The Los Angeles Dodgers are facing elimination and hoping for more production from their hitters Thursday when they face the Atlanta Braves, trailing 3-1 in the National League Championship Series.
Wednesday’s 9-2 loss was the sixth time the Dodgers have been held to three runs or less in their 10 postseason games in 2021, including two of the four games against Atlanta.
With left-hander Max Fried pitching for the Braves in Game 5 Thursday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said first baseman Albert Pujols will make his second start of the series and third of the 2021 postseason. Pujols was hitless in three at-bats against Fried in the 3-2 loss in Game 1 on Saturday.
Cody Bellinger will start in center field after starting at first base the previous three games.
Roberts did not disclose who would replace Justin Turner, who left Game 4 with an injury, at third base. Turner suffered what Roberts said was a grade 2 left hamstring strain running to first base in the seventh inning and will be sidelined for the remainder of the postseason.
Chris Taylor moved from center field to replace Turner at third base in Wednesday’s game.
The Dodgers will have their second bullpen game of the series Thursday as they begin their quest to become the 15th MLB team in 90 attempts to overcome a 3-1 deficit. In Game 1 Saturday, eight Dodger pitchers allowed three runs and six hits, struck out 14 and did not walk a batter.
Fried allowed two runs and eight hits in six innings Saturday, striking out five with no walks.
The Dodgers also trailed Atlanta 3-1 in the 2020 NLCS, winning the final three games, and then defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series.
The Dodgers have won their last six games when they were facing elimination — the final three games of the 2020 NLCS, the 2021 NL wild-card game and their final two games of their 2021 National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants.
“No one needs to really tell anyone that we can do it,” Dodger outfielder AJ Pollock said Wednesday. “We’ve done it. We’ve been here. Obviously we got to grind tomorrow, but we win tomorrow, we’re not in a bad spot.”
On Wednesday, Julio Urías, pitching for the fourth time in 12 days, allowed three solo home runs over the first three innings, the first time he allowed three home runs in a game since June 2, 2016.
Urías, MLB’s winningest pitcher in the regular season with 20 victories, allowed five runs and eight hits over five innings in his first loss since June 21.
“I don’t think he was necessarily tired,” Roberts said. “He was throwing 95 miles an hour in the fifth inning. I think the stuff was good. I think they had a very good game plan for him.”
Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall hit back-to-back homers off Urías in the second inning and Freddie Freeman homered leading off in the third inning. Rosario tripled with two outs in the third inning and scored two batters later on a single by Joc Pederson, who played for the Dodgers from 2014-20.
The Braves increased their lead to 5-0 in the fifth inning. Ozzie Albies led off with a single, moved to third on Rosario’s one-out single and scored on Adam Duvall’s sacrifice fly.
The Dodgers didn’t have a baserunner until Corey Seager drew a full-count walk from Braves starter Drew Smyly with one out in the fourth inning.
Turner singled with one out in the fifth inning for the Dodgers’ first hit. Bellinger hit the next pitch for a single, advancing Turner to third.
Chris Martin relieved Smyly and retired Taylor on a flyout on his first pitch for the second out. Bellinger stole second. Pollock’s pinch-hit single drove in Turner and Bellinger.
Following Pollock’s hit, the Dodgers only had one hit over the final 3 1/3 innings, a pinch-hit single by Pujols leading off the seventh inning. Turner, the next batter after Pujols, hit into a double play.
Atlanta added four runs in the ninth. Dansby Swanson led off with a single, stole second and scored on Freeman’s ground-rule double. Rosario hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning to conclude a four-hit night, becoming the first player in postseason history with two homers, a triple and a single in one game.
Smyly was credited with the victory, allowing two runs and two hits over 3 1/3 innings, striking out two and walking one in his first appearance since Oct. 2.
“I think what Drew did was awesome, just stretching like he did,” manager Brian Snitker said after the Braves moved within one victory of reaching the World Series for the first time since 1999. “Honestly, I didn’t expect him to stay in that game that long.”
Snitker opted for a bullpen game and initially planned to start right-hander Huascar Ynoa. However, Ynoa experienced right shoulder discomfort while playing catch early Wednesday afternoon and was removed from the roster. He will not be eligible to play in the World Series should Atlanta advance.
Jesse Chavez started in Ynoa’s place and retired all three batters he faced, then was lifted for a pinch hitter.
The six Atlanta pitchers limited the Dodgers to four hits before a crowd at Dodger Stadium announced at 53,025.
The victory ended the Braves’ 10-game losing streak at Dodger Stadium, which included two games of a National League Division Series in 2018.
The loss was the Dodgers’ second in their last 20 games at Dodger Stadium.