Braves Take 2-0 Series Lead, Defeat Dodgers 8-7

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Braves 8, Dodgers 7

The Atlanta Braves took a commanding 2-0 lead in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a thrilling 8-7 win on Tuesday night. The Braves were led by NL MVP candidate Freddie Freeman—who recorded two hits, a home run, and three RBI—and held off a late Dodgers rally. As a result, Atlanta is just two wins away from securing the franchise’s first World Series appearance since 1999.

Braves Offense Stays Hot

Just as he did in Game One, Freeman opened the scoring with a home run. In Monday’s contest, it was a solo homer off Dodgers ace Walker Buehler in the first inning. This time, it was a two-run shot in the fourth inning off Tony Gosolin — who was pitching in the place of Clayton Kershaw.

“He keeps showing why he’s the MVP,” Braves closer Mark Melancon said. “Freddie is one of the most consistent players I’ve ever played against, played with, or been around. If there was one word to sum him up, it’s consistency.”

The Braves didn’t stop there, as they tallied four more runs in the fifth inning. With Gonsolin still on the mound for Los Angeles, Braves outfielder Nick Markakis drew a one-out walk. Then, center fielder Cristian Pache came to the plate and drove a 96 mph fastball to the left-field wall, picking up his first career postseason hit and RBI. Gonsolin proceeded to walk right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. With his starter on the ropes, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was forced to go to his bullpen. First out of the chute was Pedro Baez. However, things didn’t go as planned, as Baez gave up a run-scoring hit to Freeman, walked a run in, and gave up a sacrifice fly to push the Braves lead to 6-0.

Atlanta would add a couple of insurance runs courtesy of a Dansby Swanson RBI double in the seventh inning and an Ozzie Albies home run in the ninth. Those runs proved to be crucial in the late innings.

Ian Anderson Continues to Dazzle

The Braves have been led by their young rotation in the 2020 postseason, and that continued in Game Two. 22-year-old Ian Anderson took the mound for Atlanta and continued his impressive rookie campaign. Anderson wasn’t as sharp as he has been in previous outings—throwing only 48 strikes on 85 pitches and walking five—but he managed to strike out five and allow just one hit in four shutout innings. This was Anderson’s third straight postseason start without allowing a run. As a result, he joins Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson as the only pitchers to go at least four innings and not allow a run in each of their first three career postseason games.

With that said, he did receive some help from his defense in the first inning. With two on and two out, Dodgers catcher Will Smith roped an 88 mph changeup to third base. But instead of the Dodgers having an early 1-0 lead, Braves third baseman Austin Riley made an impressive snag, and Freeman showed off his footwork at first base to keep the game scoreless.

“Riley made a fantastic play, and Freddie on the other end showing why he’s got that Gold Glove,” Anderson said. “That was pretty fantastic. It definitely settled me down that we were able to get out of that jam, and that went a long way to help me get through the innings that I got through.”

Dodgers Rally Comes up Just Short

Despite trailing 7-0 in the seventh inning, the Dodgers didn’t go away quietly. Designated hitter Joc Pederson and second baseman Chris Taylor started the seventh with back-to-back singles off Braves reliever Darren O’day, before right fielder Mookie Betts struck out. Atlanta then called upon lefty A.J. Minter to face the left-handed bat of Corey Seager. On a 2-1 count, Seager wasn’t phased by an 89 mph cutter and deposited the pitch over the left-center wall to trim Atlanta’s lead to 7-3.

Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth, and the Dodgers trail 8-3 with Josh Tomlin on the mound for Atlanta. Tomlin struck out Taylor but allowed three hits to the next four batters, including a two-run home run by first baseman Max Muncy to make the game 8-6. This forced the Braves to bring in closer Mark Melancon. But an error by Albies and an RBI triple by center fielder Cody Bellinger put the tying run at third and the winning run at the plate. However, Melancon retired left fielder A.J. Pollock on a ground ball to third to end the game and thwart the Dodgers rally.

“This is a good ballclub we’re playing, and they’re explosive, as we saw,” Snitker said. “I didn’t feel good with a big lead because these guys are too powerful. But that’s a good ballgame to win. They all are now. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot there at the end, and Melancon did a great job coming in.”

Pressure Now on Los Angeles

After dropping the first two games, the Dodgers have put themselves in a deep hole. Obviously, this series is far from over, but Los Angeles cannot afford to fall into an 0-3 deficit. To say Wednesday’s game is a “must-win” is probably an understatement. The good news for Los Angeles is that they haven’t lost three straight games all year. They’ll hope that stays the case in a crucial Game Three.

One positive the Dodgers can take into Game Three is the fact that they scored seven runs in the last three innings against a stingy Atlanta bullpen. For a lineup that had scored one run through the first 15 innings, this was a good sign moving forward.

“Us showing some life offensively late was very good to see,” said Roberts. “For us to get Melancon in the game in a game like this, down 7-0, was big. To see some of their other [bullpen] arms we hadn’t seen yet I felt was important. The home run by Corey going the other way I felt was an exhale for everybody. Then in the ninth inning, we took some good at-bats and put some runs on the board. So, I definitely think that’s some momentum we can take into tomorrow.”

Next Up

Atlanta will look to take a 3-0 series lead on Wednesday as they send Kyle Wright (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 IP) to the mound. The Dodgers will counter with Julio Urias (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 8 IP) in a must-win game. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Eastern and will be televised on FS1.

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