After the emotional and thrilling five-game NLDS series win against the rival Giants, the Dodgers had to move on mentally to the NLCS for a rematch against the Braves, who they beat in an emotional, thrilling seven-game series last year.
Well, it started out emotionally tonight as well in Atlanta as the Dodgers lost on a walk-off, 3-2.
Pitched as The Opener™ by most, Corey Knebel was basically just the starter for a bullpen game, a familiar sight for Dodgers fans this year.
The game didn’t start ideally with Eddie Rosario looping a single to right, and even though a strikeout followed, Rosario also ended up stealing second on it. A routine ground out didn’t seem like a big deal, but it moved Rosario to third, and he scored on a wild pitch with Austin Riley at the plate to make it 1-0 for the Braves. Riley struck out to end the inning, but the damage was in.
Fire the laser!— MLB (@MLB) October 17, 2021
Austin powers one out! pic.twitter.com/23KdmEwWgd
The Braves countered with their ace, Max Fried, which did put the pressure on them to win the game as it would be their biggest advantage in the series.
A scoring threat started early for the Dodgers after a two-out double by Corey Seager, though it wasn’t taken advantage of as Justin Turner struck out to end the 1st. Fried got two outs to start the 2nd as well, but then AJ Pollock got things started with a double and Chris Taylor immediately cashed it in with a single to tie the game, 1-1.
Also relevant was CT3 stealing second for another shot, but pinch hitter Steven Souza Jr. struck out to end things.
All tied up! pic.twitter.com/xeWlaAxdve— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 17, 2021
After Fried got a scoreless 3rd, he was greeted rudely in the 4th by a red hot Will Smith, who smashed a homer to left for a 2-1 lead.
Phil Bickford took over in the 2nd and pitched into the 3rd, getting all four batters he faced, including three strikeouts. Justin Bruihl entered in relief, getting a strikeout and routine ground out to end the frame, and also started the 4th with a strikeout of Freddie Freeman.
At this point, the guy who was supposed to take a bulk of the innings entered as Tony Gonsolin took the mound, and he did not look great. After a loud fly out to right, Riley then crushed a ball down the line in left to tie the game again at 2-2. Another hard-hit single followed and a ground out got him through the 4th at least. He also got a 1-2-3 inning in the 5th, but other than striking out Fried, he got two very loud outs.
Fried was a bit fortunate himself in the 5th, getting unlucky on a Gonsolin infield single, but then getting a double play on a Betts rocket back up the middle. After a single and stolen base from Trea Turner, Fried struck out Seager to prevent another run. The 6th saw another chance for the Dodgers as JT started the inning with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch with one out. He then got to third after a ground out, but Pollock lined out to end the inning.
It was a bit surprising that Fried was out after six, but he wasn’t at his best and faced trouble all night. So relief ace Tyler Matzek took over in the 7th, but immediately gave up a bloop double down the line in right to CT3. Surprisingly pinch-hitter Austin Barnes sac bunted as the Dodgers played for one run early.
That didn’t work out as planned when Mookie popped foul and Trea struck out to end their best scoring chance.
A big K keeps it tied. pic.twitter.com/8ItBp7ZPgc— MLB (@MLB) October 17, 2021
After Luke Jackson cruised through the 8th, closer Will Smith was brought in for the 9th. He got two quick outs, but then walked CT3. Facing pinch-hitter Cody Bellinger, he gave up a single that would’ve led to another chance, but CT3 made an inexcusable baserunning mistake, stopping halfway between second and third, getting tagged out in a rundown to end the inning.
A wild end to the top of the 9th! 😱 pic.twitter.com/24ZLeIsoLp— MLB (@MLB) October 17, 2021
Back to the Dodgers pen, where Gonsolin only lasted five outs as Dave Roberts didn’t like the look of things, probably correctly. Alex Vesia entered in the 6th, giving up just an infield single to go along with two strikeouts in a scoreless frame. Joe Kelly was then given the 7th and delivered again with two strikeouts in a perfect inning. Another surprise tonight was Kenley Jansen having the 8th, likely for matchup reasons, and he continued to sail along with an eight-pitch frame.
Blake Treinen entered in the 9th, gave up a one-out bloop single to Ozzie Albies, who then stole second and scored on a Riley single to end it.
Max Scherzer faces Ian Anderson tomorrow in Game 2 of the NLCS at 1:38 PM HT/4:38 PM PT/7:38 PM ET on TBS, which on paper is a great matchup for the Dodgers and exactly what people said last year when they went down 2-0 to the Braves.