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Dodgers blowout secured, the NLCS is now about innings management

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LA taxes Braves pitching staff in a series with no off days

National League Championship Series Game 3: Atlanta Braves v. Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Dodgers seemed to think they could carry over the offensive momentum from their furious seven-run near-comeback rally from Tuesday night into Game 3, and they managed to do just that on Wednesday with a 15-3 blowout of the Braves.

Game 3 of the NLCS was over with the Dodgers’ 11-run first inning, an MLB postseason record. After that, Wednesday night became a strategy session and an exercise in innings management for a series that could potentially last seven games in seven days.

Mookie Betts, for instance, singled, walked, and scored twice in his four at-bats, and he only played three innings on defense. He was removed with a 14-run lead, a rare opportunity for in-series rest for a pillar on offense.

Same for Corey Seager, who was out after four innings in the field, having already homered, doubled, and singled in his four at-bats, scoring three runs and driving in three more.

The Braves got Freddie Freeman, the possible MVP favorite with two home runs in this series, and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, their cleanup hitter and a former Dodger, out of the game after three innings. But the real game within the game was with the pitchers.

Old friend Grant Dayton had to relieve Braves starter Kyle Wright in the first inning, then had one of the classic take-one-for-the-team outings. He recorded six outs but allowed eight runs on eight hits, throwing 62 pitches, and after allowing his fifth hit of the third inning alone he was mercifully lifted by Braves manager Brian Snitker.

The real hero for the Braves was Huascar Ynoa, who relieved Dayton in the third inning and just kept pitching. The 22-year-old right-hander got Atlanta nearly through the seventh inning, helping them use only five pitchers in a blowout loss.

But that Ynoa threw 92 pitches in his four innings might throw a wrench into the Braves’ future plans. Before the series, Ynoa was mentioned as a possible option to start later in the series, or at least take down some bulk innings in Games 4 or 5. Now with Ynoa burned and Bryse Wilson, who has pitched longer than three innings twice this season, starting Game 4, the Braves bullpen will be busy the next few days, whether or not Max Fried goes on short rest in Game 5.

A Game 5 that is now necessary.

Outside of walking his first two batters of the game with an 11-run lead, Julio Urías was steady as they come in this one, giving the Dodgers’ their cleanest start of the series. Urías allowed only a run in five innings, a solo home run by Cristian Pache for his first major league homer. Urías struck out five and allowed only three hits after those walks.

Urías this postseason has been excellent, allowing only two runs (one earned) on seven hits in 13 innings, with 16 strikeouts and three walks. He’s won all three games.

The later innings for the Dodgers provided the chance to get some work for their struggling relievers, including Kenley Jansen and Pedro Baez each pitching an inning, followed by Alex Wood and Adam Kolarek. That bought some rest for the pitchers Dave Roberts feels more comfortable using in a high-leverage situation.

All that sets the Dodgers up pretty nicely, though in fairness with the game long decided the Braves didn’t have to use any of their back-end relief pitchers either.

The Dodgers, despite the outburst, only garnered one win on Wednesday night, and still trail in the series, two games to one.

The next few days could set up well for them, especially if Clayton Kershaw and Dustin May can pitch a sizable chunk of innings over the next two games. But those are no sure bets.

No off days within the NLCS figure to exact a toll at some point, and maybe already has.

“Seven games is a long series,” Betts said before Game 3. “Win a game today, and ride the wave.”

Notes

  • The 15 runs and five home runs by the Dodgers are franchise postseason records.
  • The Dodgers reached base 27 times by hit (16), walk (8), and hit by pitch (3), setting another franchise postseason record. They reached base 25 games in Game 3 of the NLDS last week, but the record before that was 23 times on base, set in Game 4 the 1974 NLCS.
  • Joc Pederson was 4-for-6, the 10th different Dodger with at least four hits in a postseason game. His daughter also turned two years old on Wednesday. “I hit a home run for Poppy, so that was cool,” he said.
  • Matt Beaty made his first appearance of this postseason, playing the final five innings in left field. He was hit by a pitch in his two plate appearances, just the third Dodger with two HBP in a postseason game, along with Russell Martin and Justin Turner.
  • Beaty is the first player in MLB history to be hit by two pitches in a postseason game that he didn’t start.
  • Dayton tied a postseason record with eight earned runs allowed in relief, tying Steve Reed (1999 ALDS), Paul Abbott (2001 ALDS), and Jay Witasick (2001 World Series).
  • Braves pitchers threw 234 pitches in Game 3, the second-most ever thrown against the Dodgers in a postseason game, behind only Game 3 of the 2018 World Series, which lasted 18 innings. “We took quality at-bats all night. Even when we got up, people were grinding out pitches,” Seager said. “We made them throw a lot of pitches & that’s what you’re looking for in a long series like this.”

Game 3 particulars

Home runs: Joc Pederson (1), Edwin Ríos (1), Max Muncy (2), Cody Bellinger (2), Corey Seager (3); Cristian Pache (1)

WP — Julio Urías (3-0): 5 IP, 3 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

LP — Kyle Wright (1-1): ⅔ IP, 5 hits, 7 runs, 2 walks

Up next

After a pair of earlier starts, Game 4 is back to a 5:08 p.m. PT start on Thursday (televised by Fox and FS1). Dave Roberts after the game was more resolute, naming Kershaw his Game 4 starter, two days after he was scratched with back spasms. Bryse Wilson starts for the Braves.