In a clash of titans, the Braves make their way to Los Angeles for a massive four-game series with the Dodgers. LA has been the hottest team over the month of August, winning 24 games. The series will be an excellent test for Atlanta regarding what to expect in playoffs. After an outstanding pitching performance from Darius Vines yesterday, the Braves will have their 1-4 starters going against the formidable Dodgers lineup.
To add to the storylines, we will see all four front runners for the National League MVP. Ronald Acuña Jr. has been trading back-and-forth with Mookie Betts in the first-place predictions. The game ended up being one of the best baseball games of the year, and confirmed our suspicion of a possible foreshadowing of the 2023 NLCS.
Ronald Acuña Jr. started off the day (outside of getting married) with a solid single after getting behind in the count. Michael Harris II replaced Ozzie Albies in the hitting order, and hit into a fielder's choice the following at bat. After an Austin Riley pop-out to to left, Olson would come to the plate, eventually striking out.
Spencer Strider led off the bottom of the first, pitching carefully to Betts, and eventually walking the lead-off man. The walk brought Freddie Freeman to the plate, who knocked a single to left-center, putting runners at the corners. Strider came back vs. Will Smith, throwing a four-pitch strikeout. Max Muncy then put the Dodgers on the board first, drilling a line a ball to Nicky Lopez, who made an amazing play that almost turned two. However, LA would bring Mookie home before ending the inning on another fielder's choice.
The top of the second started on a first-pitch single from the Braves hottest hitter, Marcell Ozuna. Eddie Rosario followed, just missing a hanging slider and flying out to deep center. The next batter, Sean Murphy, has been a magnet lately, getting hit with a hanging curve on the shoulder. Murphy has now been hit in seven of his last fifteen starts. Orlando Arcia followed, going down 0-2 before working his way back to a full count. He hit a soft ground ball to third that was initially called out before being overturned and loading the bases. Nicky Lopez had a strange at-bat, with the ump gifting some calls to Lance Lynn. Yet, even with the help, Lynn would throw a pitch nearly a foot outside to walk in Ozuna, tying the game 1-1.
The second inning would stay in the Braves' favor. Reminiscent of the 2018 NLDS, Acuña smashed a grand slam 446-ft to deep left center. The four-run shot made the potential MVP the first player in MLB history to notch 30 homers and 60 stolen bases in a season. However, the damage wasn't finished. Two batters later, Austin Riley smashed a 430 solo shot to center, haking the air out of Dodger stadium and making the score 6-1 Braves.
Strider came back in the bottom of the second, striking out all three batters. While the Dodgers have a potent top of the lineup, the bottom of the order is much more susceptible to outs. Strider was able to make adjustments, hitting corners at 100 mph twice for looking strikeouts. The bottom of the third would be similar, going 1-2-3, and quickly getting out Mookie and Freeman.
Lynn would settle in after giving up the six runs in the second. The twelve-year vet recorded consecutive outs throughout the top of the third and fourth. In what was an offensive start, Strider would also deal in the fourth, striking out the side for the second time in the game.
The Braves would add to their lead to start the top of the 5th inning. Michael Harris II smashed a 442-ft homer to center, giving him his 13th shot on the season. Atlanta continued to hit Lynn well, as Austin Riley hit a single two pitches later. After Olson just missed on a knee-high fastball, Lynn walked Ozuna with, effectively ending his night. LA replaced Lance Lynn with Alex Vesia, who grounded out Eddie Rosario on the first pitch to end the half-inning.
Spencer Strider would retire twelve batters before former Brave, Jason Heyward, hit a single to right field. James Outman followed with a walk, putting runners at first and second with no outs. The first out came from Michael Busch on a deep fly-out to the right field warning rack, putting runners at the corners. A strikeout of Amed Rosario brought Mookie Betts back to the plate with two outs. Going to a full count, Mookie hit a ball just over Acuña's glove for a three-run homer. With the lead now cut to 7-4, Freeman would end the inning on a hard-hit ground ball to Orlando Arcia.
Atlanta would follow in the top of the sixth after gathering two quick outs. Lopez hit a grounder to third, flying out of the box causing an errant throw from Muncy. Nicky took third on the passed ball and then walked Acuña. As seen all season, when teams make mistakes, the Braves make them pay. Michael Harris hit a single down the middle to bring in Lopez, making the score 8-4. Austin Riley followed a few feet short of a homer to end the two-out rally.
Looking to bounce back from the fifth, Strider came back out still somewhat frustrated. While Will Smith was able to drive a single up the middle, the righty delivered an angry strikeout for his ninth of the evening. He would fight through six complete innings with two pop-outs to David Peralta and Jason Heyward.
Atlanta would go 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh, bringing out Joe Jiménez in relief for Strider. Jiménez started hot, getting ahead in the count and striking out James Outman in three pitches. The next at-bat would not be as fortunate. On a hanging slider, Busch hit a 385-ft solo homer to right. After a strike out to Amed Rosario, Mookie Betts hit another home run just deep enough to right field, bringing the score to 8-6. After walking Freeman, Jiménez was able to put out Will Smith in a fly-out to Eddie in right field.
LA brought it to within one run as Max Muncy hit a misplaced pitch out of the park for a solo home run off A.J. Minter. In back-to-back pinch hitters, Minter was able to recollect himself, popping out Kiké Hernandez & walking Chris Taylor. Outman followed with a soft single just over Arcia's head, bringing runners to first and second with one out. Minter threw a crucial strikeout, ending his day to be replaced by Pierce Johnson. Getting ahead in the count 0-2, Johnson struck out Rosario to keep the game 8-7 heading into the final inning.
The top of the ninth started with Acuña hitting a single up the middle. Harris drove a hard line drive, unfortunately, directly to Muncy. While Acuña stole second the first pitch of Riley's AB, Austin would hit a grounder for the second out. Matt Olson followed with a deep fly to center, just under the pitch, bringing the bottom of the ninth.
Raisel Iglesias would come in for the close, popping out Mookie Betts on his first pitch. Carefully, Iglesias walked Freeman on five pitches, leading to a vital at-bat with Will Smith. The Dodger catcher hit a hard-hit ground ball through Arcia's glove, putting runners on first and second with one out. Muncy followed, getting ahead 3-1 in the count before drilling a ball towards Acuña in deep right for the second out. Kiké Hernandez came to the plate as LA's last hope, but Iglesias got him to expand, striking him out on three pitches to end the game.
It was a classic Braves-Dodgers game. Neither team goes down easy, and when you think the momentum is in your favor, the other side starts to capitalize. Spencer Strider pitched well outside of the one inning, preventing them from a comeback. Nevertheless, the Dodger bats fought back to keep the game interesting.
Acuña and Betts both showed why they are the two front-runners for the National League MVP. Ronald became the first player in MLB history to gather 30 home runs and 60 steals on a grand slam while adding three hits. On the other hand, Mookie hit two home runs for four RBIs.
Ultimately, Atlanta showed their grit to keep leads and create offense. It was a crucial win for keeping home-field advantage throughout October and allowed them to put the Dodgers five games behind for the first spot in the NL. The next three games will be exciting as the pitching matchups level out, and each team presents a dangerous starting lineup.
Pitchers of Record
W: Spencer Strider: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 92 NPIT
L: Lance Lynn: : 4.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 104 NPIT
Ronald Acuña Jr. ( 30 )
Austin Riley ( 32 )
Michael Harris II ( 13 )
Michael Busch ( 2 )
Mookie Betts ( 37, 38 )
Max Muncy ( 32 )
Joe Jiménez: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 21 NPIT
A.J. Minter: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 17 NPIT
Pierce Johnson: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 4 NPIT
Raisel Iglesias: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 15 NPIT
September 1st at Los Angeles Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. EST on BSSE