Dodgers @ Braves October 8, 2018: NLDS Game 4


The Braves (1-2) staved off elimination in the National League Division series with a home win over the Dodgers (2-1) Sunday night, forcing a Game 4. Now the Dodgers look to Rich Hill to get them back to the National League Championship series to take on the Milwaukee Brewers.

1:30 PM
Acuña Jr.
Bellinger CF Inciarte
Hill (L)
Foltynewicz (R)

No one said it was going to be easy. It looked as if it was going to be at first after the Dodgers shut out the Braves in Game 1 and 2 in Los Angeles. The Braves, perhaps feeling more comfortable in front of a home crowd in Game 3, avoided the sweep despite losing a 5-0 lead to the Dodgers who rallied back to tie it up.

The Atlanta lineup took advantage of rookie Walker Buehler‘s command issues in a disastrous five-run second inning, capped off by a historic Ronald Acuña Jr. grand slam after a rattled Buehler walked opposing pitcher Sean Newcomb on four pitches to force in a run. Acuña Jr. became the youngest player to hit a postseason slam, and the home crowd at SunTrust Park went wild with their annoying and racist Tomahawk Chop chant.

Although the LA offense battled back to tie it up, and Buehler settled down, the Dodgers’ offensive rally wasn’t enough. LA bats went 1-for-9 with RISP and left nine men on base. They were unable to come back a second time, and Freddie Freeman‘s sixth inning go-ahead solo home run off Alex Wood gave Atlanta the 6-5 lead that went unanswered.

After looking dominant in the first two games of the series behind stellar pitching performances by Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers couldn’t muster the same level of pitching performance to silence the bats of the youth movement of the Braves. Atlanta will still be all hands on deck as they face elimination again on Monday afternoon, but the Dodgers are also facing a less than ideal possibility of a winner-take-all Game 5 should the Braves tie up the series. Should it get that far, Kershaw would get the ball.


Game 1 starter and Atlanta ace Mike Foltynewicz, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Sunday, will start for the Braves on three-days rest in Game 4. The Dodgers chased him from the game after two innings in the NLDS opener. He allowed four runs on three hits with five strikeouts and three walks on 50 pitches.

LA will turn to their No. 4 starter, Hill, who last saw action September 30 against the Giants in a game he didn’t even know he was starting in until that morning. He hurled seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out seven on 75 pitches in San Francisco during the three-game sweep that led to Game 163 and the Dodgers’ eventual NL West division championship.

Overall, Hill has pitched well against the Braves in his career and is 5-0 with a 1.74 ERA and 0.964 WHIP in nine games (7 starts). It’ll be his first career start at SunTrust. He’s pitched in five postseason series with the Dodgers including four playoff starts last season (2.55 ERA).

Hill told Andy McCullough of the LA Times that he’s excited to pitch in the postseason for the Dodgers again, but he doesn’t want to get off course in Game 4.

“I’m excited,” Hill said. “We got to win. That’s it. It’s as simple as that. Go out there and attack. Pitch with conviction and have fun.” “They’re very aggressive. One of the things is, for me, not to veer off my game plan and make sure that I’m attacking with my two pitches. And that’s it — changing the shape of my breaking ball and throwing a lot of fastballs. It’s not a big surprise. Just go out there and execute.”

Obviously, the Dodgers look to Hill for a solid start. They also need some guys to step up offensively on the big stage. Manny Machado, a verified superstar with the Baltimore Orioles, has had trouble gaining traction in the National League since joining the Dodgers. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Game 3, and so far he’s 1-for-12 with a homer and seven strikeouts in the series. Manny’s looking for a big deal this winter, but so far there’s been few ‘Manny Moments’  with the Dodgers that would justify it.

Cody Bellinger‘s hitless in nine at-bats, and his fielding error in center field exacerbated Buehler’s second inning problems and set the table for Acuña’s grand slam. But he did also make a fantastic catch at the center field wall to rob Ozzie Albies of an extra-base hit in the fourth frame. Yasiel Puig (.167) and Yasmani Grandal (.125) haven’t carried their regular season success into the postseason so far either. Dave Roberts drops Bellinger to seventh in the lineup with Joc Pederson, leadoff home run king, batting first.

The Dodgers still have the edge in the series, and the Braves have their backs against the wall. Yet there’s no guarantees in the postseason. It’s time to shut the door on the Braves and not let the series spiral out of control.

In Dick Mountain we trust.

About Stacie Wheeler

Stacie Wheeler, born and raised in So Cal, has been writing about the Dodgers since 2010. She wrote daily as the co-editor of Lasorda's Lair for five long years, and she has also written for Dodgers Nation, Dodger Blue 1958 and The Hardball Times. She currently contributes to True Blue LA. Stacie graduated from the University Of Southern California with a bachelor's degree in Cinema-Television. You can also watch her videos on her YouTube channel, DishingUpTheDodgers.