The Atlanta Braves still hold the pen and continue to author the story of the National League playoffs, moving two victories away from a spot in the World Series, although their ability to completely dictate the terms started to falter a bit.
The Braves delivered dominating pitching until the ninth inning Tuesday and showed a relentless offensive approach in defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-7 on Tuesday, while taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Yet that did appear to be a late-game momentum shift after the Dodgers turned a 7-0 deficit in the seventh into a nail biter. Corey Seager hit a three-run home run in the seventh and added an RBI double in the ninth before a Max Muncy two-run home run.
After Cody Bellinger got the Dodgers to within a run on an RBI triple and represented the tying run at third base, AJ Pollock grounded out against Braves closer Mark Melancon.
“That is a powerful team there,” Braves manager Brian Snitker. “I’m not concerned any more than I was yesterday when we started. It’s one of those teams that until that 27th out is made you don’t feel good because of what they are capable of doing.”
Ultimately, the NLCS has been dictated by the first 17 innings of the opening two games. The Braves have not only gone 7-0 in the expanded 16-team playoffs, they have taken the early lead in all seven games and will need to make sure one inning doesn’t alter the focus in Game 3.
Braves’ pitching depth to be tested
But it was always expected to get trickier from here, as rookie right-hander Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.21 ERA in the regular season) takes the mound in Game 3. The Braves have not announced a pitching plan for Game 4 and speculation has centered on a bullpen game.
The pitching plan might not matter if Atlanta keeps delivering the kind of offense it did Tuesday. NL MVP favorite Freddie Freeman hit a home run for the second consecutive game and had three RBIs. Ozzie Albies also hit his second home run and had three hits.
The Dodgers will try to slow down the Braves’ momentum with left-hander Julio Urias on the mound. He was sharp in five relief innings of Game 3 in the NLDS against the San Diego Padres and gave up one run as the Dodgers advanced.
Urias was 3-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 11 appearances (10 starts) in the regular season and has finally become a full-time starter in his fourth big league season.
After lefty Clayton Kershaw was forced to step aside from his Game 2 start because of back spasms, Urias now must get Los Angeles back on track. He could use support from an offense that has just one run through the opening 15 innings of the series. Then came the sign of life.
Signs of life from Dodgers’ bats
“Same thing, come back out and have good (at-bats),” said Seager, who has three hits for the Dodgers in the first two games. “Tonight we took better ABs. We got through the middle parts of the innings (in Game 1) and ABs got away from us. They had some quick innings. All night tonight we had real good ABs and we need to continue that (in Game 3).”
The series is starting to look like it is being played between the top two offenses in baseball. The Dodgers led baseball with 349 runs and 118 home runs in the regular season. The Braves were right with them, finishing second with 348 runs and 103 home runs.
The teams each had a .483 slugging percentage to tie for the top spot, while Atlanta had an .832 OPS, tops in the game to the Dodgers’ second-best mark of .821.
“We’re feeling good,” said Braves rookie right-hander Ian Anderson, who fired four more scoreless innings in Game 2 and has 15 2/3 scoreless innings in the playoffs. “We know those guys on the other side are a great team over there and they’re not going to waver confidence-wise.”
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)