On one hand, the Dodgers are following the same formula that won them the National League Championship Series in 2020, losing the first two games, then getting blown out in Game 4 to fall behind 3-1.
To win the pennant, all the Dodgers have to do is when the next three games. Just like last year! Justin Turner scored a run in all three of those games in 2020, including a home run in Game 6 and finished off a game-turning double play with a Superman dive in Game 7. Turner won’t be around for the comeback this year, felled by a left hamstring strain on Wednesday night.
Max Muncy also scored a run in Games 5, 6, and 7 of last year’s NLCS. He’s been out all postseason with a dislocated elbow. Kiké Hernández hit the game-tying home run in Game 7 of last year’s NLCS. He’s 19-for-45 with five home runs and four doubles this postseason, hitting .422/.438/.844 for the Red Sox, whose 3-2 LCS deficit is a position the Dodgers aspire to.
The 2021 Dodgers might not have the exact same cast, but they do have the talent to win three games in a row against anyone. But needing to win three straight to stay alive is precarious, like not being able to swim. It’s a broad overview that obscures the more immediate problem.
Game 5 will probably kill them.
Should the Dodgers beat left-hander Max Fried and friends in Game 5 on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, they would have Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler lined up to pitch the final two games at Truist Park, Scherzer on an extra day of rest. Confidence abounds in those two, perhaps being further removed from getting pressed into early duty can improve on the eight combined innings they pitched in their first starts this NLCS.
This year’s NLCS schedule does have off days, but those are used for cross-country travel. And instead of a small, mostly Dodgers-centric crowd in Texas, Games 6 and 7 this year are in Atlanta, making for a hostile environment for the trailing team.
But it’s a burden the Dodgers would very clearly take, because it beats not playing any games at all.
“I’d love to go to Atlanta,” manager Dave Roberts said Wednesday night.
They just have to win Game 5 first.
NLCS Game 5 info
Teams: Dodgers vs. Braves
Series: Atlanta leads, 3-1
Location: Dodger Stadium
Time: 5:08 p.m.