MemberOctober 13, 2020 at 7:34 pm
A late comeback is in vain, as the Atlanta Braves survive the Los Angeles Dodgers rally, exploiting their continuous postseason struggles early to grab a commanding 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series with today’s 8-7 victory.
With minor injuries continuing to surface and cause harm for the Dodgers’ pitching staff, it was announced this morning that Clayton Kershaw would be scratched prior to first pitch due to back spasms. Replacing him would be right-hander Tony Gonsolin, making his first career postseason appearance in sequence after an eye-catching regular season. Gonsolin started the game with a fastball up and in on Ronald Acuña Jr., buzzing his tower and hitting the knob of his bat a few inches away from his face. I guess it’s easier to say it was just simply strike one, the first of a three-pitch strike-out. Gonsolin then got Freddie Freeman swinging, and with the help of a diving Chris Taylor, he got Marcell Ozuna to ground-out to get his team to the plate. Ian Anderson, making only his ninth career major league start, has been phenomenal in the postseason, building off of similarly dominant regular season. Mookie Betts earned a nine-pitch leadoff walk, and he advanced to 2nd on the next pitch — a wild one to Corey Seager. Anderson fooled Seager with a change-up to get him swinging, and got Justin Turner to pop-out. Max Muncy fell behind in the count, but he battled and walked to put two-on with two-outs for Will Smith. Smith pulled a sharp ground-ball to Austin Riley, who made an impressive snag to pair with Freeman’s impressive stretch to rob LA of the early run(s). It’s worth mentioned that as good as he’s been, Smith has had some really bad lucky. Unfortunately unable to manufacture the necessary base hit, LA left Betts stranded at 2nd to keep the game scoreless through one. Gonsolin struck-out Travis D’Arnaud to open the second, and he worked soft contract of Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson. In the bottom half, Cody Bellinger went down swinging, and AJ Pollock and Joc Pederson both flew-out. In the midst of a clean top of the third, Gonsolin fanned Nick Markakis. Taylor hit the ball 108mph and at least 400ft, but it resulted in merely a line-out to the warning track for the first out of the home half. Six pitches later, Betts walked again, but Anderson responded with a strike-out of Seager. Turner punched a single up the middle to put runners at the corners with two-away, and Anderson walked Muncy to load the bases. Smith stood at the plate with another big opportunity, but he rolled over to Riley who stepped on 3rd base to help Anderson escape the jam unscathed. Gonsolin walked Acuña Jr. to begin the fourth, and Freeman crushed a two-run home run to break the tie, giving the Braves a 2-0 edge. Gonsolin bounced back with strike-outs of Ozuna and D’Arnaud. After allowed a two-out single to Albies, Gonsolin got Swanson to ground-out, ending the frame. In their half, despite a two-out walk from Pederson, the Dodgers went down quietly without much of a fight. Gonsolin walked Markakis with one-out in the fifth, and Cristian Pache delivered a run-scoring double down the line, extending Atlanta’s advantage to 3-0. Gonsolin then walked Acuña Jr. to put two-on, and his day concluded. Pedro Báez entered and was welcomed by an RBI single from Freeman, making it 4-0. Báez walked Ozuna to load the bases, and walked D’Arnaud to add another run to LA’s deficit. Albies’ sacrifice-fly put the Braves ahead 6-0. Dylan Floro finally put an end to disappointing, frustrating, (insert adjective here) top of the sixth. Tyler Matzek relieved Anderson and erased a one-out walk to Seager with a double-play of Turner. Floro got the first out of the sixth before allowing a double. Jake McGee entered and worked around it with a pair of strike-outs. Offensively for the Dodgers, Smith’s single with one-away was all. Alex Wood took over in the seventh and was the victim of a two-out rally, resulting in a 7-0 Atlanta lead. Darren O’Day got the bottom frame for the Braves, and Pederson led it off with an infield single. Taylor subsequently ripped a base hit of his own, but O’Day responded with a strike-out of Betts. AJ Minter trotted in from the bullpen from there, and Seager crushed a three-run shot to get LA on the board. That said, it still felt like too little too late, as when Minter completed the inning, the Dodgers still trailed 7-3. Wood got the first two outs of the eighth, and Joe Kelly got the third. Atlanta turned to Chris Martin, and he got two outs before Pollock poked a single the opposite way — a good piece of hitting. Pederson missed a two-run homer by a few feet, getting just under the first pitch he saw. Adam Kolarek got the top half of the ninth, and he was taken deep by Albies. Josh Tomlin, with Atlanta back up by 5, allowed a one-out knock to Betts. And, well, so it began… Seaver rifled a double down the line to make it 8-4. Turner struck-out, but Muncy launched a two-run shot (his bat will be paramount if the Dodgers plan to win this series) to pull them within two, 8-6. That was the end of the line for Tomlin, wisely so, and the Braves were forced to turn to their closer, Mark Melancon. Albies’ fumble on Smith’s routine grounder allowed him to reach and Bellinger smashed a triple to pull LA within one and put the tying run 90ft away. Melancon got Pollock to ground-out, earning the save and avoiding disaster. Heartbreaking, but also sort of uplifting. The energy was there. Now the Dodgers need to build on it.
The boys in blue needed something to get their offensive going, and they seemingly (hopefully) found it. That said, aside from the ninth, the Dodgers have failed to produce runs early, can’t find base hits with runners in scoring position, and lose another important playoff baseball game. Additionally, they’re once again out-played and out-energized by their opponent for the majority of the game. They’ve looked empty, lost, and unconfident. If it hadn’t been implied, tomorrow’s game is the most important, by far, of the season. Likely deciding their fate, a win would pull them back in the series, only down 2-1. A loss would make a World Series appearance nearly impossible. Julio Urías, who has been outstanding out of the bullpen this postseason, will get the ball for the Dodgers. Urías and the ‘pen behind him will need to limit the Braves offense. However, that of course is unnecessary if LA’s hitters continue to not, well, hit and provide a lead. For Atlanta, 25-year-old righty Kyle Wright will be on the mound. Wright had a subpar regular season, but tossed six scoreless in the NLDS. With plenty of cliches at hand, the only thing I can say is the Dodgers must win tomorrow. They must. Base hits will be a necessity, specifically with guys on, and they’ll need better situational pitching. They need runs early, and will stand a much better chance playing ahead instead of tied or trailing. LA will be the “away” team, hitting in the top halves. 3pm first pitch again tomorrow. Go Dodgers!
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