It’s just one game in May, but beating Dodgers felt ‘huge’ for Braves



Brian Snitker says we’ve yet to see the best of his Braves. I can’t argue with the manager on that point. His pitching staff has been hit hard by injuries. All-Star third baseman Austin Riley hasn’t hit like usual for a month and two outfielders haven’t hit much at all.

It’s hard to get on a roll when the team’s not whole and a third of the lineup is scuffling. Those are reasons to not make too much of this series against the Dodgers at Truist Park. Also, it’s only May and the Braves lead the NL East with the mediocre Mets not making up any ground.

Still, losing three straight games against Dodgers wouldn’t be a good look. The Braves previously were swept by the Astros and Blue Jays. If the Braves truly are NL contenders, then they need to start beating good teams no matter the circumstances.

That’s how the Braves feel about it, too, judging by their mood after their walk-off, 4-3 victory on Wednesday.

“It was really good,” Riley said. “Especially the way the first two went and going into big series with Philly. Just kind of try to build momentum and that’s a good start to do that.”



The Braves won when Ozzie Albies hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field to score Riley, who’d reached base with his second double of the night. The Braves gave back leads of 1-0 and 3-1 before finally putting away the Dodgers. The Phillies are in town for four games beginning Thursday before the Braves spend next week in Oakland and Arizona.

The Braves (30-19) still have the best record in the NL by the slimmest of percentage points over the Dodgers (31-20). It will be hard to hold that edge so long as starting pitchers Max Fried and Kyle Wright remain on the injured list. It helps that right-hander Bryce Elder has proven to be reliable in his 19 major-league starts.

The Braves had their three best available starters lined up to face the Dodgers. Elder ended up having the best results with one run allowed over seven innings. Charlie Morton got hit hard in the series opener. Spencer Strider struck out 11 batters on Tuesday but was weighed down by two unearned runs.

Dodgers right-hander Tony Gonsolin started the finale and gave up three runs on two homers over 5 2/3 innings and nothing else. Gonsolin retired the first 10 batters he faced and just one of them, Riley, hit the ball hard. Matt Olson finally got to Gonsolin with a home run to right field that traveled an estimated 456 feet. That ended Gonsolin’s scoreless steak at 14 innings.



The Dodgers scored two runs off reliever Nick Anderson in the eighth inning for a 3-3 tie. Riley ripped a double against right-hander Phil Bickford to lead off the Braves ninth. Ozzie Albies fought off three foul balls with two strikes before lifting a fly ball that was too deep for right fielder Mookie Betts to make a play on Riley at the plate.

“We needed that ‘W’ big because we had two losses,” Albies said. “To come back and win that game is huge for the team.”

We’ll see if the victory starts a run for the Braves. They last won three straight games from May 6-9. The Braves are 5-8 since then while winning two in a row once. The injuries to Wright and Fried explain some of their troubles, but the Dodgers have missing starters, too. They won two of three games by wearing down Braves pitchers and getting on base.

Braves 4, Dodgers 3

The Braves struggled to score despite facing rookie pitchers Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller in the first two games. After scoring four runs against the Dodgers in the first inning of the opener, the Braves scored just three runs over the next 20 innings. Gonsolin was tough, too, but the Braves squeezed out the one run they needed to avoid the sweep.

The Braves usually score enough runs to win when the opponent isn’t the Dodgers, so producing a long winning stretch likely will come down to pitching. It won’t be easy. The Phillies are an average offensive team, but they are set to face the back end of Atlanta’s depleted rotation in the first two games of the series.

The Braves will recall rookie Dylan Dodd from Triple-A to start against the Phillies on Thursday. He’s posted a 6.46 ERA on three big-league appearances this season. Another rookie, Jared Shuster, is scheduled to start Friday. His last appearance was the best of his four but he’s carrying a 5.49 ERA.

The Braves may not be able to sustain long stretches of winning baseball until Fried and Wright are healthy. Meanwhile, they’ll try to grind out more victories like they did against the Dodgers in the finale. It was just one game in May, but it felt like more than that.