Disaster struck five pitches into the outing. Austin Riley, Atlanta’s No. 9 hitter, launched a 98-mph sinker 448 feet over the left-center wall at Globe Life Field to ignite many of the first fans to attend a Major League Baseball game in 2020.
Dodgers drop first game of NLCS to Braves
Neither Max Muncy, Will Smith nor Cody Bellinger ignited a ninth-inning rally for the Dodgers. Braves reliever Mark Melancon induced three ground-ball outs to hand the Dodgers a 5-1 loss.
The defeat was the Dodgers’ first of the postseason.
The Braves are 13-4 in a playoff series when they win game 1 and 3-17 when they drop the opener.
The best-of-seven series continues Tuesday at 3 p.m. PT.
Dodgers don’t hand game to Kenley Jansen; Braves take 5-1 lead
The Dodgers held firm to their pre-game declaration that matchups would dictate who comes out of the bullpen in tight games, and they did not summon Kenley Jansen when faced with a tie game in the ninth.
They turned instead to Blake Treinen, who had a 3.86 ERA in 27 regular-season games and had not yet been scored upon in this postseason. They were disappointed.
Treinen gave up three hits, including a leadoff homer by Austin Riley and an RBI single by Marcell Ozuna. He was replaced by Jake McGee, who recorded the inning’s second out before throwing a 96 mph fastball down the pipe that Ozzie Albies slugged for a two-run blast. (The homer, by the way, was snagged by Braves reliever Mark Melancon, who was warming in the bullpen.)
The Dodgers trail the Braves 5-1.
Braves’ Austin Riley homers for ninth-inning lead over Dodgers
A mammoth solo shot by Austin Riley gave the Braves a 2-1 lead over the Dodgers. The leadoff homer left Riley’s bat at 110 mph and traveled 448 to left field in five seconds.
It doesn’t seem as though Globe Life Field is playing all that large for the Braves. Freddie Freeman hit a solo shot in the first inning.
Dodgers down in order against (the other) Will Smith. Game remains tied going into ninth
Will Smith, the relief pitcher, came on to face the top of the Dodgers lineup and retired them in order to send the game to the ninth tied at 1-1.
The Dodgers have missed Mookie Betts and Corey Seager, their No. 1 and 2 hole hitters, tonight. Entering the series, that pair was hitting .324 in the playoffs with seven doubles, seven walks and only seven strikeouts. Tonight, they’re one-for-eight with three strikeouts.
Braves load bases against Dustin May but Victor Gonzalez denies them runs
Dustin May nailed down two outs after yielding a double to Braves designated hitter Marcell Ozuna to start the eighth. But he couldn’t get himself out of the inning.
After issuing an intentional walk to Dansby Swanson, May came too far inside with his 1-0 cutter and hit pinch hitter Pablo Sandoval to load the bases.
Not that the situation was a problem. Victor Gonzalez’s mid-80s slider bailed May out. Gonzalez struck out pinch-hitter Charlie Culberson, a former Dodger, on four pitches. He unleashed a roar as he strutted off the mound.
The game remains tied 1-1.
Braves turn to bullpen; Martin retires side
Chris Martin, one of six Braves relievers who recorded a sub-3.00 ERA this season, retired the side in order in the seventh after coming on in relief of Max Fried.
The Braves bullpen had the fourth-best ERA in all of baseball this year and has been even better during the postseason, keeping opponents scoreless in more than 20 total innings entering the night.
Photos from Dodgers vs. Braves in Game 1 of the NLCS
Here are some of the best shots of Game 1 from Los Angeles Times photographer Robert Gauthier, who has been chronicling the Dodgers’ 2020 postseason trek.
Max Fried using his breaking balls to keep Dodgers quiet
Max Fried’s one mistake tonight might have been with the curveball, but his breaking pitches on the whole have kept Dodgers hitters off-balance and coming up empty all night. Max Muncy, Will Smith and Cody Bellinger were the latest victims. Muncy and Smith struck out to begin the sixth before Bellinger popped out on the infield.
Of Fried’s 96 pitches, 50 have been either the curveball or slider. Combined, those two pitches have induced eight swing-and-misses and been put in play only four times. It appears Fried’s night is coming to an end after manager Brian Snitker gave him a congratulatory pat in the dugout.
In his six innings, he has allowed only one run, four hits, two walks and struck out nine.
Brusdar Graterol ends Braves sixth-inning rally
The untidy situation presented to Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol in the sixth inning did not faze him. The rookie retired all three Braves batters he faced after inheriting a two-on, none-out mess from starter Walker Buehler.
Graterol worked quickly. He threw six pitches, half of which averaged 99.5 mph.
The Dodgers and Braves remain tied 1-1.
Back-to-back singles by Braves send Walker Buehler to Dodgers bench
Walker Buehler couldn’t shut down the Braves after Kiké Hernandez’s game-tying home run. He gave up consecutive singles to Travis d’Arnaud and Ozzie Albies to start the sixth inning.
They were the first hits he had allowed since the first.
Manager Dave Roberts replaced Buehler with Brusdar Graterol.
Monday marked the first time Buehler had pitched more than four innings since Sept. 2.
Kiké Hernández ties the game with a solo home run
Kiké Hernández fell behind 0-and-2 to lead off the fifth inning, but then got a mistake from Max Fried. The left-hander left a curveball over the middle of the plate and Hernández hammered it into the left-field seats to tie the game at 1-1.
Tonight is Hernández’s first start of the postseason. That homer was his seventh career playoff long ball and first in an NLCS game since his three-homer outburst in Game 5 of the 2017 series. It was also the first home run Fried has allowed on a curveball since Sep. 10, 2019, and the first time a he allowed a homer this season to a team other than the Miami Marlins.
It’s 1-1 going into the sixth inning.
Max Fried on a roll, protecting Braves one-run lead
The Dodgers had four batters reach base their first time through the order. Since then, Max Fried has retired seven in a row and, more importantly, gotten his pitch count back under control. He’s needed just 24 in the past two innings and is at 69 total pitches (45 strikes) through four innings.
Braves remain in front, 1-0
Dodgers’ Walker Buehler has issued a career-high in walks
Five times now Dodgers star Walker Buheler has reached three balls in a count and has been unable to avoid issuing a free pass. The Braves have drawn five walks in four innings.
Before tonight, Buehler had never walked more than four batters in an MLB outing.
Despite the command issues, Buehler has kept the Braves in check. Their only hit belongs to Freddie Freeman, who hit a solo homer in the first inning for a 1-0 advantage.
Buehler has generated 13 whiffs on 84 pitches.
Dodgers’ uncertainty of Kenley Jansen’s ability to close goes all the way to the top
Andrew Friedman understood the question. He just didn’t have much of an answer.
Do the Dodgers have a defined role for Kenley Jansen in the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves? Not really, according to the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations.
“There are really good runs for different relievers and just how to deploy them and when,” Friedman said Monday, no longer guaranteeing that the ninth inning belongs to the longtime closer. “Obviously, it depends on how certain games play out, but I do expect [Jansen] to be a big part in helping us win a championship.”
Braves’ Max Fried holding hometown Dodgers scoreless with aid of curve
Braves top starter Max Fried hasn’t been overly efficient in his three innings, throwing 57 pitches and facing four batters above the minimum. But he is holding the Dodgers, the team he grew up watching, scoreless with the help of a sharp breaking ball.
Fried has thrown 18 curveballs. The Dodgers have put only one — Mookie Betts’ inning-ending flyout in the second — in play. The pitch has drawn four whiffs.
Overall, Fried has generated eight swings and misses.
Duvall hurt oblique “pretty good,” Braves manager says
The early indication on the injury sustained by Braves outfielder Adam Duvall is not good. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said during a TV interview that the slugger left the game in the second inning with an oblique injury.
“It wasn’t good,” Snitker said. “I talked to the trainers but those things aren’t ever good. I think he did it pretty good too.”
Snitker said of Duvall’s replacement, 21-year-old Cristian Pache, “He’s a talented young man. It was a shame we didn’t have a minor-league season this year but he’s got skills that play up here.”
Cody Bellinger robbed of hit, Dodgers strand two in second
Cody Bellinger might have had a single in his first at-bat of the game if the Braves’ second baseman hadn’t interfered.
Bellinger smoked Braves pitcher Max Fried’s 1-1 fastball toward right field at 108 mph. According to Baseball Savant, there was a 49% chance the play would result in a hit.
But Ozzie Albies dove to his left, stifled the groundball as it hit the outfield grass and got it to first base for the out.
The Dodgers still made Fried work. A.J. Pollock singled with one out and Chris Taylor walked with two out. By the time Mookie Betts left them stranded, Fried had thrown 17 pitches in the second. He’s up to 45 through two innings.
Shying away from the cutter again, Buehler issues a couple early walks
After walking four batters in four innings against the San Diego Padres in last week’s NLDS, Walker Buehler said this week he wanted to be aggressive against the Braves, especially in a ballpark as spacious as Globe Life Field.
The right-hander, however, has already walked two batters in the opening two innings and thrown a wild pitch. And while manager Dave Roberts said this week the blister on his right index finger had improved, Buehler has once again thrown very few cutters so far, the pitch that bothers those fingers the most, opting instead for a heavy dose of fastballs, curveballs and sliders.
Braves remove Adam Duvall mid-plate appearance in second
Braves outfielder Adam Duvall fouled off a pitch from the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler in the second inning and immediately put a hand on his left side. He departed the game moments later, leaving rookie Cristian Pache to complete Duvall’s plate appearance.
Duvall is a critical part of the Braves’ potent lineup. He hit 16 homers and drove in 33 runs in the regular season. But he has been quiet in the postseason, going 2-for-20.
Pache drew a one-out walk and reached second base on a wild pitch. Austin Riley struck out to leave Pache stranded.
Buehler, who is still battling blister issues, struck out three in the inning. He has thrown 38 pitches through two.
Dodgers don’t score, but make Fried work in the first
After strikeouts from Mookie Betts and Corey Seager to begin the game, Justin Turner and Max Muncy sparked a potential two-out rally with a single and walk, respectively. Will Smith, however, couldn’t take advantage, striking out on an up-and-in fastball to end the inning.
Nonetheless, the Dodgers made Max Fried work in the opening frame. The left-hander threw 28 pitches, 18 for strikes.
It’s 1-0 Braves after the first.
Freddie Freeman gives Braves 1-0 lead on solo home run
One of the key matchups in this series will be how the Dodgers’ fastball-happy pitching staff handles a Braves lineup that hits the hard stuff as well as anyone.
In the first inning, the Braves won that head-to-head. In the second at-bat of the game, Freddie Freeman nailed a line drive homer against a 1-and-2 Walker Buehler 97 mph four-seamer.
Only one team in MLB this season threw fastballs, sinkers and cutters at a higher rate than the Dodgers’ 63.1%, and no team averaged a better fastball velocity than their 94.7 mph. The Braves, however, hit a league-best .308 against the three pitches and slugged .552, trailing only the Dodgers. And against pitches of 97 mph or harder, those numbers rose slightly to .309 and .553, respectively.
Freeman was especially good against velocity, batting .431 against fastballs, cutters and sinkers with nine home runs. Tack on a NLCS home run to those numbers now too.
Meet Max Fried, Braves game 1 starter
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did not meet Max Fried when their careers brought them both to San Diego eight years ago. But Roberts, then first base coach of the Padres, already knew the name.
The Padres selected Fried out of Harvard-Westlake in the first round of the 2012 draft. And Roberts had started his post-playing career as a member of the Padres’ front office in 2010.
“I’ve known of Max Fried ever since he was in high school,” Roberts said of Fried before the left-hander started Monday for the Braves in Game 1 of the NLCS. “And I remember him obviously being very athletic, close with his family, and was very successful. And just really took off once he got traded over there to Atlanta, but very likable guy.”
That likable guy wound up with the Braves in a 2014 trade that brought outfielder Justin Upton to Southern California for the first time. And now he will take the mound against the Dodgers in the first inning with a 1-0 lead.
Read more about Fried’s ties to the Los Angeles area in Bill Shaikin’s piece.
Braves star Freddie Freeman’s formative years in Orange marked by tragedy and support
The face covering he wore during a video call in advance of the National League Championship Series couldn’t hide Freddie Freeman’s emotion.
Asked how his time at Orange El Modena High School shaped him as a ballplayer, the Atlanta Braves slugger’s voice cracked as he recalled a bittersweet period of his youth when he emerged as a top prospect while struggling with the loss of his mother, Rosemary, who died of melanoma in 2000, when Freddie was 10.
“My time at El Modena is absolutely, um … it’s hard for me to put into words,” Freeman, 31, said. “My head coach there, Steve Bernard, is one of the reasons I am the way I am today. He’s a special man, and I hope that he’s watching this, because he means a great deal not only to me but my whole family.”
Dodgers relish chance to play with fans in stands in ‘a step back toward normalcy’
ARLINGTON, Texas — Monday’s meeting between the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves won’t be just the first game of the National League Championship Series. It also will be the first Major League Baseball game with a significant number of fans in attendance in 2020.
Up to 10,500 people — or about 26% of Globe Life Field’s 40,300-seat capacity — will be permitted to watch the NLCS and World Series in person. The World Series is already sold out. Tickets remain on sale for a few NLCS games, but not Game 1.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen said. “I think it’s a step back toward normalcy, where people have the right to be free and make a choice to go out and do what they want to do. If they want to come to a ballgame, come to a ballgame. I know we’ve all welcomed it.”
What to know about Dodgers-Braves NLCS game 1
First pitch: 5:08 p.m.
Dodgers notes: Starter Walker Buehler has been able to extend to eight his postseason streak of striking out at least seven batters in a start to despite being limited by a blister on his right index finger. Buehler hasn’t thrown more than four innings in over a month. ... The Dodgers don’t have a defined role for embattled Kenley Jansen in this series. They’ll let matchups dictate save situations. ... The Dodgers’ bullpen ERA of 1.64 ranks second in the playoffs among teams with four or more games, trailing only the Braves’ ERA of 0.44.
Braves notes: Braves starting pitchers in the regular season combined for a 5.51 ERA, the worst mark in the National League. But they enter Monday’s games with the best postseason ERA (0.92) after pitching four shutouts. ... The Braves scored 24 runs in the first two rounds, six fewer than the Dodgers (30). ... The Braves and Dodgers have met in three times in the postseason but never in league championship series.
Dodgers can win without a traditional closer. Look at the last three champions
Joe Torre and Joe Girardi rarely stressed over ninth-inning pitching decisions in the 16 years they guided the New York Yankees to the playoffs from 1996 to 2012.
Both had the good fortune of managing the best closer in history, Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, the cut-fastball specialist who went 8-1 with an 0.70 ERA and converted 42 of 47 save opportunities in 96 postseason games for a franchise that won World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will have no such luxury as he navigates a best-of-seven National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, which opens Monday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and — he hopes — an eventual World Series.
Andrew Friedman’s handprints are evident on all four teams in MLB playoffs
The conversation wasn’t meant to be about the Houston Astros. Really, it wasn’t. It just flowed that way, because forgive and forget, well, forget about that.
As the Dodgers prepare to face the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series, a conversation with Alex Anthopoulos was in order. The Braves hired him out of the Dodgers’ front office three years ago, and now his team is all that stands between the Dodgers and their third World Series appearance in four years.
As a baseball executive, he appreciates how challenging it is to win a division even once, let alone eight consecutive years, as the Dodgers have done. And, as a former resident of Los Angeles, he understands that 1988 is beyond ancient history, and that Dodgers fans have raised the stakes to World Series championship or bust.
Dodgers to host NLCS drive-in watch parties at Dodger Stadium
The Dodgers are inviting fans to watch the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium — from inside their cars.
The team announced Friday afternoon that it would host a drive-in watch party for each NLCS game in two stadium parking lots. Tickets, priced at $75 per car, are on sale.
Dodgers refine their offensive approach to adapt to playoff baseball, Globe Life Field
In his first four seasons as manager, Dave Roberts has watched his Dodgers win the National League West title every year, advance to the NL Championship Series three times, and go to the World Series twice. They fell one win short of a championship in 2017 and won a franchise-record 106 games in 2019.
But he thinks the 2020 team, the one that dominated a truncated 60-game regular season and plowed through two playoff opponents to another NL Championship Series, is the best equipped to be the last one standing.
“We’ve obviously had a lot of talent here over the years that I’ve been here,” Roberts said after the Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres in the NL Division Series on Thursday. “But I just think that in the first two series you saw what we’re capable of.”
NLCS prediction: Dodgers over Braves in six games
I have a dream scenario for this season: Clayton Kershaw pitches the Dodgers to victory in Game 7 of the NLCS, then pitches a two-hit shutout in Game 4 of the World Series as the Dodgers sweep the Astros.
Like I said, it’s a dream scenario. The odds of it happening exactly like that are infinitesimal.
But first, the Atlanta Braves in the best-of-seven NLCS. All games at Arlington, Texas again. Dodgers are the home team for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7.
How much will it cost to attend a Dodgers-Braves NLCS game in person?
You couldn’t see the Dodgers play at Dodger Stadium this season, but you can see them play Monday if you’re willing to spend a few hundred bucks and travel to Texas.
For the first time in this pandemic season, Major League Baseball is opening a ballpark to fans. The league has made 11,500 tickets available for the World Series and National League Championship Series, both at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
How the Dodgers jump-started Braves catcher Travis D’Arnaud’s resurgence
There is a fun fact about Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud that his agent likes to share.
Not long after he was drafted in the first round out of Lakewood High in 2007, d’Arnaud was traded for an eventual Cy Young Award winner. The Philadelphia Phillies shipped him in late 2009 to the Toronto Blue Jays as part of the package for Roy Halladay.
A few years later, d’Arnaud again was flipped for a Cy Young Award winner when the Blue Jays acquired R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets. The knuckleballer had just been voted the National League’s best pitcher in 2012.
“One of his claims to fame,” said Joel Wolfe, d’Arnaud’s agent at Wasserman. “It wasn’t like he was being tossed around. He was a part of huge trades.”
Dodgers match up as superior to the Braves everywhere but in the bullpen
ARLINGTON, Texas — The final team standing between the Dodgers and another trip to the World Series is the only other one with an undefeated postseason record. The Atlanta Braves, after going 35-25 to win the NL East, went 5-0 with four shutouts against the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins to earn their first trip to the National League Championship Series since 2001.
They scored the second-most runs in the majors during the regular season (one fewer than the Dodgers) and hit the second-most home runs (15 fewer than the Dodgers). Now the teams will play a best-of-seven series at Globe Life Field, where fly balls go to die.
Game 1 is scheduled for Monday at 5:08 p.m. PDT. The Dodgers, the NL’s top seed, will be the home team. Who has the edge?
Dodgers-Braves NLCS Game 1 lineups: Kiké Hernández gets nod for first time in playoffs
With left-hander Max Fried on the mound for the Atlanta Braves, Kiké Hernández, who has a history of success against left-handers, will make his first start of the postseason. Hernández will start at second base. Chris Taylor, the Dodgers’ second baseman for their first five playoff games, will move to left field. AJ Pollock will move from left field to designated hitter.
MLB playoffs on TV: Where to watch the Dodgers vs. Braves and the Rays vs. Astros
The Dodgers will play the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, beginning Monday night in a best-of-seven series with no off days.
Game 1 is set to start at 5:08 p.m. PDT and will air on Fox (Channel 11). The start times for Games 2-7 have yet to be announced. Games 2, 3, 5 and 6 are scheduled to be televised by Fox Sports 1. The remainder of the series will either be shown on Fox or FS1. A potential seventh game would be played Sunday, Oct. 18.
Braves’ Game 1 starter Max Fried started career in SoCal with Encino Little League
The Encino Little League sits in the shadow of the Ventura Freeway, a second home for generations of kids raised in the San Fernando Valley.
The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, played in the Encino Little League.
So did David Forst, general manager of the Oakland Athletics. So did Torey Lovullo, manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Gabe Kapler, the manager of the San Francisco Giants.
That local knowledge might win you a beer or two in some trivia night along Ventura Boulevard, but bragging rights belong to the players, and the best player produced by the Encino Little League in this generation will be staring down his hometown team Monday.
Dodgers’ NLCS roster: Alex Wood and Edwin Rios in; Gavin Lux and Terrance Gore out
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dodgers’ roster for the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves includes an additional pitcher from the previous round and corner infielder Edwin Ríos, the club announced Monday morning.
Left-hander Alex Wood and Ríos were added to the roster. Second baseman Gavin Lux and Terrance Gore, an outfielder and pinch-running specialist, were removed.
Ríos is back on the active roster after missing the National League Division Series with a groin injury. Ríos started the Dodgers’ first wild card playoff game as the designated hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. He suffered the groin injury fielding a groundball during a workout before the NLDS. On Sunday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he didn’t envision Ríos being more than a pinch-hit option at least to start the NLCS.