Dodgers vs. Braves on Saturday looked very much like the intense playoff atmosphere of the last two Octobers. The back-and-forth affair went Atlanta’s way in this one, a 5-3 win that highlighted the cost of the two most recent pitching injuries for Los Angeles.
In a tie game in the eighth inning that would have normally gone to Daniel Hudson, at least before he tore his ACL on Friday, Brusdar Graterol allowed a double to Travis d’Arnaud and a home run to Marcell Ozuna to his first two batters, giving the Braves the final margin.
Braves Max Fried struck out nine in his 6⅔ scoreless innings, allowing just six hits. That counted as progress for the Dodgers, who collected just two hits in seven innings at Dodger Stadium against the left-hander on April 19. But what at the time seemed like only incremental gains grew larger in importance.
Trea Turner’s one-out double in the sixth inning was the first Dodgers extra-base hit against Fried this season. He was stranded.
In the seventh inning, Chris Taylor walked, the first free pass issued by Fried against Los Angeles this season. A single by Justin Turner gave the Dodgers their first time with two runners on against Fried this year.
Fried struck out Trayce Thompson and Hanser Alberto to nearly get out of the jam. This was not the last time this would happen.
The Dodgers were down by three at this point, but Cody Bellinger nearly tied the game with a towering shot down the right field line. But it was just outside the foul pole, narrowly missing a game-tying home run. But Bellinger was able to single, delivering the Dodgers’ first run against Fried this season.
That ended Fried’s night, and Austin Barnes singled home another run off reliever Will Smith to pull the Dodgers to within one. A walk to Trea Turner set up a classic matchup, with Freddie Freeman up with the bases loaded and two out. Smith got him swinging on four pitches to keep the Braves in the lead.
Bases loaded. Two outs. Freddie up to bat...— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) June 26, 2022
And Will Smith strikes him out!!! pic.twitter.com/gTYCrMptLl
The Dodgers’ Will Smith, serving as the designated hitter in this one after catching the series opener, jumped on the first pitch from A.J. Minter in the eighth to tie the game.
They threatened again with a single and stolen base by Turner, only this time it was Justin, the latter his first stolen base of the season. With the southpaw Minter on the mound, Dave Roberts stuck with right-handers Thompson and Alberto, and both struck out again for the second consecutive inning.
Another matchup of a former franchise icon facing his old team came in the ninth, with closer Kanley Jansen making quick work of the Dodgers by striking out all three batters he faced to close it out.
More baby steps
Mitch White picked up where he left off in his return to the majors after getting optioned, keeping Atlanta scoreless in the first two innings while working around a pair of walks. A pair of hard-hit balls in the third opened the scoring, with Dansby Swanson’s two-run shot his fourth home run in his last four games.
Those were the first runs Mitch White allowed since June 1, after three scoreless starts — one in the majors, and two in Triple-A.
White kept the Braves at bay until the fifth inning, when he was facing a lineup for the third time in a game for just the second time with the Dodgers this season. Ronald Acuña Jr. singled and stole second base to open the inning, and Dansby Swanson singled to end White’s night after four-plus innings.
Swanson’s single was a bouncer down the third base line that Justin Turner on which made a fantastic diving stop, one of a handful of solid defensive plays by him this week. That temporarily kept a run off the board, and reliever Alex Vesia helped the cause by picking off Acuña at second, though because of the ensuing rundown it was actually Swanson who was out at second with one of the the most hard-luck caught stealings ever.
Vesia nearly escaped the fifth-inning jam fully unscathed, but a two-strike, two-out double from Austin Riley brought home the one remaining bequeathed runner.
That run was charged to White, who this year has faced a total of five batters the third time through the order, and retired one of them. White has allowed three hits and a walk in those scenarios, and three runs.
He’ll get more chances to extend himself, and has generally pitched well enough to earn it. It’s part of the maturation process of a starting pitcher. Given the current state of the roster, especially with all the pitching injuries, and with two weeks left of a current stretch of 20 games in 20 days, the Dodgers have little choice but to give White more chances, like a lunch rush in a busy restaurant after three servers called in sick.
Home runs: Will Smith (11); Dansby Swanson (13), Marcell Ozuna (14)
WP — AJ Minter (4-1): 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 3 strikeouts
LP — Brusdar Graterol (2-3): 1 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 strikeout
Sv — Kenley Jansen (20): 1 IP, 3 strikeouts
Sunday is another exclusive national broadcast and another night game, 4:08 p.m. PT on ESPN. Tony Gonsolin is on the mound as the Dodgers go for the series win, with mustachioed rookie Spencer Strider pitching for Atlanta.