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Down to their last strike, Dodgers find their offense to beat Braves

First extra-inning win for LA in six tries this season

Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Dodgers and Braves have been pretty evenly matched this season, so it was only natural that their final regular season matchup of 2022 needed extra extra innings to decide things. Down to their last strike with nothing on the board against an old friend, the Dodgers rallied to score in three straight innings, winning 5-3 in 11 innings on Sunday night in Truist Park.

A series of firsts game the Dodgers their second series win over the Braves, in one of the most impressive comeback wins of the year for Los Angeles.

The Dodgers won their first extra-inning game in six tries this year, thanks to actually scoring, something they struggled to do for the first 26 outs on Sunday.

Freddie Freeman in the 10th inning, and Chris Taylor in the 11th, each doubled home a run, giving the Dodgers their first extra-base hits in extra innings this season. Before Sunday, the Dodgers had just one hit in 14 at-bats in extras, and scored two total runs in five innings.

They had three hits in extras on Sunday, scoring three runs in two innings. That provided a margin for Brusdar Graterol to record his first regular season save, but shutting down Atlanta in the bottom of the inning.

Graterol, the sixth Dodgers reliever used on Sunday, was pitching for a third straight day, just the second Dodgers pitcher to do so this season (Alex Vesia, one of the relievers used earlier, also did so from May 20-22). Graterol needed just nine pitches for what is actually his second career save, though the first came in the 2020 wild card series, closing out Milwaukee in Game 2.

Down two runs in the ninth, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger struck out against Kenley Jansen, who was looking to close out his second game in a row. A full-count single by Gavin Lux delayed the misery, then Taylor followed with a single of his own. Taylor then stole second against Jansen, with the shoes now on the Dodgers running feet in this situation.

Taylor, who did not start Sunday but entered the game in the seventh inning, led the Dodgers with three hits.

Trayce Thompson, less than a week into his Dodgers return, lined a ball just off the glove of first baseman Matt Olson, into right field with the game-tying single. Not that Thompson knew exactly where his hit went at first.

Thompson stole second, too, putting the go-ahead run into scoring position. But a potential fourth straight single, this one off the bat of Trea Turner, died in the glove of a diving Michael Harris II, a fantastic center fielder for Atlanta.

The Dodgers before Lux came to the plate were 0-for-8 with six strikeouts against Jansen this season. Then they got three straight hits.

Duel purpose

Tony Gonsolin and Spencer Strider had a great battle through the first six innings, each attacking hitters in different ways, and both escaping quite a few jams.

Gonsolin mixed in his fastball, slider, and split-finger nearly equally, and finished off strikeouts with all three pitches, totaling five in all.

Will Smith was the key hitter in the two best rallies against Strider, with a single and wild pitch in the fourth inning, then a double to put two runners in scoring position in the sixth. Both times set the Dodgers up with less than two outs, and each time Smith, and others, were stranded.

Sunday marked the 18th consecutive start for Smith, whose presence in the lineup has very much been needed, especially of late. Thirteen of those starts have been at catcher, including this one, with the other five at designated hitter when he’s not behind the plate. Smith over those 18 games is hitting .321/.349/.615, and he has an eight-game hitting streak.

Strider threw his eye-popping fastball for just over two-thirds of his pitches, and with good reason thanks to averaging 98.2 mph on the night and topping out at 100. Strider finished off five of his seven strikeouts with that fastball. He had seven swinging strikes on the pitch, but also had eight swinging strikes on the slider despite throwing it only 25 times.

With Smith on third and Max Muncy on second with two outs in the sixth, Strider used a slider to strike out Justin Turner on his 95th pitch of the game, completing his six scoreless innings.

The Dodgers were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position against Strider. Atlanta did the same against Gonsolin, at least through 5⅔ innings. But with Travis d’Arnaud on third base, right after an ESPN graphic showed that opponents were hitless in their last 34 at-bats with runners on base against Gonsolin, Marcell Ozuna lined a single to center to make that 1-for-35, and more importantly, 1-0 Atlanta.

Ozuna’s single was on Gonsolin’s 94th pitch, and brought the hook from Dave Roberts, despite a waving protest from Gonsolin on the mound.

The one run actually raised Gonsolin’s ERA ever so slightly, from 1.5805 to 1.5811. He also got up to 74 innings, which bought him time on the leaderboard through at least Wednesday, and his 1.58 ERA leads the majors.

The Dodgers’ best contact with runners in scoring position in the first eight innings came again from Smith, only this time when he was catching. His throw to third never got close, as it hit the bat of Travis d’Arnaud, who was standing in the right-handed batter’s box.

Atlanta loaded the bases in that rally and didn’t get a hit with RISP themselves, but managed to bring home an insurance run thanks to a sacrifice fly. It widened the lead to two runs, which somehow felt like 10. At least until two outs in the ninth.

The Dodgers allowed only nine runs in three games in the weekend showdown against the Braves, opponents in the last two National League Championship Series and a battle of the last two World Series winners. Though they came within a whisker of dropping the series despite such stellar pitching, they leave Atlanta with a two-game lead over San Diego in the National League West.

Sunday particulars

Home runs: none

WP — Craig Kimbrel (1-3): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 unearned run, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

LP — Darren O’Day (1-2): ⅔ IP, 2 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), 1 strikeout

Sv — Brusdar Graterol (1): 1 IP, 1 strikeout

Up next

Coors Field is the next stop on the road trip for the Dodgers, with Tyler Anderson starting the series opener on Monday (5:40 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA). Chad Kuhl starts for the Rockies.