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Dodgers need to capitalize on scoring chances

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LA was 1-for-8 with RISP in Game 1 of the NLCS

Championship Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves - Game One
Chris Taylor is 2-for-5 with a walk and a sacrifice fly with runners in scoring position this postseason. That includes his walk-off home run in the National League wild card game (the Dodgers’ only home run with RISP this postseason) and an RBI single in Game 1 of the NLCS, the only hit in nine plate appearances with RISP in the series opener against the Braves.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Trying to avoid digging a similar hole to last year’s NLCS, the Dodgers need their offense to produce in Game 2 against the Braves on Sunday night in Atlanta.

The Dodgers scored two runs in Game 1 on Saturday, a one-run loss to the Braves in the series opener. That was two days after scoring two runs in Game 5 of the NLDS, a one-run win over the Braves. Thanks to a stingy Dodgers pitching staff, both games weren’t decided until the ninth inning, just like the National League wild card game, in which the Dodgers scored three runs, two coming on Chris Taylor’s walk-off home run.

Five times in seven games this postseason the Dodgers have been held to three runs or fewer. They’re averaging just 3.3 runs per game.

Runners in scoring position is the common refrain when a team is struggling, but there are two parts to it.

Yes, the Dodgers are underperforming with runners in scoring position, hitting just .207/.284/.310 this postseason. During the regular season, Los Angeles hit .262/.364/.442 with RISP, the best on-base percentage, fourth-best OPS, and ninth in MLB in both batting average and slugging percentage in those situations.

Dodgers with RISP

Game PA Result
Game PA Result
NL wild card 6 (2-5, HR, BB) W, 3-1
NLDS G1 5 (0-5) L, 4-0
NLDS G2 18 (6-15, 2 2B, 3 BB) W, 9-2
NLDS G3 4 (0-4) L, 1-0
NLDS G4 15 (1-11, 2 BB, 2 SF) W, 7-2
NLDS G5 11 (2-10, 2B, BB) W, 2-1
NLCS G1 9 (1-8, SH) L, 3-2
Source: Baseball Reference

But the number of opportunities themselves are important, too. The Dodgers were second in the majors — only eight total plate appearances behind the Astros — averaging 10.2 PA per game.

In Saturday’s Game 1, the Dodgers had nine plate appearances with runners in scoring position. They were just 1-for-8, with Taylor’s second-inning single the only hit, plus a seventh-inning sacrifice by Austin Barnes. That set up Taylor on third base with only one out, with Mookie Betts and Trea Turner due up. Neither hit the ball out of the infield.

“There were situational at-bats in there, that I’ll take our guys any time,” manager Dave Roberts said after Game 1. “We just didn’t come through.”

Getting nine PA with runners in scoring position is a decent enough amount, and the Dodgers are averaging 9.7 such PA during the postseason. That includes two times getting shut out by the Giants, when LA only had five and four PA with RISP, respectively.

Ian Anderson starts Game 2 for the Braves on Sunday. The right-hander allowed only two runs in seven innings in last year’s NLCS, but the Dodgers ran up his pitch count, getting him out after four innings and 85 pitches in Game 2, then after three innings and 73 pitches in Game 7.

This year, on June 4 in Atlanta, the Dodgers didn’t have an at-bat with runners in scoring position against Anderson until the fifth. A fielder’s choice and a sacrifice bunt scored a pair of runs to chase Anderson after 98 pitches in just 4⅓ innings, then the Dodgers proceeded to rally for six more runs in the inning.

If the Dodgers continue to create scoring opportunities, they should be fine. But they might want to start actually getting some hits in those situations, lest they fall too far behind in the NLCS.

NLCS Game 2 info

Teams: Dodgers at Braves

Series: Atlanta leads, 1-0

Location: Truist Park, Atlanta

Time: 4:38 p.m.

TV: TBS