ARLINGTON, Texas – Before the autopsy of the outbreak, which was Game 3 of the National League Champions League on Wednesday night, a reminder: There is no physical reward for winning a baseball game with a huge number of tracks. The Los Angeles Dodgers would benefit in the same way from a 4-3 victory as they did from a 1
Preface over. What the Dodgers did, especially in the 32-minute show they aired in the 11th session, was more than just a win. The Dodgers saved their season in Game 3. The teams that fell 3-0 in a series of seven games are not recovering. Teams that play indiscriminately in the most important matches of the year do not win championships. And these Dodgers, as talented as they are, summarized as they built in the regular season 43-17, are reluctant to fall into another list of failures.
“We know who we are,” said first baseman Max Munsey.
Who they are depends on what they will achieve in the next two weeks. Here are the Dodgers in Wednesday’s first inning: a smashing crew that not only broke records, but the will of the team that had beaten them twice in a row. The frantic Los Angeles raged by Braves rookie Kyle Wright was fast, raw, and unusual. Never before has a team scored 11 tracks in a post-season inning, let alone the first, and Wright has been responsible for seven of them. His ERA for the game resembles an FM radio station: 94.50, playing hits.
The Dodgers’ last 10 runs came with two outs. They hit three home runs during the inning, limited by a grand slam from Muncie, who was in second base for the second out. They set all sorts of team records and seemed ready to challenge a few records after the season, but failed to collect mileage in the last six innings.
Even so, the Dodgers got what they needed for both victory and a resurgent sense of superiority. It’s hard to measure, but the psychological boost of a game like Wednesday can’t be ignored. Simple math does not reflect the difference between down 3-0 and down 2-1. One is the TL-30 safe for amateur crackers. The other is a lock with a key glued to the back.
And now he has to grab Clayton Kershaw. His ghost hovered over Game 3. Kershaw had to start Game 2 for the Dodgers until his back was conquered. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts named him better and ready to play Game 4 on Thursday. And as the Brave face the prospect of throwing Bryz Wilson – he from two starts and 15⅔ innings this season – against the best stoma of his generation, even Kershaw’s hiccups from last year can’t dampen the good vibes emanating from the Dodgers after Game 3.
All of them, from Roberts to Corey Seeger (3 for 4 with host) to Jock Pederson (4 for 6 with homer), quoted the ninth inning of Game 2 when Los Angeles set four tracks and turned a burst of Braves into a one-time loss, as turning point. It feels like a story that a combat team sells on its own. Perhaps the real answer is that LA scored its 19 runs between the two games of Josh Tomlin, Wright and Grant Dayton, who dropped out of the final eight in Game 3.
Anyway. Just as victory is victory, marked mileage is marked mileage, and Braves’s perceived weakness toward this postseason — depth of pitch — can finally be exposed. This is not a death knell for them, nor with a composition that can devastate a pitcher even of the Kershaw clan. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that stopping the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins for five games combined is wildly different from keeping the Dodgers in control for a seven-game streak.
This outburst began at 5:07 p.m. Local time with Mookie Betts, who cut the ball along the line of the third base and pulled out a ball that the review of the replay became a single. Seeger doubled it. After the founding of Justin Turner and Muncie, the Dodgers went double, walk, Homer, Homer, walk, height change, walk, single, hit the field, Grand Slam. During the inning, they hit five balls at over 105 miles per hour. They feasted on fast balls, with six of their seven hits coming from heaters. By the time 17:39 spun and Dayton hit Will Smith, the Dodgers had turned those in the crowd of 10,664 on Globe Life Field, dressed in Braves jerseys, into human mute buttons.
As Atlanta learned last year, there was no answer to such an inning: The Braves had experienced it in the first inning of their “win or go home” game 5 in the divisional series against St. Louis Cardinals. Since this one came with a far better pillow – once again, just in case you forgot, Atlanta still leads this series – it wasn’t nearly as painful. But one would not consider it pleasant.
“Honestly, we’re in better shape than if we dared to lose 7-5,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “We wanted to win the game and everything, but when you look at it, I can say that the last four hours weren’t a lot of fun. If we had to lose the game, that was probably the best way possible.”
It’s a healthy way for Snitker to take one who can, knowing he won’t need to return his ace, Max Fried, back on a short break for Game 5. He still can and then follows the same with Anderson, but another victory ensures that they are both able to do well in this series, so Snitker’s composure against the backdrop of boat racing is not unreasonable.
In the same way, as far as the Dodgers could catch what they did – become the first team in history after the season to put a total of 18 bases in one inning, and the only one to settle five times in the first three innings of a playoff game – their optimism is charged with caution. Of course, they kept intact their entire season, never losing more than two games in a row. Their ability to blow teams to avoid streaks of three games – they overtook rivals 29-12 in four games of the regular season to guard against such sliders – is just as impressive. They would also be the third team to ever win the NLCS after falling behind 2-0 – and the last time it happened was 35 years ago.
The Dodgers last won the World Series 32 years ago, so doing things that haven’t been done in decades is now on their checklist. Their last step towards this involves doing things that have not been done in history. That’s what they want to be the Dodgers.
But who are they? We’ll find out soon enough.