A three-run homer in the top of the sixth by Dodgers’ catcher Will Smith off of Atlanta lefty reliever Will Smith sparked a 7-3 Dodger win and kept the Los Angeles season alive, forcing a Game 6 in the NLCS.
The game seemed to turn when Mookie Betts caught a ball an inch off the ground in the bottom of the third inning. Betts then double-clutched and threw home, but Braves outfielder Marcell Ozuna was called out after a replay review due to leaving third base early.
In the earlier innings of the game, the Dodger offense looked like they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. Braves pitcher A.J. Minter started his first game since college and struck out seven batters over three innings of work. Dodger starter Dustin May only pitched two innings, allowing two earned runs. After the Betts catch, Corey Seager hit his first homer of the night to cut the lead to 2-1.
The game remained at 2-1 until the top of the sixth inning. Betts led off the frame with an infield single, then later stole second base. Justin Turner then hit a sharp grounder, but right at Braves’ second baseman Ozzie Albies. Albies threw to third base catching Betts in a rundown, but he remained long enough in the pickle to allow Turner to reach second. Max Muncy worked a walk allowing the Will Smith vs. Will Smith matchup we all wanted to see. The Will Smith in Blue prevailed, crushing a three-run homer to left-center field.
Pedro Baez came in and pitched a quick sixth inning. In the top of the seventh inning, Chris Taylor appeared to be hit by a pitch, but after a replay review, it was determined that the ball hit the knob of his bat. So, Taylor got another chance and hit a two-out double. Betts then singled Taylor home and Seager hit his second homer of the game.
Dodger left-hander Victor Gonzalez came in and after a couple of walks, induced a nice double play and a flyout to get out of the jam. Muncy then was robbed of a home run in the top of eighth by Braves center fielder Cristian Pache.
One thing about Globe Life Field is that a number of fly balls seem to be headed for the second deck off the bat, but eventually die down at the warning track. I’ve personally never seen that happen so often at any other ballpark.
Taylor seemed to hurt his ankle after throwing the ball to second on a Freddie Freeman ground ball to the outfield. Brusdar Graterol then came in relief and the Braves surrendered a run on an RBI groundout.
Kenley Jansen threw a spotless ninth, allowing the Dodgers to hold on for a 7-3 win.
Walker Buehler is the presumptive starter tomorrow. The Dodgers hope he can eat some innings, as the bullpen pitched a heavy load today. Joe Kelly, Blake Treinen, Baez, Gonzalez, Graterol, and Jansen all pitched out of the bullpen today. With no traveling in the series and having no days off adds another factor of fatigue.
Buehler will most likely face Braves lefty Max Fried in a Game 1 rematch Saturday afternoon. Fried was outstanding his first time out, striking out nine batters and only allowing one run and four hits over six innings. Buehler pitched five innings, striking out seven, but also walking five, allowing one run.
Taking it one game at a time, Dodges accomplished their goal for Game 5. They will look to force a Game 7 as they yet again face elimination.
Game 6 is set to begin Saturday at 1:38 p.m. Pacific.