Dodgers’ fifth inning decisions backfire in NLCS Game 2 loss

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The Dodgers were down by seven points at one point on Tuesday. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to examine the anatomy of a rash.But, for the Dodgers, there’s something incredibly painful about this one-point loss, and not just because the Atlanta Braves are halfway through the World Series.

The Dodgers’ 8-7 loss in Game 2 of the National League Championship series required a close look at the fifth inning. In one game they rallied and ultimately lost by one point, it was a set in which they gave up four, amid a series of questionable decisions.

Tony Gonsolin, the Dodgers starting pitcher, was making his first appearance in 17 days. The Dodgers seemed to react slowly when he lost command.

He completed the first three innings, nine up, nine down, on 28 throws. He needed 33 shots to escape the fourth inning, giving up two runs, one walk and two hits – including Freddie Freeman’s home run – to put the Dodgers in a 2-0 hole.

The Dodgers were hoping Gonsolin could last another round, facing the bottom of the Braves roster.

Austin Riley withdrew, but on a full count. Nick Markakis walked 10 lengths and TV cameras showed reliever Blake Treinen rushing to get ready. Cristian Pache smashed a fastball into the left corner, Markakis scoring for a 3-0 lead.

Gonsolin said fatigue did not set in, but lost sharpness on his slider and splitter.

“I was trying a little too hard to make him too mean,” he says.

By that time, Gonsolin had made 22 pitches against three hitters, with a three-ball count on each. The Braves lineup has shifted to the top. The Dodgers had been careful this season to avoid using Gonsolin on a third trip to the roster.

With a 2-0 deficit, Roberts said, he might have called Treinen. With a 3-0 deficit, he didn’t.

“To think about bringing one of your most influential relievers in the fifth inning, in a three-point deficit game, just doesn’t make sense,” said Roberts.

Nor ask an erratic Gonsolin to confront Ronald Acuna. Gonsolin threw one strike, then four straight balls, one of which bounced outside the left-handed batter’s box and another sailed past the left box. Acuna defeats the righties.

That brought Freeman, the Braves’ leading hitter, with two homers in his first six batting of the series. The situation begged Adam Kolarek, the left-handed Dodgers specialist. As Kolarek warms up, the Dodgers look to right-hander Pedro Baez.

If there had been two strikeouts instead of one, the Dodgers could have summoned Kolarek, hoped he would take out Freeman to complete the inning, then use Baez to start the sixth inning. However, the new three-hitter rule would have forced Kolarek to face Freeman and next hitter, right-hander Marcell Ozuna.

“You’re put in a tough spot with this three batting rule,” Roberts said.

In came Baez, who gave up one, two walks and a sacrificial fly. By then, the Dodgers were trailing 6-0. They eventually lost by one point, after Kolarek gave up a point in a clean-up round.

This begs the question of why Kolarek is on the list in the first place.

The Dodgers looked awesome to have him included on their roster last October, at least in the first three games of the Division Series against the Washington Nationals. Kolarek had one goal: to neutralize the Nationals’ leading hitter, Juan Soto, who beats the southpaw.

In the first game, Kolarek knocked out Soto. In Game 2, Kolarek pushed him to retire. In Game 3, Kolarek hit him again.

Kolarek hasn’t faced any other hitter. However, in the decisive fifth game, the Dodgers rounded him twice: in the eighth inning for Clayton Kershaw, who retired from a home run tied against Soto; and in the 10th for Joe Kelly, who beat Soto in front of the Grand Slam of Howie Kendrick.

If all the Dodgers really trust Kolarek for this October, it’s taking a left-handed batsman out for the third in an inning, that’s quite a luxury, even on a 15-man pitching stick. And, while Yogi Berra may not have heard the term “high leverage,” he would know how to pass it on to the Dodgers right now: it’s getting late early.

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