The Atlanta Braves got back to their bread-and-butter in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.
Behind a strong pitching performance from rookie Bryse Wilson and a relentless offensive attack, the Braves steamrolled the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 to retake command of the series and push Los Angeles to the brink of elimination.
After Atlanta’s historically bad start to Game 3, Braves starter Bryse Wilson merely had to show up to provide an improvement. The 22-year-old rookie did more than show up, holding the suddenly hot Dodgers lineup to one run over six innings in his postseason debut. The only blemish was Edwin Ríos’ third-inning home run.
Wilson’s brilliance allowed the Braves to slowly chip away at Clayton Kershaw. The dam finally broke in the sixth inning. After Ronald Acuña Jr. reached on an infield single and advanced on Kiké Hernández’s throwing error, Freddie Freeman gave Atlanta the lead with a sharply hit double to right field.
Freddie Freeman with the base hit, Ronald Acuña Jr. with the run scored.— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 16, 2020
BRAVES HAVE THE LEAD! pic.twitter.com/F8qNMfrZas
The Braves never looked back.
Marcell Ozuna, who earlier homered against Kershaw, followed with a run-scoring single that sent the three-time Cy Young Award winner to the showers. Then Dansby Swanson delivered the dagger by ripping a two-run double off reliever Brusdar Graterol. In total, Atlanta sent 11 batters to the plate in the six-run frame.
Atlanta’s outburst will do nothing to silence Clayton Kershaw’s critics. Though it wasn’t a must-win for Los Angeles, it’s another postseason defeat that put the franchise’s World Series hopes in dire jeopardy.
Of course, a quick review of the inning exposes much bigger flaws on the Dodgers roster. Namely, a bullpen that has proven unreliable in October. Kershaw, who was scratched from his scheduled Game 2 start due to back spasms, was good but not spectacular through five innings. It was after he left that the wheels truly fell off.
The Dodgers had an opportunity to answer right back in the seventh. After a Ríos sacrifice fly cut it to 7-2, pinch-hitter Will Smith lined out to leave the bases loaded.
Ozuna immediately followed with his second home run. Atlanta’s designated hitter finished the game with four hits, 11 total bases and four RBIs.
This seemingly innocent chopper by Ronald Acuña Jr. is what set off Atlanta’s game-winning rally.
Fortunately, Acuña was not seriously injured after landing awkwardly on his wrist.
Ronald Acuña Jr. appeared to hurt his wrist after this play at 1st, however he is going to tough it out and he is staying in the game 👏 pic.twitter.com/HUJDRXRGPW— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 16, 2020
WHAT THEY’LL BE TALKING ABOUT
More than anything else, the story early in Game 4 was the swirling wind.
Major League Baseball decided before the series that unless it was raining, the roof at Globe Life Field would remain open throughout the entire series. As a result, the players were battling sustained gusts that at times seemed determined to blow them over.
Amazingly, the wind didn’t have a major impact on the game itself, but it may have been enough of a hindrance for MLB to consider adjusting its postseason roof policy.
The Braves can secure their first World Series berth since 1999 with a win in Game 5.
Rather than start Walker Buehler on short rest, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will hand the ball to Dustin May with his season on the line. The 23-year-old right-hander made 10 starts and two relief appearances during the regular season, posting a 2.57 ERA. He’s been limited to the bullpen in the postseason, accumulating 4 2/3 scoreless inning. He pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief in Game 1.
Braves manager Brian Snitker would not commit to a Game 5 starter, only noting that Max Fried would not pitch on short rest after starting Game 1.
First pitch is scheduled for 9:08 p.m. ET on Friday with TV coverage on FS1.
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