Atlanta started three rookies in a row on the mound against the Dodgers, and still got better overall pitching. LA had a record-setting 11-run inning but their offense has been mostly silent otherwise, and the Braves have outscored them during the series.
This is only the third time this season the Dodgers have lost three out of four games, and the other two saw the Dodgers respond quite well.
In the second week of August the Dodgers split their final two games at home against San Francisco, then dropped the first two games of a four-game set against the Padres.
The next day, Aug. 12, the normally mild-mannered and outwardly positive Dave Roberts entered his pregame media Zoom call with a scowl on his face, and a demeanor to match. It was so out of character that Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register mentioned it, dubbing Roberts “Salty Dave” that day. There were a number of awkward exchanges during the call.
It’s unclear if “Salty Dave” made an appearance in the clubhouse that day, or if fire and Brimstone were delivered in some sort of speech, but the Dodgers did break out of their slump. They beat the Padres 6-0 that night, then drubbed San Diego 11-2 the next night, thanks in large part to Mookie Betts hitting three home runs on a night he was moved back into the leadoff spot for good.
The Dodgers won seven straight and 11 of 12 after their first time losing three out of four.
The next time they dropped three out of four, it was a stretch against three different teams. The Dodgers lost the series finale in Phoenix, then split two games with the Astros, including a Kenley Jansen bullpen implosion. That set up a showdown series against the Padres at Petco Park, who were on fire and trying to close the gap in the NL West.
San Diego won the first game in a fashion eerily similar to Game 4 of the NLCS. Kershaw pitched well, but the opposing pitcher (in this case, Dinelson Lamet) shut the Dodgers offense down. The inning that Kershaw exited started with a 1-1 tie, and a bullpen implosion stoked the flames of a huge inning.
That loss, on Sept. 14, brought the Padres to within 1½ games of the Dodgers in the division. Mookie Betts later referred to that game as a punch in the mouth by San Diego.
“We were flat. It seemed like they just kept coming at us the whole game. We never had an answer. There was really nothing we could do other than sit there and take it,” Betts recalled before the NLDS against the Padres. “We just had a talk amongst ourselves, and we were able to come back out and play the game we always do.”
The Dodgers responded then with wins in the final two games of the series to all but sew up the National League West, and won five straight games.
With regional scheduling in a pandemic-truncated 2020 season, the Dodgers played a lot of bad to mediocre teams in the NL West and AL West. Perhaps it’s instructive that their only stretches of three losses in four games included games against the Padres, their only true challenger in the division. The Dodgers’ response to that adversity was also against the Padres, jumpstarting winning streaks of seven and five games.
The Dodgers need a three-game winning streak this time, also against a very good team, one that has handled them so far in the NLCS.