Dodgers go from ‘dead in the water’ to season-saving Game 3 comeback win over Braves
The course of the Dodgers’ season, five outs from a 3-0 ditch just one team has overcome in Major League Baseball history, changed in their 6-5 win Tuesday when Cody Bellinger decided to chase a fastball several inches above the strike zone.
By the time the baseball landed in the right-field pavilion for a game-tying, three-run home run in the eighth inning, the fans, those who stuck around to see Game 3 of the National League Championship Series through, were roaring to a decibel level few have ever experienced inside Dodger Stadium.
Bellinger hopped around first base, turned to face the Dodgers dugout across the diamond and swaggered around the bases. The swing, a tomahawk chop to the Atlanta Braves’ hearts, replenished the Dodgers’ World Series aspirations. The building shook. The Dodgers exhaled.
“We were dead in the water,” manager Dave Roberts said. “You could see it.”
The home run, as important as it was, didn’t win the Dodgers anything. The score still was tied. At least one more run was needed to win and cut the Braves’ series lead in half, by a club that had squandering scoring opportunities in October down to a science.
Final: Dodgers complete comeback, beat Braves 6-5 in Game 3 of NLCS
Dodgers players Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts and manager Dave Roberts discuss Bellinger’s game-tying home run against the Atlanta Braves in NLCS Game 3.
The Dodgers are back in the NLCS, coming back from a three-run deficit in Game 3 to beat the Braves 6-5 in front of a delirious Dodger Stadium.
Kenley Jansen got the save by striking out the side in a perfect ninth inning.
The Braves now lead the series by just two games to one, going into tomorrow’s Game 4 in which Julio Urías will start for the Dodgers and the Braves will have to use a bullpen game.
Final: Dodgers win 6-5
6-5 Dodgers, end 8th: Dodgers’ raucous four-run rally ends; Kenley Jansen enters for save opportunity
The Dodgers are three outs away.
After scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth, Kenley Jansen is taking the mound to try and close out the game.
In that eighth inning, the Dodgers sent 10 batters to the plate, had four singles, a double, a home run and an intentional walk.
Also, in that inning alone, they went 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position — after previously being 2-for-20 in such situations this series.
End 8th: Dodgers lead 6-5
5-2 Braves, end 7th: Top of Dodgers order retired in order
With the top of the Dodgers order due up in the seventh, the Braves summoned left-hander Tyler Matzek — who has pitched in every game of the postseason so far for Atlanta — from the bullpen.
He retired the side in order, getting Mookie Betts to pop out before fanning Corey Seager and Trea Turner.
After finishing the regular season on a 19-game hitting streak, Turner is now just 7 for 39 in the playoffs with two extra base hits, one RBI, no walks and 10 strikeouts.
Seager has struck out in three consecutive at-bats since his first-inning homer.
End 7th: Braves lead 5-2
5-2 Braves, end 6th: Dodgers leave another man on base
The Dodgers have only had two at-bats with runners in scoring position today.
That’s because they’ve largely struggled to get baserunners past first.
For the fourth-straight inning, the Dodgers left a man stranded at first in the bottom of the sixth, failing to turn Chris Taylor’s two-out single against reliever A.J. Minter into anything more after Albert Pujols struck out pinch-hitting.
End 6th: Braves lead 5-2
5-2 Braves, top 6th: Dodgers escape jam; Braves turning to bullpen
The Dodgers used three different pitchers in the sixth inning, but were able to escape a two-on, two-out jam after Joe Kelly struck out Ozzie Albies.
The Braves will turn to their bullpen to begin the bottom of the sixth, with left-hander A.J. Minter taking over with two left-handed hitters Gavin Lux and Cody Bellinger due up — though it appears the right-handed AJ Pollock will pinch-hit for Lux.
Mid 6th: Braves lead 5-2
5-2 Braves, end 5th: Charlie Morton keeps Dodgers at bay
Braves starter Charlie Morton in the first inning today: 2 runs, 4 walks, 34 pitches.
Morton in the five innings since then: 0 runs, 2 walks, 62 pitches.
After what was almost a disastrous start, Morton has settled down and completed five innings allowing just the two runs.
The fifth was his shortest one yet, needing just nine pitches as Justin Turner grounded into an inning-ending double-play.
Not only has his outing — which ended after the fifth, with the Braves pinch-hitting for him in the top of the sixth — helped position the Braves today, but it might pay dividends tomorrow too, when the Braves are planning to have a bullpen game.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are already on their fourth pitcher of the afternoon.
End 5th: Braves lead 5-2
5-2 Braves, top 5th: Braves add to lead against Dodgers’ bullpen
The Braves have added to their lead in the fifth.
Corey Knebel entered the game to begin the inning but yielded a single and walk to his first two batters before getting Joc Pederson to fly out.
Phil Bickford entered after that but gave up an RBI single to Adam Duvall.
It could have been worse had Bickford not gotten Travis d’Arnaud to hit into an inning-ending double play in the next at-bat.
But the Dodgers’ hole is a little bit bigger.
Mid 5th: Braves lead 5-2
4-2 Braves, end 4th: Dodgers strand another runner after Braves big inning
The Dodgers could have used a quick response to the Braves’ four-run top of the fourth.
Instead, they stranded a runner in the bottom half of the inning.
After Chris Taylor struck out and Steven Souza Jr. popped out, Mookie Betts drew a walk — his third time reaching base today.
Corey Seager went down swinging in the next at-bat, though, ending the inning and giving the Dodgers already their sixth man left on base today.
Braves starter Charlie Morton is at 87 pitches.
End 4th: Braves lead 4-2
4-2 Braves, top 4th: Braves take lead, chase Walker Buehler from the game
After seemingly dominating the first three innings, the Dodgers suddenly find themselves behind in this ballgame.
After Gavin Lux’s dropped ball in center was followed by two RBI singles and a walk, Corey Seager committed the second defensive miscue of the inning.
The shortstop couldn’t backhand a bases-loaded ground ball by Dansby Swanson, the ball hitting off his glove and dribbling into the outfield to score the go-ahead run.
Walker Buehler struck out opposing pitcher Charlie Morton, who wasn’t pinch-hit for, in the next at-bat for the second out.
But then Buehler walked Eddie Rosario on four pitches to plate another run and make it 4-2.
Buehler didn’t look happy with some of the calls by home plate umpire Jerry Meals, but MLB Statcast system showed all four pitches missed the zone.
That was Buehler’s last action of the day. The Dodgers summoned left-hander Alex Vesia from the bullpen to retire Freddie Freeman — who began the inning with a single.
Mid 4th: Braves lead 4-2
Tied 2-2, top 4th: After Gavin Lux mistake, Braves tie the game with two RBI singles
Prior to last month, Gavin Lux hadn’t played a lick of professional baseball in center field.
Entering today, he’d only logged 45 innings at the position over the final weeks of of the regular season and early stages of the postseason.
And finally, it showed.
On a deep fly ball that carried all the way to the warning track, Lux missed what looked like an easy catch. It wasn’t ruled an error, but the mistake still put Braves runners on second and third with one out. And two batters later, both came around to score, tying the game at 2-2 in the fourth.
The inning began with a Freddie Freeman single, his second of the day after going hitless in the first two games of the series. Then, with one out, Austin Riley hit the fly ball that Lux missed.
After that, Joc Pederson lined an RBI single into right, then Adam Duvall dumped a broken-bat RBI single into left to knot the score.
The inning is still going, too, but for now…
Top 4th: Tied 2-2
2-0 Dodgers, end 3rd: Walker Buehler solid early on
Since giving up two singles to his first two batters, Walker Buehler has been sharp early on.
He has retired seven of his past eight and has two strikeouts through three scoreless innings. Just as importantly, he’s only thrown 44 pitches so far, positioning himself for a potentially deep start if he can stay in this groove.
Braves starter Charlie Morton has also settled down, working around a two-out walk in the bottom of the third, though he is already at 69 pitches.
End 3rd: Dodgers lead 2-0
2-0 Dodgers, end 2nd: Dodgers miss another chance to add to lead
The Dodgers entered the day just 2 for 18 in this season with runners in scoring position.
So far, that problem has persisted.
After leaving the bases loaded in the first, the Dodgers stranded Mookie Betts at second in the second — after Betts singled and stole a base — on a pop out by Trea Turner.
A more upbeat stat for the Dodgers: Betts’ steal was their 12th in a row to begin the postseason without being caught.
In the top half of the inning, Walker Buehler got a double-play to erase a leadoff 10-pitch walk by Joc Pederson.
End 2nd: 2-0 Dodgers
2-0 Dodgers, end 1st: Dodgers get bases loaded, but can’t add more in first
The Dodgers had a chance to really blow the game open in the first.
After Corey Seager’s two-run homer, Braves starter Charlie Morton walked three-straight batters with two outs.
But — unlike last year when the Dodgers hung 11 runs on the Braves in the first inning of Game 3 — the Braves got out of it, as Morton jammed Chris Taylor on a fastball out of the zone to get out of the inning.
Morton did have to throw 34 pitches, though.
End 1st: 2-0 Dodgers
No score, top 1st: Braves squander early chance with baserunning mistake
The Braves had something going in the first. Then they made a mistake on the bases.
After Eddie Rosario and Freddie Freeman led off with back-to-back singles — for Freeman, it was his first hit of the series — Rosario made a costly miscue in the next at-bat.
Ozzie Albies hit hard line drive to center, but Gavin Lux got to it. Rosario, apparently reading a single off the bat, was way late getting back to second and got doubled-off.
After that, Walker Buehler struck out Austin Riley to end the frame.
A reminder: The Dodgers’ comeback in last year’s NLCS was aided by a couple Braves base running mistakes.
Today, it cost them an early scoring chance.
Mid 1st: No score
Game 3 about to begin
The pregame scene at Dodger Stadium included Adrián González throwing out the first, a military flyover during the national anthem, Ken Jeong serving as hype man for the crowd, and Vin Scully himself Zooming in on the outfield video boards for his iconic line: “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”
The stands are mostly full, though there are still a few swaths of open seats, for the weekday afternoon start.
Weather won’t be much of a factor, with clear skies, light winds and a 72-degree first-pitch temperature.
What to know about NLCS Game 3: Justin Turner returns to lineup, Walker Buehler and Charlie Morton pitching duel, and more
After dropping the first two games of the National League Championship Series in Atlanta, the Dodgers return home this afternoon for Game 3, hoping to continue their recent domination over the Braves at Chavez Ravine.
Since 2018, the Braves have won just one out of nine games at Dodger Stadium. During their regular season visit this year, they were swept in a three-game set.
The Dodgers will need to do something similar this week. If they can’t win at least two of the next three in this series — all of which will be in L.A. — their season will be over.
Ahead of Tuesday’s first pitch, here’s what you need to know about Game 3.
First pitch: 2:08 p.m.
Dodgers notes: Justin Turner is back in the lineup after being limited to a pinch-hit appearance in Game 2 because of a neck stinger. Manager Dave Roberts said, while the issue will need to continue being monitored, he expects Turner to continue to play every day moving forward.
With Turner back, Chris Taylor moves to left field, replacing AJ Pollock. The rest of the Dodgers’ lineup from Game 2 remains the same.
Walker Buehler will be on the mound for the first time in this series. The right-hander has given up four runs in 10 2/3 innings in the playoffs, including only one run in a start in Game 4 of the NLDS on short rest his last time out.
Buehler faced the Braves once this year, a seven-inning, two-run, five-strikeout start in August. He was nearly flawless in two starts against them during last year’s NLCS, surrendering just one run in 11 total innings.
One factor to monitor during today’s day game: The shadows.
“It’s going to be kind of the middle innings, I think that’s when they will kind of start to be a factor,” Roberts said. “So certainly it would be nice to have a lead when they start to creep in because it does make it a little bit more difficult.
“You can’t see the spin and that’s where balls, whether it’s sliders, cutters, and just seeing kind of the spin of the baseball, that’s what is a little bit more tough for hitters to adjust with the shadows.”
Braves notes: The Braves are fielding the same lineup for the third game in a row, keeping three left-handed hitters and one switch hitter in the first five spots against the right-handed Buehler.
On the mound, the Braves will turn to veteran Charlie Morton, a 37-year-old right-hander who has postseason history against the Dodgers.
As a member of the Houston Astros in 2017, Morton had two strong outings against the Dodgers in that year’s World Series, including a one-run, four-inning relief outing to finish off the Astros’ Game 7 win.
Morton faced the Dodgers again in last year’s World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays, giving up five runs in 4 1/3 innings in Game 3.
In two starts against the Dodgers during this year’s regular season, Morton gave up five runs (three earned) in 11 innings.
Primarily a four-seam, curveball, sinker pitcher, Morton’s fastball still sits in the mid-90-mph range. He had a 3.34 ERA during the regular season while making a major-league-most 33 starts.
Alex Vesia earns praise from Max Scherzer and the trust of Dave Roberts
It didn’t quite match the thrill of striking out Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies to escape a two-on, one-out jam in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series Sunday night, but it was close.
Alex Vesia, a 25-year-old left-hander in his first postseason, earned the praise of three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer after bailing out the Dodgers starter by whiffing the 2020 NL most valuable player with an 86-mph slider and a 30-homer, 106-RBI hitter with a 96-mph fastball to end the fifth inning.
“Oh, man, he’s explosive,” Scherzer said of Vesia after Game 2. “He’s got a bounce in his step, and he can go out there and pitch really well. I knew in that situation he was the best man for the job. He’s got a great fastball and a great breaking ball, so he can go out there and attack you and do great things.”
The quote did not go unnoticed in the Vesia household.
“I mean, my experience is slim to none, so every time I go out there it’s a new learning experience for me,” Vesia said before Game 3 against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday.
“So for him to say that, that was pretty cool. My mom ... was like, ‘I can’t believe that Max Scherzer is saying that about you.’ So that was cool.”
Vesia’s playoff debut, like those of many playoff neophytes, was a bit rocky. After striking out the first two batters he faced against the San Francisco Giants in the first game of the division series, Vesia gave up a solo home run to Brandon Crawford in the eighth inning of the 4-0 loss.
But Vesia has settled into a nice groove since then, throwing 2/3 of a scoreless inning in Game 4 against the Giants and adding 1 2/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts in the first two NLCS games against the Braves.
“He’s really coming of age,” manager Dave Roberts said of Vesia, who went 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 41 games this season, striking out 54 and walking 22 in 40 innings. “We’ve put him in some big spots early in his career, first postseason, and he’s just making pitches when he needs to. So, he’s doing some special things.”
Vesia is starting to feel more comfortable in the playoff setting, so much so that he said he is not feeling any kind of pressure.
“I actually enjoy these moments because I know that all the hard work and everything that I’ve put in, it’s going to pay off,” he said. “And I definitely feel like I’m in a good spot with my mechanics and everything like that. Mentally, on the mound, I’m ready to go out there and do my thing.”
Part of Vesia’s “thing” is to show extreme emotion on the mound, punctuating many of his inning-ending strikeouts with violent fist pumps and screaming on his way to the dugout.
“He’s very emotional, but during the inning he has found a way to control and harness those emotions to make good pitches and execute,” Roberts said. “Alex has shown a lot of growth this year, a lot of poise. He’s earned a lot of leverage innings or spots. He’s been fantastic.”
Justin Turner returns to Dodgers’ lineup for Game 3 vs. Braves
Justin Turner is back in the Dodgers’ lineup Tuesday for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves.
Turner didn’t start Game 2 on Sunday because of a neck injury. He appeared in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter and was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Chris Taylor then delivered a two-run double.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Monday that he expected Turner to return to the lineup for Game 3. The 36-year-old third baseman reported to Dodger Stadium on Monday for treatment and reported improvement.
He’ll now look to improve on his postseason performance after starting three for 28 with seven strikeouts.
Turner will bat fifth between catcher Will Smith and Gavin Lux, who will start in center field for the second time in the series and fourth time in the postseason.
Mookie Betts RF
Corey Seager SS
Trea Turner 2B
Will Smith C
Justin Turner 3B
Gavin Lux CF
Cody Bellinger 1B
Chris Taylor LF
Walker Buehler P
Eddie Rosario LF
Freddie Freeman 1B
Ozzie Albies 2B
Austin Riley 3B
Joc Pederson RF
Adam Duvall CF
Travis d’Arnaud C
Dansby Swanson SS
Charlie Morton P
Dodgers can still beat the Braves if Andrew Friedman and Co. stop overthinking
ATLANTA — Incredibly, the Dodgers’ front office has made an even worse decision this year.
Remember, these are the same people who signed Trevor Bauer. They will have to continue living with that decision for a while.
As for their latest vanity-induced act of self-sabotage, this ambitious effort to redefine pitchers’ roles by experimenting with Max Scherzer as a closer and 20-game winner Julio Urías as something other than a starter, there’s a way back.
The Dodgers still can win this National League Championship Series.
Even after spotting the Atlanta Braves the first two games, they still can reach the World Series.
Except now, after a stunning 5-4, walk-off loss at Truist Park in Game 2, the Dodgers will have to make the kind of furious comeback they made against the Braves at this stage of the season last year.
What were they thinking? Massive brain cramp dooms Dodgers in NLCS Game 2
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and pitcher Max Scherzer talk about losing Game 2 of the NLCS to the Atlanta Braves.
The Dodgers lost their minds, then they lost the game.
There is no other way to explain it. There is no possible way to excuse it. There is no way around it.
A starting pitcher in a high-leverage relief situation for the first time all year instead of two established veteran closers?
You’re really going to bring in Urías in the eighth inning with a two-run lead and the best back-end bullpen in baseball waiting to work?
Five things the Dodgers need to climb out of 2-0 hole against Braves in NLCS
ATLANTA — Doesn’t this feel familiar.
For a second consecutive year, the Dodgers find themselves trailing the Atlanta Braves two games to none after the opening act of the National League Championship Series, returning home to Los Angeles after a draining, confounding and disappointing pair of defeats at Truist Park that ended on walk-off base hits.
“We’re tired,” utility man Chris Taylor said in the wake of Sunday’s 5-4 loss in Game 2. “We’re ready to get home.”
Once they get home, however, the Dodgers will still need to overcome the odds. Although last year they successfully rallied to win Games 3, 5, 6 and 7 of the NLCS en route to their World Series title, only 14 of 87 teams in major league history that faced a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series managed to come back and win.
For the Dodgers to do so again, here are five keys that could help.
Dodgers recharge and focus on better plate discipline ahead of NLCS Game 3
The Dodgers last week concluded one of the most thrilling five-game series in Major League Baseball history against their bitter rivals in a winner-take-all clash Thursday night in San Francisco, hopped on a cross-country flight to Atlanta on Friday and dug themselves a hole over the weekend.
When the whirlwind was over, after they fell behind 0-2 to the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series for the second straight year on two walk-off losses, it was obvious: The Dodgers were sapped. Max Scherzer admitted his arm was “dead” in his start Sunday after closing Thursday. Justin Turner was held out of the lineup with a neck injury. Chris Taylor said he couldn’t wait to return home.
The Dodgers wouldn’t publicly acknowledge the possibility of a letdown after outlasting the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS. But all signs indicated the team was running on empty by the end of the weekend.
“It’s everything,” Taylor said after Game 2. “Physically and mentally draining. These games, they’re four or five hours long and the level of focus is a little bit different than a regular season game. It’s definitely exhausting, but that’s what you expect. Everyone on this team has experience with it.”