LOS ANGELES – The Braves were five outs away from a commanding 3-0 advantage in the National League Championship Series. Instead, they’re in danger of seeing the NLCS evened in the next day.

ExploreMichael Cunningham: L.A. is a house of horrors for Braves

A 5-2 lead was erased with one Cody Bellinger swing off Braves reliever Luke Jackson, who hadn’t allowed a run in the previous six postseason games. A Mookie Betts RBI double off Jesse Chavez put the Dodgers ahead.

The Braves were handed a stunning 6-5 loss Tuesday in Game 3 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium. The tone of the series is much different than it was even in the seventh inning Tuesday, when the Braves seemed headed toward building a near insurmountable series lead.

The city of Atlanta is accustomed to gut-wrenching defeats, but this one seemingly happened in the blink of an eye. While the series is far from concluded, Tuesday was a gigantic missed opportunity. Teams that take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series have won 38 of 39 times. The Braves would’ve had the chance to make it 39 of 40.

Jackson surrendered singles to Will Smith and AJ Pollock in the eighth. Bellinger, who hit the go-ahead homer in Game 7 last year, came up with one out and hammered the fourth pitch he saw – a fastball well above the zone – into the stands to reset the game at 5-5. The Dodger Stadium crowd, quieted for most of the afternoon, was re-engaged.

“Sad thing is I would do the same thing again,” Jackson said. “I was trying to throw a fastball up and away. I actually threw it better than I thought I threw it. Out of my hand, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a ball. It’s too high.’ And no, it wasn’t too high. A good player put a good swing on it. Pretty remarkable.”

Chris Taylor singled off Jackson, who was replaced with Chavez. Taylor stole second and advanced to third on a groundout. Betts doubled off Chavez and the disaster was complete. The Braves went 1-2-3 against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth to finish their 21st loss in their past 25 games in Los Angeles.

“They will be fine; they will come out and they will be ready to play,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of his team. “They’re going to prepare as always. We have lost tough games before and bounced back and done really good things. So this is just one of those games that it’s like, you have to get 27 outs, man. And like I said earlier, you have to make pitches and plays and the whole thing. It just didn’t happen today.”

Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger reacts after hitting a three-run home run off of Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Luke Jackson.  Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com
Caption
Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger reacts after hitting a three-run home run off of Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Luke Jackson. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

While Snitker doesn’t expect a carry-over effect for his team, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts does with his. He admitted his Dodgers were “dead in the water, you could see it” before the eighth-inning sequence. He added: “We just needed that kind of shot in the arm and I’m expecting it to carry over to (Wednesday).”

How the game reached that late pivotal point: The Braves, who were trailing early because of Corey Seager’s two-run homer, struck four times in the fourth to take the lead and (temporarily) quell the energy of the 51,307 fans at Dodger Stadium.

Their comeback started with a single from first baseman Freddie Freeman, who had three hits after beginning the series 0-for-8. Third baseman Austin Riley then drove a pitch to the right-center wall. Dodgers center fielder Gavin Lux – a natural infielder – lost the ball in the sun and botched the catch, resulting in a double for Riley. Freeman moved to third.

Enter Joc Pederson, who spent the past seven seasons with the Dodgers. Pederson singled to right field, scoring Freeman. Outfielder Adam Duvall collected his first RBI of the postseason with an ensuing single that tied the score.

Shortstop Dansby Swanson hit a sharp grounder that bounced off Seager’s glove – the same event that ended Game 2 – and rolled into left field, giving the Braves the lead. A rattled Walker Buehler walked left fielder Eddie Rosario on four pitches with the bases loaded.

Dodgers 6, Braves 5 (box score)

Roberts, who said entering the game that his team would “lean on” Buehler after the bullpen worked a larger load in the first two games, removed his ace after 11 outs. The Dodgers used eight relievers afterwards.

Braves starter Charlie Morton, meanwhile, overcame a rocky start to cover five frames. The veteran walked four in the first inning and needed 69 pitches to get the first nine outs. Yet he settled down and didn’t allow the Dodgers to strengthen their lead for the duration of his start.

“I guess the guys putting some runs up on the board and allowing me some time to figure it out out there because my delivery was a little out of whack,” Morton said. “Just in a game like this, in a place like this, it’s hard to - normal feedback that I would get during an outing where I can kind of make an adjustment. And I think today it was hard to find that.

“It was just more, in this environment and the situation, it was just a little bit tougher. So we bought some time for me to kind of figure it out and unfortunately I just threw too many pitches.”

The Braves will pitch a bullpen game in Game 4 Wednesday as they try to put Tuesday’s mess behind them and take a 3-1 lead. The Dodgers will start lefty Julio Urias.

About the Author

ajc.com

Editors' Picks