Behind a terrific performance by the bullpen and a huge night from Eddie Rosario, the Braves defeated the Dodgers 9-2 to take a three games to one lead in the NLCS. And what a satisfying win it was. As you well recall, the night before the Bums scored four in the 8th inning to erase a 5-2 Braves lead and win 6-5. From reading the comments here and elsewhere, many of the Braves faithful were having Jim Leyritz nightmares.
Going into Wednesday night’s game, the Dodgers had the National League’s only 20 game winner on the mound, while the Braves didn’t even know who would start until an hour before game time. We knew it would be a bullpen game, but Huascar Ynoa, who was to have been the opener, was scratched from this start (and from the rest of the postseason) with a sore shoulder. So at the last minute the Braves turned to Jesse Chavez instead. He came through with a perfect first. Chavez was followed by Drew Smyly, who had not pitched in 18 days—and who had not pitched very well for several weeks before that. Smyly was also a revelation. In fact, through four innings, the only baserunner surrendered by Chavez and Smyly was a walk. Smyly was aided by a tremendous catch in center by Duvall, who made a leaping grab of a Lux drive at the top of the wall.
Meanwhile, the Braves hitters unloaded on Urias. Rosario and Duvall went yard back to back in the second for a 2-0 lead, and in the third Freeman hit a solo shot and Joc drove in Rosario who had tripled. So the Braves were improbably up 4-0 after three innings. Surprisingly, at least to me, Dave Roberts stuck with Urias, who clearly was not sharp. The Braves tacked on another run in the fifth on singles by Albies and Rosario and a sac fly by Duvall.
The Dodgers finally got in the hit column in the fifth, with singles by J Turner and Bellinger. Chris Martin replaced Smyly, and Bellinger stole second. AJ Pollock then drove in two on a single to right. Martin escaped further damage, but the score was now 5-2 (an ominous score for those who remembered the night before).
But Minter came on to pitch two scoreless innings, and Snit turned to Matzek for the eighth. Death Star (aka Every Day Tyler) was having none of this déjà vu stuff, and set them down in order. Going to the ninth, the Braves hitters decided to have mercy on my heart rate, so they scored four more to put the game out of reach. Swanson singled and stole second, Freeman hit a ground rule double, and Rosario, needing a double to hit for the cycle, just missed. His long drive to right sailed over the fence for a three run homer. Cycle? Nah, been there, done that. We’ll take a 4-4 night with two homers.
Will Smith, who hasn’t given up a run in several weeks now, closed it out with a perfect ninth. The once maligned Braves bullpen went nine innings and surrendered only four hits and one walk.
The Braves stand one win away from going to the World Series for the first time since 1999. Do you realize how improbable this is? Return with me to the days of yesteryear—or maybe I should say yestermonth. Do y’all remember what it was like being a Braves fan way back in July 2021? Remember when the team reached the end of July without once being over .500 for the season? Since August 3, the Braves are 41-20. Remember when the Braves went forever without winning even two games in a row? Now they’ve gone 23 games without losing two in a row (18-5 in this stretch). Remember when the Braves regular outfielders included some combination of Arcia, Heredia, and Adrianza? This postseason, the “Anthopoulos Four” in 101 plate appearances are hitting a combined .341/.400/.593 with six homers and 21 RBIs (thanks, timo, for this factoid). Remember when there was no one in the Braves bullpen who inspired the least bit of confidence? Over the last couple of months, the pen has been the best in the league. And last night they had perhaps their finest moment.
I know this series isn’t over. Of course we all know that, and if you don’t the TBS announcers will continue to remind you every five minutes that the Dodgers erased a 3-1 deficit last year.
But let’s appreciate where we are now. We’ve got Varsity Fried on the mound with a good chance to finish this off tonight. Go Braves.