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Dodgers hope third time’s the charm in the NLCS

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LA tries to avoid first 3-game losing streak of 2020

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Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres - Game Three Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Julio Urías starts Game 3 of the NLCS for the Dodgers, tasked with trying to stop a relentless Braves offense that has ground pitchers to dust so far in this series.

Dodgers pitchers threw 205 pitches in the Game 2 loss, their highest total in a nine-inning game all season, and very reminiscent of what their offense did to San Diego in the final game of the NLDS. In Game 1 of the NLCS the Dodgers threw 162 pitches, which is tied for the fourth-most in a nine-inning game for Los Angeles in 2020.

It’s been a slog getting through an Atlanta lineup that scored only one less run than the Dodgers during the regular season. The Braves have been equal opportunity crushers, with LA starters averaging 20.1 pitches per inning and Dodgers relievers averaging 20.7 in this series.

The Braves lineup is a challenge that has to be met, unless Dave Roberts has designs on trying to be part of both LCS comebacks after trailing 3-0 in the series.

Vanderbilt for this

Kyle Wright starts for the Braves, the third straight first-round pick starting on the mound for Atlanta in this series. Wright was drafted fifth overall in 2017 out of Vanderbilt, and is the second Commodores pitcher to start in this series.

Walker Buehler, who started Game 1 of the NLCS, was the Dodgers’ first-round pick out of Vandy in 2015, his junior season. In the finals of the College World Series that year, Buehler started the decisive Game 3 and allowed two runs in three innings. Wright, then a freshman, pitched the final four innings in relief, allowing one run.

Virginia won that game to win the championship, though neither Buehler nor Wright figured in the decision. Josh Sborz, drafted in the second round that year by the Dodgers, was named Most Outstanding Player thanks to 13 scoreless innings in the College World Series, including four scoreless innings in Game 2 against Vanderbilt.

The 25-year-old rookie Wright made eight starts during the regular season for the Braves. He posted a 5.21 ERA and 5.90 FIP in 38 innings, with a walk total (24) alarmingly close to his strikeouts (30). Among the 158 major league pitchers with at least 30 innings in 2020, Wright ranked 123rd in ERA, 139th in FIP, 113th in home run rate (1.66 per nine), and 156th in walk rate (14.3 percent).

Wright also improved as the season went on. We are only talking about nine starts, after all. In his first five starts, he had an 8.05 ERA with more walks (18) than strikeouts (16). He has quality starts in each of his last four starts, including closing out Miami with six scoreless innings in Game 3 of the NLDS last Thursday. Wright in those four starts has a 1.80 ERA with 21 strikeouts and eight walks.

Still, this seems like a pitcher the Dodgers should feast on, or at least not get shut down by, like the one run in 10 innings scored against Braves starters in the first two games. Nothing in this NLCS has gone the Dodgers’ way, especially in the first 15 innings. Whether that seven-run outburst in the final three innings of Game 2 carries over to Wednesday remains to be seen, but it at least showed proof of life.

First impressions

One way the Dodgers can get back in this series is by scoring early. They threatened in the first inning in each of the first two games of this series but failed to score. After scoring two runs in the first inning of Game 1 of the wild card series against Milwaukee, the Dodgers haven’t scored in the first inning in any of their last six games. During the regular season, LA scored 38 runs in the opening frame, fifth-most in MLB.

Wright this season has not allowed a run in his nine first innings.

Whether Wright can continue his run of his last four starts, or the Dodgers can continue the run of their last three innings, is probably the story of Game 3 of the NLCS.

That, and trying to keep Freddie Freeman from homering again.

NLCS Game 3 info

  • Time: 3:05 p.m. PT
  • Location: Globe Life Field, Arlington, Texas
  • TV: FS1 (Joe Buck, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal)
  • Streaming: Fox Sports, fuboTV