“I had no idea he’d go that long,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That was remarkable, what he did.”
The Dodgers managed one hit off Minter. Seven of them struck out. The final five hitters to face him went: strikeout swinging, strikeout swinging, strikeout looking, strikeout looking and strikeout looking. At least Betts, the last batter to fail against Minter, could say he got fooled by a changeup. The two before him, Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor, had stared at fastballs. Had the proud Dodgers given up?
Answer: no. The first batter after the Braves' lead shrank from 3-0 to 2-0 was Corey Seager. He greeted Tyler Matzek, Minter’s replacement, with a home run to center. Cristian Pache came close to pulling it back, but not close enough.
The score held at 2-1 until the sixth. Betts legged out an infield single. One out later, Justin Turner bounced into an odd fielder’s choice, Betts being tagged out after getting caught between second and third. Shane Greene was pulled so Will Smith, lefty pitcher, could face Max Muncy, lefty hitter. Smith threw five sliders. Muncy took all five. The count full, Smith threw a fastball. It missed. Two on, two out. Up stepped … er, Will Smith.
The hitting Smith took the same course. He took the first five Smith pitches. Again he threw a fastball on 3-2. The hitting Smith dropped the head of his bat on it and changed the game.
Said Snitker of his Will Smith: “I have every confidence in him. It happens. It’s baseball. We’ll give him the ball maybe the same situation tomorrow.”
Suddenly in front, the Dodgers moved further ahead, albeit oddly. With two out in the seventh, plate umpire Dan Iassogna ruled that Jacob Webb’s pitch had struck Taylor’s hand. Replay proved it hadn’t. Taylor then drove a double into left field. Betts singled to right to make it 5-2. Seager homered yet again for two more. The night had gone south, not to mix geographic metaphors, in a New York minute.
This marked the first time in 10 playoff games the Braves had led without winning. That it came on what was shaping up to be a night of deliverance deepened the hurt. But there’s another game to be played, and it was scheduled to begin 15 hours after Game 5 ended.
Friday night was a bummer. If nothing else, though, the Braves had made it through the two bridge games – the ones requiring starts by Wilson and Minter – with a split. They still lead the series. They still have two chances to win once. And with Max Fried and Ian Anderson, both on full rest, available to start them, you still have to like those chances.