LOS ANGELES – The National League Championship Series is headed back to Atlanta, where the Braves need one win to secure a World Series spot - and avoid the same outcome as last season.
The Braves couldn’t close the series in Los Angeles, losing Game 5 to the Dodgers 11-2 on Thursday. The Braves maintain a 3-2 advantage in the NLCS and will try to close it Saturday. If they can’t, they’ll host a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday.
Most of the series has highly favored the Braves. Before Thursday, they dominated, losing only one game, on an eighth-inning rally. This one was a clunker. The Braves took a first-inning lead when first baseman Freddie Freeman launched a two-run homer off Dodgers opener Joe Kelly, but it unraveled from there.
The Dodgers took the lead an inning later. AJ Pollock belted a solo shot off Braves ace Max Fried. Chris Taylor’s two-run blast put the home team ahead. Los Angeles added its fourth run in the third with a trio of singles off Fried.
Fried was far from sharp, giving up four runs on eight hits in 4-2/3 innings. He walked two and surrendered two homers. Manager Brian Snitker removed Fried after he issued a two-out walk to Albert Pujols in the fifth, which marked the third time Pujols reached base against the southpaw.
Veteran Chris Martin followed Fried and surrendered a homer to Taylor. The Dodgers scored 11 consecutive runs after Freeman’s blast. Their offense produced 10 hits over the first five innings after having four hits total against the Braves’ bullpen game Wednesday. They had 17 hits overall.
Like outfielder Eddie Rosario’s herculean effort in Game 4, Taylor was remarkable in Game 5. His four-hit night included three homers, the last of which came off lefty Dylan Lee, who covered two innings for the Braves. Taylor had six RBIs.
Per MLB statistician Sarah Langs: Taylor’s 13 total bases are the most by a player in an elimination game in postseason history. The previous high was 11, achieved by John Valentin in 1999.
After Freeman’s home run, the Braves managed just three more hits, two of which came from Rosario. Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol required 14 pitches to record six outs in the middle of the contest. The Braves didn’t draw a walk against seven Dodgers pitchers.
Slugger Jorge Soler was activated from the COVID-19 list before the game. He pinch hit in the eighth inning, striking out against Corey Knebel.
While the Braves squandered their 3-1 advantage over the Dodgers during the 2020 NLCS, one of many distinct differences this time: The Braves will be playing at home for Game 6 and - if it reaches that point - Game 7. The Braves earned home-field advantage as a division champion, despite their 88 wins falling well short of the Dodgers’ 106 victories. The Giants won the NL West with 107 wins.
The homefield element looms large now. The Braves and Dodgers will play Game 6 on Saturday at Truist Park, where the Braves won Games 1 and 2. Neither team has announced its starter, but it will likely be Braves right-hander Ian Anderson against Dodgers co-ace Max Scherzer, who will be fully rested after having to carry a heavier load throughout the postseason.©2021 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.