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2021 MLB playoffs: Five things that must happen for Dodgers to come back from NLCS deficit vs. Braves

Two video games, two walk-offs, and a 2-0 collection lead for the Atlanta Braves over the Los Angeles Dodgers within the 2021 NLCS. The Braves are solely the second group ever to win Video games 1 and a couple of of a League Championship Collection on walk-offs, becoming a member of the 1969 Baltimore Orioles. Austin Riley and Eddie Rosario offered walk-off singles identical to Paul Blair and Curt Motton for the O’s again within the day. 

“We received large hits,” Braves supervisor Brian Snitker mentioned following Recreation 2. “I imply, all of them. [Rosario], Joc (Pederson), Austin. I imply, that is what it takes to win these video games, and I imply, they’re onerous video games to win, however [Rosario] had a very nice night.”

For the Dodgers, some perspective is so as: Los Angeles hasn’t hit, the bullpen has blown up twice, they’ve made a number of dopey errors on the bases and within the area, and but Video games 1 and a couple of nonetheless got here right down to the ultimate at-bat. You may slice it each methods (Freddie Freeman will not preserve placing out eternally, for instance), however the Dodgers have been in each video games proper to the very finish.

That mentioned, two losses are two losses, and a 2-0 collection deficit is daunting. Traditionally, groups that took a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven went on to win the collection 84 % of the time. The Dodgers erased a 2-0 deficit (and a 3-1 deficit) to beat the Braves in final yr’s NLCS, so it is a been right here, carried out that state of affairs. Beating an 88-win group 4 occasions within the subsequent 5 video games will not be straightforward although.

“I feel two innings — clearly they’ve had two large innings to take the lead — and the collection may very well be flipped,” Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts mentioned after Recreation 2. “So I simply, like I mentioned earlier than, our guys are ready to play by way of October.”

The NLCS now shifts to Dodger Stadium the place the Dodgers have gained 10 of their final 11 video games in opposition to the Braves, together with sweeping a three-game collection in late August and early September this yr. Listed below are 5 issues that should occur for Los Angeles to make a comeback from down 2-0 to beat the Braves for the second straight postseason. 

1. Buehler dominates in Recreation 3

Los Angeles misplaced Video games 1 and a couple of to the Braves in final yr’s NLCS, then got here out and scored 11 runs within the first inning in Recreation 3. That is clearly an outlier and never one thing anybody ought to depend on occurring once more. What the Dodgers additionally obtained in Recreation 3 was an amazing begin from Julio Urías. He allowed only one run in 5 innings after being staked to that massive lead.

The trail to an NLCS comeback begins on the mound with Walker Buehler shutting the Braves down in Recreation 3, giving the offense a while to construct a lead and breath a bit. Buehler is a Cy Young candidate (if not the favourite) and he pitched nicely in his lone begin in opposition to the Braves through the common season, holding them to 2 runs in seven innings on Aug. 31.

Buehler will begin Recreation 3 with two further days of relaxation after beginning Recreation 4 of the NLDS on quick relaxation final Tuesday. He was excellent in that begin, although the Dodgers restricted him to 71 pitches. Buehler must be good for a full begin in Recreation 3, and he is confirmed himself to be a big-game pitcher (2.50 ERA in 13 profession postseason begins). The Dodgers want one other gem Tuesday.

2. The RISP tide should flip

Two video games into the NLCS, the Dodgers are 2 for 18 with runners in scoring place, and Chris Taylor has each hits. He’s 2 for 3 with runners in scoring place and the remainder of the Dodgers are 0 for 15. They’ve turned 25 baserunners into solely six runs in these two video games in opposition to the Braves. Clearly no comeback will occur with out that bettering.

“I feel on this in that specific occasion it is an method factor,” Roberts mentioned following Recreation 2. “It is an method factor and I feel that sure occasions in scoring place we’re increasing an excessive amount of.”  

The Dodgers are a house run offense (their 237 homers have been fourth most in MLB), but eight video games into their postseason, they’ve hit solely seven residence runs. The Braves are a house run group too (they hit 239 homers this yr) and so they have solely six homers in six postseason video games, although they have been capable of get that large non-homer hit in Video games 1 and a couple of. The Dodgers are nonetheless ready.

Curiously sufficient, the Dodgers have taken a extra aggressive method this postseason. Through the common season their offense had the fourth-lowest swing fee (45.4 %) and the ninth-lowest strikeout fee (22.9 %) in baseball. By eight postseason video games they’ve swung at 49.4 % of the pitches they’ve seen, and their strikeout fee is right down to 21.7 %. 

“We’re,” Roberts mentioned when requested whether or not the Dodgers are deliberately being extra aggressive following Recreation 1. “… Simply attempting to win and struggle, win pitches, and provides ourselves an opportunity. You give your self an opportunity, then it is higher than punching. So I assumed we have been doing a a lot higher job of that.”

The Dodgers had six two-strike hits in opposition to Max Fried in Recreation 1 — Fried held hitters to a .160 batting common in two-strike counts through the common season — although they have been scattered, and did not result in many runs. They struck out 10 occasions in Recreation 2 but scored 4 runs, their third highest whole in eight postseason video games, thanks largely to 9 — 9! — walks.

There’s one thing to be mentioned for having the willingness and skill to make changes, significantly when the stakes are highest within the postseason, although maybe the Dodgers ought to revert again to the ultra-patient method that labored so nicely within the common season? Possibly the walks and strikeouts in Recreation 2 are a sign that’s already occurring. We’ll see.

Both manner, the Dodgers have carried out good work creating alternatives to attain within the NLCS. They’ve gone down 1-2-3 solely 5 occasions in 18 innings. In some unspecified time in the future they should convert these alternatives into runs if this NLCS comeback goes to occur. The Braves are rattling good and so they deserve credit score for maintaining the Dodgers off the board, however regularly tipping your cap isn’t any method to win a collection.

3. The Turners need to be higher

It is a minor miracle the Dodgers are 4 wins away from their fourth pennant in 5 years with Justin Turner and Trea Turner being as unproductive as they have been this postseason. The Turners are a mixed 10 for 63 (.159) within the playoffs, and though that they had three hits in Recreation 1, they weren’t scalded. Two have been floor balls up the center and one was a bit flare the opposite manner.

What now we have seen from the Turners is fully an excessive amount of of this:

Trea fouled away a hittable fastball over the plate, then expanded the zone and swung at pitches off the plate for strikes two and three in an important spot. The Dodgers as a group have collectively missed a variety of hittable pitches out over the plate this postseason, although Turner is an MVP-caliber participant, and when he has a nasty at-bat and a nasty postseason, it is extra noticeable.

“Actually when guys are struggling it is a combo. It is the chase, and while you do get pitches to deal with you are not ending the at-bat. So I feel that is what’s occurring to Justin,” Roberts mentioned previous to Recreation 2. “I feel a variety of our guys are a bit bit caught in between on velocity versus spin. So it is extra about simply the mindset of being aggressive in your zone and what you are good at, and every little thing exterior of that, attempt to not supply at it.”

Within the ninth inning of Recreation 2 Turner (Trea, not Justin) hit a ball to the warning observe — Statcast says it could have been a house run in 26 of the opposite 29 ballparks, together with Dodger Stadium — which can be an indication he is popping out of it. Turner (Justin, not Trea) was on the bench in Recreation 2 with a “stinger” in his neck, and maybe the neck concern explains his poor postseason.

At this level although, the Dodgers want greater than indicators Trea is popping out of it and potential damage excuses for Justin. It’s a results-based enterprise and a results-based time of yr, and neither Turner is offering outcomes. I would not say it is unimaginable for the Dodgers to win the World Collection with the Turners taking part in like this, although it’s inconceivable.

I am normally not a giant “shake up the lineup” man, although I ponder whether it is price placing Trea again within the leadoff spot. He is been hitting third since early September and has been excellent in that spot (.356/.412/.615), however perhaps placing him again atop the lineup will get him extra locked in on his method, and permits him to concentrate on setting the desk somewhat than driving in runs. It is price contemplating, if nothing else.

“I really feel like I am not doing sufficient,” Trea mentioned after Recreation 1. “I really feel like I have been not aggressive sufficient and I really feel like I swing and miss typically, however once I get two strikes I am going to battle. However for me I must take these probabilities. I would like to be aggressive and I feel once I’m aggressive I am going to take balls and swing at strikes and I am going to do what I must.”

Wherever they hit within the lineup, there’s virtually no path to a different championship with out the Turners being higher transferring ahead. That 10 for 63 is within the books. There is not any altering that. Being extra productive in Recreation 3 and past must be the main focus. Good gamers stoop on a regular basis, and the Turners are slumping at a nasty time for the Dodgers.

4. Lean on the highest bullpen arms extra

Depend me among the many Urías first-guessers in Recreation 2. To recap: Roberts went to Urías with a two-run lead within the eighth inning, three days after his 59-pitch reduction outing in NLDS Recreation 5 and three days earlier than his scheduled begin in NLCS Recreation 4. Urías allowed hits to 3 of the primary 4 batters he confronted, together with Riley’s loud game-tying double. The 2-run lead evaporated in six pitches.

“We talked about it earlier than the collection and he was out there final evening if it got here to the state of affairs. It did not,” Roberts mentioned after Recreation 2. “He hadn’t thrown a bullpen and he was the most suitable choice at that time limit. He was ready for it. It was an ideal spot for him, and getting him by way of that eighth to go to Kenley (Jansen) to complete the sport.”

Urías has loads of bullpen and big-game expertise. The difficulty wasn’t placing him in an unfamiliar place. The difficulty was whether or not it was in actual fact “an ideal spot for him” given:

  • Blake Treinen threw solely 9 pitches within the seventh inning and there was a possibility to make use of him for greater than three outs. Alas, Treinen wasn’t double switched in, so his lineup spot led off the highest of the eighth inning.
  • Max Scherzer admitted his “arm was dead” in Recreation 2 following his reduction look in NLDS Recreation 5 three days in the past. Urías threw 59 pitches in that sport. He could not have felt 100% in Recreation 2.
  • Roberts tends to shoehorn beginning pitchers into postseason reduction appearances even when it isn’t essential. What number of occasions have we seen him do it with Clayton Kershaw through the years?

The Dodgers actually appeared to need the left-on-left matchup in opposition to Rosario and Freeman in that eighth inning, which is comprehensible. However when your finest choices are Urías on his throw day or a rookie with 19 2/3 large league innings below his belt (Justin Bruihl), it is most likely finest to stay with Treinen, or go to Jansen in opposition to the highest of the order and work out the ninth later.

“I simply suppose that if you happen to’re speaking about efficiency, expertise — nothing in opposition to Justin — however when you might have a selection between him and Julio, I feel it is fairly clear who I used to be going to decide on,” Roberts mentioned when requested about probably utilizing Bruihl within the eighth inning following Recreation 2.

Even past Urías, Brusdar Graterol was introduced in to start out the ninth inning with the rating tied 4-4, and it wasn’t till the state of affairs was dire that Jansen emerged from the bullpen. So, the case could be made Roberts went along with his second-best possibility within the eighth inning (Urías over Treinen or Jansen) and ninth inning (Graterol over Jansen) in Recreation 2, and it price the Dodgers.

I used to be completely cool with utilizing Scherzer to shut out NLDS Recreation 5. That is a win-or-go-home state of affairs and the Dodgers’ finest choices at that time the place a second inning from Jansen, or Joe Kelly or Alex Vesia. Kelly and Vesia have been actually good! However I might hitch my wagon to the longer term Corridor of Famer in that state of affairs eight days per week and twice on Sunday.

Recreation 2 was not an elimination sport, and I did not like utilizing Urías in reduction not solely due to the sport state of affairs, but in addition as a result of it may throw a wrench into his Recreation 4 begin. There’s nonetheless a variety of collection to be performed, and whereas the present sport is all the time a very powerful sport in October, you do need to handle to win 4 video games somewhat than one, particularly early within the collection.

“No, no. In no way. In no way,” Roberts mentioned when requested whether or not the Recreation 2 look will affect Urías’ availability in Recreation 4. “That is why he was prepared, out there [Saturday] — did not throw a aspect — to arrange for one among these two video games.” 

Video games 3-5 (if there’s a Recreation 5) shall be performed on three consecutive days, so pushing your high relievers will not be as straightforward the following few days. That inbuilt relaxation day is not proper across the nook. That mentioned, the Dodgers are in a bind, and if they should use Treinen and Jansen greater than three outs every to win Recreation 3, so be it. Cease attempting to steal outs with starters in reduction or lesser relievers.

5. Get a bit fortunate

The Dodgers are adequate to beat the Braves 4 occasions within the subsequent 5 video games on expertise alone. It would not damage to get a bit luck alongside the way in which although. The Dodgers may use a number of bounces going their manner, a number of calls going their manner, and issues to interrupt their manner normally. One of the best groups are good and fortunate, and the Dodgers have not had any good luck two video games into the NLCS. One lucky hop can tip the size of their favor.

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