5 takeaways after Braves’ NLCS Game 5 loss to Dodgers

Braves center fielder Adam Duvall reacts to striking out during the fourth inning. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com
Caption
Braves center fielder Adam Duvall reacts to striking out during the fourth inning. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

LOS ANGELES – The Braves couldn’t finish the National League Championship Series in Southern California, losing 11-2 to the Dodgers in Game 5. The Braves still lead the series 3-2 and will host Game 6 on Saturday at Truist Park.

ExploreMichael Cunningham: Braves squander two chances, with two to go

Here are five takeaways from Thursday:

1. The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on first baseman Freddie Freeman’s two-run shot off Dodgers opener Joe Kelly. It went downhill from there, with Los Angeles scoring 11 unanswered runs.

Braves starter Max Fried was charged with five runs on eight hits over 4-2/3 innings. He surrendered homers to AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor. Fried’s night ended when he issued a two-out walk to Albert Pujols, which set up Taylor’s second homer off reliever Chris Martin.

“Physically, I felt great,” Fried said. “Just a really good aggressive lineup, hit some pitches over the middle. I wasn’t executing on the corners like I normally do and when you leave the balls over the middle, normally damage happens.”

Fried allowed seven runs on 16 hits in 10-2/3 innings across his two NLCS starts. His next start would be in the World Series, if the Braves get there.

2. One day after the Braves’ bullpen game held the Dodgers to two runs on four hits, the Dodgers’ bullpen game quieted the Braves’ hot offense. The Braves had three hits over the eight innings following Freeman’s home run. The hard-throwing Brusdar Graterol was particularly effective, recording six outs on 14 pitches in the middle of the game.

The game spiraled out of control. The offense couldn’t solve an assortment of Dodgers pitchers. Fried couldn’t complete five innings, and with the team trailing, manager Brian Snitker didn’t turn to his key relievers.

“Max wasn’t sharp and then we just scored the two runs, which we knew these bullpen games are tough, and we knew it was going to be,” Snitker said. “After a while, it just kind of got out of control, obviously. But I think the big thing is if Max was sharp, we were hoping that he could extend the game. Honestly, I was hoping that he would go at least seven innings where we were after the bullpen game (Wednesday) and it didn’t work out that way.”

3. The Braves suffered a brutal loss in Game 3, squandering a three-run lead late that cost them a 3-0 lead in the series. They rebounded to win 9-2 in Game 4. These Braves have proven resilient after every tough moment. They need to do it again to prevent a winner-take-all Game 7.

“I think it will be good to get back home, and it’s a tough row to hoe when we get home,” Snitker said. “But these guys will come out on Friday and then Saturday and they will do like they did (Wednesday). They’re going to prepare, they’re going to give everything they got like they always do.”

4. While the Braves were crushed Thursday, much of the Dodgers’ offense came against relievers the Braves wouldn’t use in competitive games. Lefty Dylan Lee surrendered Taylor’s third home run. Right-hander Jacob Webb gave up four runs.

Luke Jackson, who’s pitched in all but one of the Braves’ postseason games, will have three days rest entering Game 6. Lefty Tyler Matzek, who’d pitched in every playoff game, finally had a day off Thursday. So that duo, along with closer Will Smith, should be fresh for Game 6.

“When we got behind, I wasn’t going to pitch those other guys,” Snitker said. “We rode them really hard to get to where we’re at in this series and probably if we were one run down, I wasn’t going to fire up any of those guys that we’ve been using until we tied the score because we have been using them a lot. We need other - that’s why we have 26 guys, because we need everybody to play a part.”

5. Left fielder Eddie Rosario had two of the Braves’ five hits. He’s been sensational in the NLCS, posting three multi-hit games, including two four-hit efforts. He had a single and double Thursday.

Rosario has 12 hits in the series, putting him two shy of Pujols’ record 14 in 2004.

Dodgers 11, Braves 2 (box score)

Stat to know

1 (The Braves still just need one win to advance to the World Series.)

Quotable

“It’s going to be the narrative it seems because every day it’s brought up the last couple days. So I don’t think we have a choice until we kill that narrative. We’re up 3-2 and we’re going home. That’s a great position to be in.” – Freeman on the “Atlanta sports” storyline

Up next

The NLCS swings back to Atlanta, where the Braves will host Game 6 Saturday. Ian Anderson will start for the Braves.

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