Video Credit: MLB

FSM Essential Recap: Dodgers vs Braves – 2021 NLCS

Los Angeles Dodgers (6-6) |  Atlanta Braves (7-3)


“Listen, if you start worrying about the people in the stands, before too long you’re up in the stands with them.”

– Tommy LaSorda


Game 6:


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Michael Zarrilli/Getty Images

The Dodgers inability to produce offensively for two games in a row ended their postseason run earlier than expected. In Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, mostly quiet bats meant no margin for error for a spent pitching staff, and the Braves pounced, winning 4-2 on Saturday to advance to Atlanta’s first World Series since 1999.

Game 6 was the fifth elimination game this postseason for the Dodgers. Living on the edge finally delivered the fatal blow, but it took awhile. L.A.’s loss on Saturday snapped a seven-game win streak in elimination games, dating back to last season.

Walker Buehler’s inauspicious start to the game included hard-hit balls by the first four hitters, all with exit velocities of 97 mph or higher. That included a single by Rosario, naturally. He didn’t score, but Atlanta did produce a run in the frame thanks to back-to-back doubles by Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley. That it was the only run of the inning felt like a win for Los Angeles.

But after that, Buehler settled down, pitching on three days rest for the second time in three starts, the first two such times in his career. He missed 11 bats in this game in his 77 pitches and struck out six, looking much sharper than in Game 3 at Dodger Stadium, when Buehler induced only three swinging strikes in 76 pitches.

Buehler just needed one more swinging strike in Game 6.

After getting the first two outs of the fourth inning, Buehler walked Travis d’Arnaud, then gave up a broken bat double by pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza. Mookie Betts got the ball back to the infield in quick order, and with the catcher running, Braves third base coach Ron Washington held d’Arnaud at third. After all, Superman was on deck.

Buehler got ahead of Rosario with two cutters on the inner half of the plate, and later in the at-bat threw two sinkers away, one for a ball, and another fouled away. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Buehler threw his fifth cutter in, and Rosario didn’t miss.

The laser home run down the right field line broke a 1-1 tie, Rosario’s third home run of the series. Picked up in a salary dump at the trade deadline from Cleveland, Rosario is one of the quartet of outfielders acquired by Alex Anthopoulos, helping to fuel Atlanta’s second-half run. Rosario had an NLCS to remember with a pair of four-hit games, including a walk-off hit in Game 2 and a two-homer game in Game 4.

Rosario was an otherworldly 14-for-25 in the series, hitting .560/.607 with three home runs, five extra-base hits, nine RBI, and six runs scored, an easy choice for NLCS MVP.

Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In a similar situation in the seventh, facing the same three-run deficit provided by Rosario, the Dodgers had their best rally of the night. AJ Pollock doubled home a run against Luke Jackson to cut Atlanta’s lead to 4-2, but more importantly put runners on second and third base with nobody out.

In came left-hander Tyler Matzek, who brought a chainsaw to the mound to cut down the Dodgers chances. He struck out Albert Pujols swinging on four pitches, then got pinch-hitter Steven Souza Jr. looking on four pitches. After Mookie Betts watched two strikes of his own, he struck out swinging.

Matzek’s dominance continued through the heart of the order in the eighth in short order. His two perfect innings needed only 17 total pitches.

The Dodgers asked a lot of their starting pitchers all season, and when Buehler, Max Scherzer, and Julio Urías were the only three starters left in the cupboard they were asked to do even more. Buehler pitched on short rest twice, Scherzer and Urías were both used in relief on throw days.

After posting a 2.25 ERA in the wild card game and NLDS combined, Scherzer, Buehler, and Urías had little left in the NLCS, with a 7.50 ERA and getting a combined four outs after a fourth inning of work in their four starts.

After winning 106 games, tying the most in franchise history, battling the 107-win Giants down the final day, then winning the wild card game, outlasting San Francisco in a grueling five-game NLDS, the Dodgers met their match in the Braves, who got their revenge after dropping last year’s NLCS.


Game 6 Boxscore:

WP: AJ Minter (1-0)

LP: Walker Buehler (0-2)

HR: Eddie Rosario (3)


The Dodgers season is now over. With a ton of questions looming, where do the Dodgers go from here? Find out in Franchise Sports Media’s Dodgers season recap, out Monday.



Game 5:


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Dodgers attempted climb to the top started at the bottom, with the five, six, seven, eight hitters of the lineup dancing around the bases for most of Game 5. Chris Taylor was the choreographer of Thursday night’s 11-2 win over the Braves at Dodger Stadium, with three home runs among his four hits.

Los Angeles pulled to within three games to two in the National League Championship Series, ensuring the series will move to Atlanta, thanks to the Dodgers winning their fourth elimination game this postseason, and seventh in a row dating back to last October.

Offense is the barometer for Dodgers success this postseason, especially after averaging just 3.5 runs per game, scoring two or fewer five times in 10 games.

I think we could search for answers and this, that, and the other, but sometimes you just don’t get hot, and I feel like we haven’t gotten hot as a unit. That make it’s really hard to win like that,” said Mookie Betts, one of the Dodgers’ most productive hitters this October. “Then you just are solely relying on your pitching, not letting them score at all, and that’s not a team thing. So we have to find a way to get hot, and there’s only one way to do it, and that’s just going out and playing.

The heat started with AJ Pollock homering in the second inning, the first of four consecutive hits off Braves starter Max Fried. That included a two-run home run by Chris Taylor, who will take over at third base the rest of the way this postseason with Justin Turner injured.


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Albert Pujols, who started at first base against a left-hander in Game 5, singled after a Pollock single in the fifth, then Taylor drove in another run with a single of his own. Pujols had two singles and a walk on Thursday, at 41 years, 278 days old the fourth-oldest in MLB history to reach base three times in a postseason game.

The walk to Pujols ended Fried’s night with two outs in the fifth, then Taylor followed with his second home run of the game, pushing the Dodgers’ advantage to four runs.

In the seventh there was nobody on, but Taylor was still in scoring position, launching his third home run.

He’s the 11th player in major league history with three home runs in a postseason game, a list that started with Babe Ruth doing it twice (1926, 1928). The last player to do it before Taylor was Kiké Hernández, whose seven runs batted in to close out the Cubs in Game 5 of the 2017 NLCS set a Dodgers record.

Taylor has the second-most RBI in franchise history in a postseason game, with six. His 13 total bases are a new Dodgers record. He’s hitting .375/.447/.844 this postseason.

Taylor hit seventh in Game 5, preceded by Pollock (who also added a three-run home run in the eighth) and Pujols, and followed by Cody Bellinger, who had three hits. The Dodgers’ five through eight hitters had 12 hits in 18 at-bats with five home runs on Thursday, scoring eight runs and driving in 10.

That’s what we needed to do. We needed to put up a statement,” Taylor told Lauren Shehadi on TBS.They put it on us yesterday.”


Game 5 Boxscore:


WP: Evan Phillips (1-0)

LP: Max Fried (1-1)

HR: AJ Pollock 2 (2), Chris Taylor 3 (4); Freddie Freeman (3)


The NLCS moves to Atlanta for possibly two games. Game 6 is on Saturday on TBS with a 2:08 scheduled start tome. Max Scherzer starts for the Dodgers against Ian Anderson for the Braves


Game 4:


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: MLB

If momentum is the next game’s starting pitcher, the Dodgers are done. But then again, a bullpen game is unlikely to be much worse than the last couple 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.


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier/LATimes/Getty Images

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 the game away.


Game 4 Boxscore:


WP: Drew Smyly (1-0)

LP: Julio Urías (1-1)

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


The Dodger Stadium leg of the NLCS tour concludes on tonight with the Dodgers trying to keep their season alive. It’s a bullpen game for Los Angeles, while the Braves start Max Fried. The first pitch is at 5:08 on TBS.



Game 3:


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Dodgers looked deader than a doornail for far too large a chunk of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, a punchless offense combined with a shockingly poor start on the mound seemed certain to send them to a 3-0 series deficit.

But then Cody Bellinger awakened the Dodger Stadium crowd and his offense with a three-run home run, part of a stunning, four-run eighth, pulling out a 6-5 win over the Braves, and suddenly looking very much alive.

The big inning, such a large staple of an offense that led the league in runs scored during the regular season, has eluded the Dodgers for most of this postseason. They had 105 innings scoring three or more runs in 162 games, accounting for 7.4 percent of their innings.

Through the seventh inning of Game 3 on Tuesday, the Dodgers this postseason had just two such innings in nearly nine games, with both coming in the same game (Game 2 of the NLDS).

Down 5-2 starting the eighth inning, the Dodgers had only four hits in Game 3, and faced the same deficit with only five outs separating L.A. from a 3-0 series deficit. The Dodgers had runners on first and second, but were just 2-for-20 with runners in scoring position for the series.

The advertisement that kept running on the TBS app, with the phrase, “Planning for funeral services and cemetery property ahead of time is another way to protect your loved ones,” seemed a perfect match for a mostly punchless Dodgers team to this point in the series.


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Luis Since/ LA Times/Getty Images

Up stepped Cody Bellinger, who had a nightmare regular season — .165/.240/.302, a 45 OPS+, numerous injuries — but in the postseason put together much better plate appearances. Bellinger hit a ball up near his eyes against Luke Jackson, and suddenly things didn’t seem so funereal.

Pure elation. Joy,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s hard to imagine a bigger hit. I can’t really remember, given what was at stake. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Bellinger this postseason is 7-for-24, hitting .292/.393/.458 with a home run and three steals.

Now with a tied game, and more importantly with renewed life, Chris Taylor singled and stole second, the Dodgers’ eighth steal in three games in the series, then scored on a Mookie Betts double, making Dodger Stadium shake.

Betts didn’t have the TBS ad in his ear all game, but he was acutely aware of the gravity of the situation entering the eighth.

It’s impossible not to be aware of it, but I think that’s a weak way of thinking,” Betts explained. “Our mindset has has been why are we going to focus on that? We’re here now, in a game now. All it takes is a hit or two, and then use that energy.

Things got even louder in the ninth, when Kenley Jansen struck out the side on 17 pitches. He’s faced 17 batters this postseason, with 12 strikeouts.

It took roughly a half-hour for the Dodgers to sweep all their problems under the rug.

That included making Charlie Morton work, with a 34-pitch first inning, but being unable to oust him early. Morton walked six batters, tied for the fifth-most in any postseason game against the Dodgers. Despite the traffic, they only had two at-bats with a runner in scoring position in five innings against him.

Amazingly, Morton easily outlasted his mound counterpart.

A rested Walker Buehler allowed two hits and a walk through three innings, but led 2-0. Then things took quite a turn.


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Freddie Freeman started the fourth with a single, one of three hits for the Braves first baseman. Apparently the reigning MVP going 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts wasn’t sustainable.

Austin Riley with one out, crushed a ball to the centerfield wall that bounced off the glove of Gavin Lux, who in the first inning made a nice running catch and turned a double play. This ball, however, was scored a double, giving the Braves a pair of runners in scoring position.

Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall both singled in a run, then after a walk, Dansby Swanson did the same. With two outs, a bases-loaded walk to Eddie Rosario ended Buehler’s day unceremoniously.

Buehler on six days rest lasted just 3⅔ innings, less than his 4⅓ innings pitched last Tuesday on three days rest. Four runs were charged to Buehler in the shortest postseason start of his career, felled by five hits and two walks in the same inning on Tuesday.

In the NLDS, Buehler, Max Scherzer, and Julio Urías — the Dodgers only three starting pitchers — combined to pitch 27⅔ of 44 innings against San Francisco, allowing only seven runs. Through three games of the NLCS, those three have pitched nine of 26 innings, allowing eight runs.

But things don’t seem as dire, thanks to a truly stunning eighth inning that has the Dodgers very much alive in the NLCS.

What a win,” Roberts said. “I’m just kind of exhausted right now. But very happy for Cody.”


Game 3 Boxscore:


WP: Tony Gonsolin (1-0)

LP: Luke Jackson (0-1)

SV: Kenley Jansen (1)

HR: Corey Seager (2), Cody Bellinger (1)


It’s back to a night game for the remaining two games at Dodger Stadium, beginning Wednesday with Game 4. Julio Urías will start on Wednesday for the Dodgers, with the Braves using a bullpen game. The first pitch is at (5:08 and on TBS.


Game 2:


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Wally Skalij/LA Times

The Dodgers pushed in all their chips in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, and it blew up in their face. The Braves walked off Los Angeles in the ninth inning for a second straight night, this time a 5-4 comeback win that put Atlanta up 2-0 in the NLCS for a second straight year.

Eddie Rosario delivered the game-winning single on Sunday, a rocket off a shifted Corey Seager’s glove that scored Dansby Swanson, but the train was careening off the track an inning earlier.

You can’t be afraid to fail,” manager Dave Roberts said before Game 2. “Careful doesn’t play in the postseason.”

But there’s a difference between careful and reckless.

Up two runs with the Braves’ left-handed duo of Rosario and Freddie Freeman due up in the eighth, Roberts had a few options:

  1. Stick with right-hander Blake Treinen, who pitched a scoreless seventh on just nine pitches, is the Dodgers’ most experienced multi-inning reliever, with no discernible splits.
  2. Turn to Julio Urías, three days after he pitched four innings in Game 5 of the NLDS, and lined up to start Game 4 of the NLCS three days from now.
  3. Use left-hander Justin Bruihl, who is much better against lefties than righties, and would eventually have to face switch-hitter Ozzie Albies, who is great against southpaws. Bruihl retired all three batters he faced in Game 1, including Rosario and Freeman, but didn’t face Albies.


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Roberts opted for Urías, who closed out last year’s NLCS against the Braves with three perfect innings on two days rest. But on Sunday, his outing didn’t go as well.

Rosario singled, then advanced to second on a flyout. Albies brought him home on a single to short right, buoyed by a poor, bouncing throw from Steven Souza Jr. and an excellent slide by Rosario at home plate. Souza was in right field because Mookie Betts moved to center after Lux was double-switched out fo the game when Treinen entered.

Then Game 1 hero Austin Riley doubled to the centerfield wall, scoring Albies with the tying run.

The Dodgers tried a win-now move, but didn’t get the win. Now they potentially have consequences down the road, aside from a 2-0 series deficit.

If they need a rubric for how a pitcher might perform on only two days rest after a high-leverage relief appearance — which will be the case when Urías starts Game 4, as Roberts reiterated Sunday night — they can look at Max Scherzer’s start in Game 2.


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Wally Skalij/LA Times

Scherzer was pushed back an extra day to Sunday, giving him an extra day of rest after saving the final game of the NLDS. He was on board with the plan, noting how he’d never started on one day of rest but had with two days rest, coincidentally against the Dodgers in the 2019 NLDS.

Scherzer struck out seven of his 18 batters faced, but was also laboring, at 79 pitches with one out and one on in the fifth inning. In a 2-2 tie, manager Dave Roberts walked to the mound to pull Scherzer, who didn’t even protest, looking very much like a pitcher in his fourth high-intensity game — 15 of the 18 innings he’s pitched had the Dodgers either tied or separated by one run — in the last 12 days.

My arm was dead,” Scherzer told reporters after the game. “I could tell when I was warming up.”

The two runs Scherzer allowed came on a rocket home run by Joc Pederson, into the second-deck Chop House area in right field. Pederson has connected with Atlanta thanks to three playoff home runs in relatively limited duty. But he wasn’t the only former Dodgers draft pick to hit his 12th career postseason home run on Sunday.

Seager hit a home run off Ian Anderson in the first inning to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead just two batters into the game.

Seager’s biggest power burst in his transcendent 2020 postseason came in the NLCS, with five home runs and two doubles against Atlanta. Seager in the first seven games this postseason hit three doubles, including one in each of the previous two games, but this was his first October home run in 2021.

The Dodgers made Ian Anderson work even after the two quick runs, putting two runners on in both the first and third innings. They weren’t able to score any of them, but the traffic was enough to get Anderson out of the game after just three innings.

But despite facing six innings of the Atlanta bullpen, the Dodgers scored only twice more, and they seemed fortunate to do even that.

The Dodgers, similar to their struggles all postseason, were hitless in their first eight at-bats with runners in scoring position, leaving runners on base in four of the first six innings. They finally broke through in the seventh, an eight-batter frame that featured only one ball hit into play.

Two walks, one intentional, and a hit by pitch loaded the bases with two outs for Chris Taylor, playing third base in place of Justin Turner, who suffered a neck stinger on Saturday. Taylor flared a ball to centerfield that eluded Guillermo Heredia for a double, scoring two to break the tie.

Betts, who scored the first of two runs on the play, got into scoring position by stealing his second base of the night. The Dodgers stole four bases in Game 2, tying a franchise record done three other times. In eight postseason games the Dodgers are 11 for 11 in steals this postseason, after stealing 65 bases during the entire regular season.

The Dodgers finished 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, but also only had four hits in the game. Overall, L.A. is hitting .233/.304/.361, and averaging 3.38 runs per game. If they don’t improve that soon, the season will end.


Game 2 Boxscore:


WP: Will Smith (2-0)

LP: Brusdar Graterol (0-1)

HR: Corey Seager (1); Joc Pederson (3)


Walker Buehler starts on six days rest on Tuesday afternoon  at Dodger Stadium. Charlie Morton is on the same rest for the Braves. First pitch is at 2:08 on TBS.


Game 1:


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Wally Skalij /LA Times

The Dodgers offense didn’t take advantage of opportunities and paid the price when Austin Riley singled home Ozzie Albies for a walk-off, 3-2 win for the Braves, taking Game 1 of the NLCS at Truist Park in Atlanta.

Riley was at the plate for all three Atlanta runs on Saturday, including a solo home run in the fourth inning, his second of the postseason. The winning run scored after Albies reached on a fly ball single with one out in the ninth off Blake Treinen, then stole second base to set the stage for Riley’s walk-off.

The first inning was similar, in that Eddie Rosario singled and stole second off Corey Knebel, though Rosario might have been out had shortstop Corey Seager kept the tag as he slid slightly off the bag. A grounder got Rosario to third, then he scored on a wild pitch for the game’s first run. With Riley at the plate.

Atlanta only had six hits, didn’t walk, and had just one at-bat with a runner in scoring position before Riley’s walk-off single. They maximized their scoring opportunities off a Dodgers bullpen game that did pretty much everything the team wanted, allowing three runs while striking out 14 batters.

The Dodgers on offense though weren’t as effective with their chances.

Will Smith hit his third home run in seven games this postseason, the most ever in a single postseason by a Dodgers catcher. AJ Pollock doubled and Chris Taylor singled for another run.


Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The best chance to score late came in the seventh when Taylor doubled to lead off the frame. Pinch-hitter Austin Barnes bunted Taylor to third with one out with the top of the order coming up, but Mookie Betts popped out and Trea Turner struck out against Tyler Matzek to waste the golden opportunity.

In the ninth, a walk by Taylor with two outs was followed by a single to right by pinch-hitter Cody Bellinger. Taylor had designs on advancing to third but inexplicably stopped a third of the way between bases. Had he kept going, Joc Pederson’s low throw likely wouldn’t have caught him. But instead, the throw was cut off, and Taylor was a dead duck, ending the inning in a rundown.

The Dodgers had 10 hits in the game, including eight off starter Max Fried, and even stole two bases themselves. But Taylor’s second-inning single was L.A.’s only hit with runners in scoring position all game, in eight at-bats.

We threw out some hits, we just couldn’t get the hit when we needed,” manager Dave Roberts told reporters after the game.

Through seven games, the Dodgers are averaging just 3.29 runs per game, and have scored three or fewer runs five times.


Game 1 Boxscore:


WP: Will Smith (1-0)

LP: Blake Treinen (0-1)

HR: Will Smith (3); Austin Riley (2)


Max Scherzer takes the mound against Ian Anderson in Game 2 of the NLCS. The game is on TBS with the first pitch at 4:30.

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