MLB 2021 playoffs – Dodgers in a 0-2 hole, the MVP that doesn’t hit and where a wild and weird NLCS goes from here – .

MLB 2021 playoffs – Dodgers in a 0-2 hole, the MVP that doesn’t hit and where a wild and weird NLCS goes from here – .

ATLANTA – The first two games of the National League Championship series have been thrilling. They were tight and strained. They were dramatic. And, yes, they were a little weird.
The weirdness begins with the most important fact of the weekend: the Atlanta Braves, who have 88 wins, lead 2-0 to the defending champions Los Angeles Dodgers, who have 106 wins. However, we got there, that’s the most important. Much like they did last year, the Braves have put the corporate Dodgers in a hole.

Will it end the same, with the return of the Dodgers to break the hearts of the Braves? Maybe relaxing some of the weirdness will help get a feel for what’s to come.

The Dodgers’ scripted bullpen

To some extent, just about all playoff games are bullpen games at this stage of Strategy Wars. The Dodgers announced they would release their paddock for Saturday’s game opener, and they did, with eight relievers cheating the mound, none having had more than five strikeouts.

The Dodgers lost Game 1, but the ploy worked. The Braves scored just three runs, were struck out 14 times, had six hits and did not shoot a goal. But the three runs were enough for the Braves’ spectacular 3-2 victory over Austin Riley’s ninth inning hit against Blake Treinen.

It was worth it, right?

The Dodgers were yet to feel good about their chances of parting ways with future Hall of Fame member Max Scherzer set to play in Game 2. He would surely give the LA box at least some respite from the turnstile. what their enclosure door looked like. Saturday.

But there was one problem: Scherzer, who threw two days off after knocking out the San Francisco Giants on Thursday, was not Scherzer.

“I would just say my arm was dead,” Scherzer said. “I could tell when I was warming up that he was still tired. “

Scherzer won the 4⅓ innings, giving up only Joc Pederson’s massive two-run homerun in the fourth, but that left plenty of strikeouts for a draw. So Dodgers manager Dave Roberts deployed six more relievers to pass Game 2. And one of them was 20-game winner Julio Urias, who pitched the top of the eighth and gave up the tie-breaker.

Two days. Thirteen pitch changes. A 0-2 hole in the series. Use your Game 4 starter for a full round when at this point there were other options in the reliever pen.

Panic time in Tinseltown?


First off, Roberts pointed out that Urias’ appearance shouldn’t impact his ability to make his previously announced debut in Game 4, largely because Urias doesn’t typically hit a number. high anyway. And the Braves’ launch plan for this game is totally on hold, but it will likely have to be a bullpen or an opener.

Plus, the Dodgers still have Cy Young nominee Walker Buehler lined up to face playoff regular Charlie Morton in Game 3. It’s not a panicky proposition.

“Walker is ready to go,” Roberts said. “He’s got a few more days. So, definitely for the third game, we’re going to lean on him. “

As for Game 5, it could prove to be another reliever game for the Dodgers. But remember: their Saturday bet actually worked. And then in Game 6, they can turn to a fully rested Scherzer. And Buehler would be lined up for a seventh game.

Still, don’t forget the most relevant fact of the weekend:

“That’s kind of how the series went, and I think both teams are in the same situation,” said Roberts. “Apart from the most important factor – that they have a two-game lead against nothing. “

Broken clutch

Also, despite all the attention paid to the Dodgers’ launch plan for the first two games, the main reason they didn’t win a game is probably this:

Two for 18.

It’s the hallmark of the Dodgers with runners in scoring position so far in the NLCS. Two hits, four walks and one hit per pitch with 24 race chances. And they scored three points in those places. The Braves have only scored four, but they have only had eight shots – and they’ve won big, with back-to-back game winners in the ninth inning.

“It’s a matter of approach, and I think there are times in goal position that we stretch [the strike zone] too much, ”said Roberts.

During the regular season, the Dodgers were ninth in the majors with an average of .262 with runners in scoring position, so it’s not like this is a permanent problem. But the concern comes when you look at things at the player level.

The two hits with runners in goal position against Atlanta came off Chris Taylor’s stick, one of which was a two-run double bloop in Game 2 that left the stick at 76 mph and was played poorly in the central field by Guillermo Heredia. No other Dodger has a hit in a scoring situation, going 0 for 15 with eight strikeouts.

Now, those things tend to get magnified in a post-season setting, and the small sample size of a short series means that while 2 for 18 has narrative power, the predictive impact is pretty much nil. That’s what happened; it’s not necessarily going to continue to happen.

With that said, consider this: These Braves pitch personnel have become very adept at bypassing traffic on bases. After Game 2, Atlanta had allowed four hits in 41 batting appearances with runners in scoring position so far in the playoffs. This translates to a batting average of 0.098.

Extreme numbers like .098 and 2-for-18 tend to normalize rather than continue. But for a Dodgers team that is two games behind, they better normalize quickly.

Omaha !

The Braves leaned heavily on their trio of high-leverage main relievers: left-hander Tyler Matzek, right-hander Luke Jackson and closer southpaw Will Smith. Matzek, in fact, pitched in every playoff game. The invoice for this must come due at some point. Law?

“It’s amazing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I mean, he’s a little pissed off when I don’t throw him. It’s like, I could throw all the time. And he always assures me he’s ready to go. He said it’s a luxury that I have is that I can throw. I’m like, well, okay, so we’ll, you know, I’ll introduce you then. “

If ever a quote has put its finger on the difference between the Braves and the Dodgers, this is it.

Atlanta Game 2 starter Ian Anderson came out after three innings because he just wasn’t sharp. Snitker said after the contest that an Anderson-goes-three storyline hadn’t even been discussed.

« Omaha ! »

For the uninitiated, this isn’t a reference to the city but to the audible call made famous by Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. That’s what Snitker did when Anderson came out: he heard.

Of course, Matzke, Jackson, and Smith pitched. The same goes for a few other handovers that didn’t see much action in October. Seven Atlanta relievers combined to give up a hit in six innings – but they walked six.

And yet, Atlanta won. The Braves have won five straight wins now, having lost their first game of the Division Series to the Milwaukee Brewers. Some of their wins just don’t make a lot of sense. But all the same, these are victories.

What will happen to this wild mix in Los Angeles? Who knows? But it feels like while the Dodgers’ small army of analysts are busy right now mapping things at the molecule level, the Braves are just ready to be audible no matter what comes next.

Freddie pounding

And here’s the craziest part of the Braves’ two wins: They got nothing from the franchise’s face, Freddie Freeman. Nothing. Not a thing.

Freeman went 0-for-4 in Game 1, pulling out strikeouts on his four trips to the flat. Then he came out quickly in Game 2 and struck out three more holds. The seven consecutive K’s were the worst streak of his career. Only six players have been knocked out seven in a row in a playoff series, and only David Justice (2001) has eight.

Thankfully, Freeman flew his last time on Sunday, sparing him the ignominy of tying the Mark of Justice. Again, it was the players around Freeman – Eddie Rosario, Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley – who stole the show.

And you know what? This particular section should scare off the Dodgers bejesus. The Braves have won two games without any contribution from their best player.


There isn’t any sort of tangible sense of baseball to be made of it, but if you believe in omens and fate and those imponderables, the Dodgers might also be concerned about the extent to which Joc Pederson’s pearl necklace has become. a talisman for the entire Atlanta baseball community. .

Yes, they do sell plastic replicas at team stores in Truist Park, and before games there have been lines of queues in the lobby. Yes, Pederson keeps everyone loose, bonding around the field in shorts and that collar during batting practice, then hammering a huge home run after games start.

But what does that mean: Braves legend Dale Murphy threw the first pitch before Game 2. First, he ripped off his “Murphy” jersey, revealing an Austin Riley jersey underneath.

Then the finale: Murphy pulled out a string of (presumably) plastic beads to string as he finished his ceremonial speech.

The Joctober thing takes a life on its own. It’s wild. That’s wonderful. And yes, it’s a little weird.


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