In control of the National League Championship Series and operating under a full head of steam, the Atlanta Braves know too well that getting comfortable at this stage has a way of wrecking future plans.
The Braves have a 2-0 series lead on the Los Angeles Dodgers heading into Tuesday night’s Game 3 at Dodger Stadium thanks to a pair of walk-off singles in the opening two games in Atlanta.
And while looking ahead to a Game 3, they can’t help but look back. Last year, the Braves had a 2-0 lead in the NLCS, and they even pushed that to a 3-1 advantage before the Dodgers rallied to reach the World Series.
The Braves watched from home as Los Angeles won the 2020 title.
Last year, the NLCS was a neutral-site series, played in Arlington, Texas, and now the Braves head to Los Angeles, where they have lost 11 of their last 12 games, including the 2018 playoffs.
Most recently, the Braves were swept in a three-game series in Dodger Stadium from Aug. 30-Sept. 1.
In this series, though, clutch offense has given the Braves the lead.
In Game 1 on Saturday, Atlanta got Austin Riley’s game-ending RBI single in the ninth inning.
The Braves outdid themselves in Game 2 on Sunday: They rallied with two runs in the eighth inning off Dodgers 20-game-winner and postseason star Julio Urias, then won it in the ninth on Eddie Rosario’s RBI single off Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen.
“These guys never quit, they never have (and) they haven’t for years here,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “And if they got an out left or a strike left, as we have seen, they might make something happen. So these guys just keep playing the game. They play a hard 27 (outs).”
Without Max Muncy (elbow) so far in the playoffs, the Dodgers also did not start Justin Turner (neck) in the starting lineup Sunday. Yet they built a pair of leads, first on a two-run home run from Corey Seager in the first inning, then on a two-run double by Chris Taylor in the seventh.
And while manager Dave Roberts’ use of Urias in the eighth inning Sunday will continue to be questioned, it is the offense that is of chief concern. The Dodgers are just 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position in the series.
Those struggles have come after the Dodgers were shut out twice in the NL Division Series by the San Francisco Giants.
“It’s an approach thing and I think that certain times in scoring position we’re expanding too much,” Roberts said.
Roberts will give the ball to right-hander Walker Buehler for Game 3 after his 16-4 regular season with a 2.47 ERA. He is 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA in three lifetime starts in the regular season against the Braves and has faced them three times in the playoffs.
In last year’s NLCS, he gave up just one run over two starts (11 innings), with the Braves beating the Dodgers’ bullpen 5-1 in Game 1, and Buehler pitching six shutout innings in a 3-1 victory in Game 3. In a 2018 NL Division Series, he had no decision in a 6-5 Atlanta win.
The Braves turn to veteran right-hander Charlie Morton, who went 14-6 with a 3.34 ERA in the regular season. Morton has made four regular-season starts against the Dodgers (1-1, 4.50 ERA in 22 innings).
This season he was 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA vs. Los Angeles. He yielded four runs (two earned) in five innings during a 5-2 victory in June, and left the Aug. 31 game at Dodger Stadium with a 2-1 lead after six innings, only to have the home team get to the Braves’ bullpen to win 3-2.
Back in the 2017 World Series, Morton finished Game 7, limiting the Dodgers to one run over the last four innings to give the Houston Astros the title. But last year in the World Series as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Dodgers got to him for five runs in 4 1/3 innings of a Game 3 start, a contest Los Angeles won 6-2.
–Field Level Media