The Dodgers tailed 4-0 after one inning, but J.D. Martinez and Freddie Freeman powered Los Angeles to an 8-6 win over the Braves in what felt like the opener of a playoff series on Monday night at Truist Park in Atlanta.
J.D. Martinez homered twice, part of a career-high-tying four hits, and scored three runs. It was his first multi-hit game since returning from missing 15 games with back tightness.
The Dodgers chipped away at the early four-run deficit with the first Martinez homer in the second inning, two more runs in the fourth, then finally took the lead on a three-run home run by Freddie Freeman in the fifth.
Freeman, who got a long standing ovation before his first at-bat, doubled earlier in the game — his National League-leading 18th of the season — in addition to the home run. He has 18 extra-base hits (12 doubles, five home runs, a triple) in 20 games so far in May.
Freeman also singled, and his 12 game-hit streak includes nine multi-hit games.
The close game added to the raucous atmosphere, and Marcell Ozuna hitting Will Smith on the helmet with a back swing in the fourth inning turned up the intensity. Smith understandably took offense even if it was an accident, as the catcher already missed 13 games this year with a concussion.
Bullpens emptied, though only briefly, and the discussion between Smith and Ozuna even continued into the sixth.
Marcell Ozuna made contact with Dodgers catcher Will Smith on his backswing, which led to a situation between the Braves and Dodgers. pic.twitter.com/hP0xeeT5rB— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) May 23, 2023
Gavin Stone’s second major league start had a big inning against him, just like his first start did. Five batters into the game, he was down 4-0. Eddie Rosario’s three-run home run was the big blow, and an indoctrination of sorts for Stone into True Dodger status. Rosario, who ran roughshod over Los Angeles while winning the 2021 NLCS MVP, has 11 extra-base hits, including six home runs in 15 career games against the Dodgers, hitting .444/.483/.889.
The little things
Slow reaction time costed the Dodgers early, like when James Outman’s first step was in on a Ronald Acuña Jr. drive that went over his head for a leadoff double in the first. Acuña scored on a Sean Murphy single in what was a four-run frame against Stone. With Outman at the plate in the third inning, he was hit in the leg by a pitch from Charlie Morton but it was instead called a ball. The Dodgers took longer than the 15 seconds allowed to challenge a play, and Outman eventually struck out.
Stone after a 34-pitch first inning only needed 37 pitches to get through the next three, and by the time the fifth inning started he had a lead. But the win for Stone was not to be, as he walked Acuña and Olson on eight pitches to open the frame, ending his night after four-plus innings. Even worse, the Dodgers infield was caught sleeping after the second walk, and Acuña easily stole the vacant third base without a throw. That led to Atlanta’s fifth run against Stone.
After seven games of Dodgers starting pitchers averaging exactly 11 outs per game, Stone recorded 12 on Monday.
That he didn’t allow more than five runs was thanks to Evan Phillips entering at his earliest point of the season, brought into face the heart of the lineup, plus stellar defensive plays by Miguel Rojas at shortstop and Outman with a diving catch in center to keep the Dodgers ahead.
Rojas had two hits and scored two runs out of the nine spot in the batting order, his second straight two-hit game. But most importantly Rojas was part of three double plays, starting two of them and turning another, showing the importance of strong defense at shortstop from someone who actually plays there regularly.
Relievers Phillips, Caleb Ferguson, Yency Almonte, Phil Bickford, and Brusdar Graterol combined to allow one run over the final five innings.
Home runs: J.D. Martinez 2 (8), Freddie Freeman (9); Eddie Rosario (5)
WP — Evan Phillips (1-0): 1 IP, 1 hit
LP — Charlie Morton (5-4): 5 IP, 7 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
Sv — Brusdar Graterol (3): 1⅓ IP, 1 hit, 1 strikeout
Miller time comes Tuesday (4:20 p.m. PT; SportsNet LA, TBS), with Bobby Miller making his major league debut for the Dodgers against National League strikeout leader Spencer Strider for Atlanta.