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Alex Wood explains what changed for the Dodgers in Game 3

Dodgers players celebrate after their win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
Dodgers players celebrate after their win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers took the field Thursday night for their 76th postseason game since 2013, an extended run of excellence that makes them the envy of every other major league team — the Angels, remember, have played three postseason games in that span — but can seem mundane at times for those in the thick of it.

“I think one of the hard things for this team and this organization is you win the division every year, you make a deep run in the postseason a lot of years, and you have a lot of guys who have a lot of experience in these types of games, which is great,” Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood said before Game 4.

“But you can also start to feel stagnant a little bit passion-wise, and that ability to get up for a big series and a big game when things like this have become almost expected and normal” wanes.

Wood, a long reliever and spot starter who has played five of the last six seasons in Los Angeles, sensed a little lull in the first two games of the National League Championship Series, both won by Atlanta.

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Joc Pederson began the playoffs at the end of the Dodgers bench, but he had a huge NLCS Game 3 as he and all four fellow left-handed sluggers homered.

The Dodgers managed four hits in a 5-1 Game 1 loss on Monday. They were blanked on two hits through six innings of Game 2 on Tuesday before their bats came alive late in an eventual 8-7 loss, scoring three runs on three hits in the seventh inning and four runs on four hits in the ninth.

Then came Game 3, when the Dodgers pounded the Braves for 15 runs and 13 hits, including five homers, in the first three innings of a 15-3 rout to cut Atlanta’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

“It woke us up — I think that was apparent,” Wood said of Game 3. “They punched us in the face those first two games. Seeing how we came back in the ninth inning of that second game and the first inning [Wednesday] was one of the cooler things I’ve been a part of in my whole career on any level.

“You score that many runs early, you pretty much know it’s over, so it’s easy to give away pitches and at-bats because you’re kind of on cruise control. But I’ve never been a part of a game where a team had that big of a lead and every single hitter, the entire game, grinded every pitch of every at-bat. Those things matter.”

Manager Dave Roberts acknowledged that it can be difficult for the Dodgers, who have played in two of the last three World Series, to maintain peak levels of intensity and emotion for every playoff game, but it’s a goal for which they must strive.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts preferred giving many of his short relievers Wednesday night off instead of saving Julio Urías for a possible Game 6 or 7.

“We’ve earned that bull’s-eye or expectation as an organization — that’s something to be proud of,” Roberts said. “I expect our guys regardless of circumstance or opponent to play a certain brand of baseball. I expect the intensity to be the same every night. That’s maybe unrealistic, but in the postseason, it’s not a big ask.”

No decision


With a huge early cushion in Game 3, Roberts could have pulled starter Julio Urías after two innings and 51 pitches or three innings and 71 pitches to save the valuable swingman for a potential Game 7 relief appearance.

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Instead, Roberts let the 24-year-old left-hander throw a career-high 101 pitches in five innings during which he gave up one run and three hits, struck out five and walked two. Though Urías notched his third win this postseason, the heavy workload all but eliminated him from another appearance in this series.

Asked if there was a conversation about pulling Urías early, Roberts said, “No, no … we wanted to get through this game. Obviously, it was a big margin, but for him to find his way and pitch well, I thought has a lot of value. I don’t think right now we’re worried about a Game 7.”

Pitching plans


Roberts said after Game 4 that right-hander Dustin May will start Game 5 on Friday. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker did not name a Game 5 starter, but said it will not be 26-year-old left-hander Max Fried on three days rest.

Fried, from Harvard-Westlake High in Studio City, gave up one run and four hits in six innings, striking out nine and walking two, in the Braves’ Game 1 win.

“He’s not going on short rest,” Snitker said.

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Did Fried approach him about starting Game 5?

“We just told him,” Snitker said. “That wasn’t up for discussion.”

Snitker said his Game 5 starter will depend on how deep Bryse Wilson pitches in Game 4 and how many relievers he uses.

DiGiovanna reported from Los Angeles.


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