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Dodgers reach the end of their rope in Game 4

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LA has won six straight elimination games. Now it’s nothing but in the NLCS

NLCS: LA Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

If momentum is the next game’s starting pitcher, the Dodgers are cooked. But then again, a bullpen game is unlikely to be much worse than the last outings from the only three active pitchers the Dodgers are willing to use as starters.

The latest to reach the end of his rope was Julio Urías, who was peppered for three home runs in the Braves’ 9-2 win in Game 4 on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the National League Championship Series.

To achieve their goal of a repeat championship, the Dodgers will first have to equal their 2020 feat of erasing a 3-1 deficit to Atlanta. But the task this year looks much more daunting, partly because of travel, and that the Braves host the final two games.

But more importantly, the Dodgers’ big three pitchers don’t appear to have much left in the tank.

Urías allowed back-to-back home runs to Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall in the second inning, then Freddie Freeman took him deep in the third. Rosario later tripled and scored, and dropped the dagger with a three-run homer in the ninth, part of his four-hit night. He’s 10-for-17 in the NLCS, and one win away from winning series MVP.

Wednesday was just the second time Urías allowed three home runs in a game. The last was June 2, 2016 against the Cubs, in Urías’s second appearance in the majors. Perhaps because of the pending bullpen game in Thursday’s Game 5, Urías was left in and pitched five frames, pushing him to 200⅔ innings on the season, 73 more than his previous career high.

Whether it was all the miles on the 2021 odometer, or if Game 2’s inexplicable relief appearance in which he coughed up a lead were the main culprit remains debatable. But the fact is Urías, pitching for the fourth time in 12 days, was ineffective. The left-hander allowed five runs on eight hits.

This came a day after Walker Buehler, whose 222 innings are 27 more than his previous best, pitched just 3⅔ innings in the start following his first career start on three days rest, allowing four runs (two earned). Max Scherzer in Sunday’s Game 2 was like Urías pitching his fourth game in 12 days, and was done after 4⅓ innings, saying after the game that his arm was dead.

Now the Dodgers are out of starting pitchers at least until the series gets to Atlanta, but to get there, Los Angeles needs to win a bullpen game with taxed relievers on Thursday first, against Braves ace Max Fried.

For a team that was carried by its pitching for large stretches of the season, the Dodgers are suddenly looking thin on arms.

Now would be a good time for the offense that led the National League in runs scored to help sweep their problems under a rug, rather than having the rug pulled out from under them. Jesse Chavez was a late choice to open Game 4’s bullpen game for Atlanta after Huascar Ynoa was removed from the roster with shoulder inflammation, and Chavez pitched a scoreless frame. Drew Smyly followed with more of the same, keeping the Dodgers out of the hit column until the fifth, when they finally broke through on a two-run, pinch-hit single by AJ Pollock.

Justin Turner, who scored on that Pollock single, left the game in the seventh with a left hamstring strain that will almost certainly end Turner’s season.

There was no late rally on this night, not by the Dodgers anyway. The Braves tacked on four runs in the ninth to put this one away.

NLCS Game 4 particulars

Home runs: Eddie Rosario 2 (2), Adam Duvall (1), Freddie Freeman (2)

WP — Drew Smyly (1-0): 3⅓ IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

LP — Julio Urías (1-1): 5 IP, 8 hits, 5 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Up next

The Dodger Stadium leg of the NLCS tour concludes on Thursday night (5:08 p.m., TBS), with the Dodgers trying to keep the series going. It’s a bullpen game for Los Angeles, facing Braves left-hander Max Fried.