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The brave are making the unlikely real against the Dodgers in NLCS

ARLINGTON, Texas – For a National League championship streak that seems to appreciate bringing the improbable to life, this too was extravagant. It was the ninth inning of Game 2 and Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies threw a fastball to the center-left field. The ball flew over the fence ̵

1; and directly into the glove of Mark Melancon, the closest of the Braves, who smiled and galloped happily around the team’s bullpen. Do relievers occasionally catch home runs, sure, but from the same hitter in the same inning from the same type of court in the same series? Melancon also did it in Race 1.

The theme of improbability linking Monday through Tuesday wasn’t limited to outdoor rescue cosplay. The Braves beat the Los Angeles Dodgers again. The same Dodgers who have lost consecutive games only four times this year. The same Dodgers who entered this series in Las Vegas as 70% favorites, the third-highest percentage in an LCS in two decades, even though Atlanta had similarly trampled its wild card and division series opponents.

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There is only one undefeated team left this postseason, and that is the Braves, of which The 8-7 win was a seventh consecutive NL record for the start of the playoffs – and far more convincing than the final score indicated. The Dodgers tattooed Josh Tomlin, the Braves’ mop-up, for three runs in the ninth inning before Melancon circumvented a mistake and a triple to record a one-out save. Coming into ninth place, Atlanta had an 8-3 lead and was poised to record streak wins by at least four points against the Dodgers. In four games during the regular season, the Dodgers were 23-3.

In other words, the Braves are doing to the Dodgers what the Dodgers have done to everyone else this year.

“There is no reason for anyone to take their foot off the gas,” Melancon said. “Nobody has won anything yet.”

Melancon’s caution is understandable, yet what he and his 27 teammates did in the first two games of the NLCS is what none of the other nine Western Division teams nor the Milwaukee Brewers could do with the Dodgers: make them look human. . Los Angeles finished the regular season 43-17, a pace of 116 wins in a typical season. The Dodgers struck, the Dodgers threw and the Dodgers fielded, an orchestral blend of talent. Their depth reinforced them in attack and supported them in the bullpen. This wasn’t just a good team. It was a great team.

And it still could be, even though the hole Los Angeles has to dig from grew alarmingly on Tuesday. The day started with the Dodgers scratching starter Clayton Kershaw from his scheduled start due to a spasm in his back. Los Angeles switched to rookie Tony Gonsolin, whom the Braves beat by five points in 4 innings while their own rookie, Ian Anderson, tiptoed around problems and pitched four shutout innings to extend his streak without 15 ”frame post-season nets.

The Atlanta routine was familiar: a dose of power from future MVP Freddie Freeman, who made a homer for the second straight day bringing the Braves up 2-0, and bends and bends and bends a little more but – don’t interrupt. the launch by their staff. During the top of the seventh inning, when Atlanta had a 7-0 lead, the team’s post-season average was 0.84.

Freddie Freeman went home for the second consecutive NLCS game. Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

The fact that the Braves gave up more runs in the next three innings (seven) than they had in the first 6 “(six) games wasn’t exactly ideal, but then the sleepwalking of the Dodgers cannot be expected to continue. . As good as the Braves are – a worthy opponent as they have proven themselves – the idea that Los Angeles will change doesn’t resonate with Atlanta.

“I didn’t feel good with a big lead because these guys are too powerful,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “It’s a good game to win. Now everyone is.”

It’s not just that the Braves are winning, but how they are doing it. Atlanta entered the postseason with two clear starting pitchers: Max Fried, their growing ace, and Anderson, who didn’t even make his debut until August 26 and entered the playoffs with six major league starts. The Braves boasted a deep, underrated bullpen that hadn’t shown a crack, let alone a crack, until Corey Seager landed a three-run home run in the seventh Tuesday and Max Muncy dropped a two-run shot in the ninth.

What Atlanta had claimed after young ace Mike Soroka’s brutal Achilles tear and a host of other throwing weaknesses was his lineup, with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Marcell Ozuna, Travis d’Arnaud and Albies, and most of all Freeman.

“Keep repeating because it’s the MVP, right?” Melancon said. “Freddie is one of the most consistent players I’ve ever seen, I’ve ever played against, been around with. That’s just what he is. If there’s a word to sum it up, it’s consistency.”

Funny enough, that word also sums up the 2020 Dodgers. Snitker called them a group that “went through those wars” and whether they were losing the 2017 or 2018 World Series or imploding in the division series against eventual Washington Nationals champion last year. season, the Dodgers understand adversity.

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So when their manager, Dave Roberts, said that “we show life late – it was really cool to see”, it sounded more like a prediction than a cliché. With Fried and Anderson not available for games 3 and 4, the Dodgers have their opening. Roberts said he expected to pitch Kershaw in Game 4 on Thursday, although the first Los Angeles must contend in Game 3 with 25-year-old Kyle Wright, who pitched six innings against the Miami Marlins in his first playoff start and won the division series.

Not once this year have the Dodgers lost three straight games, an astonishing feat that demonstrates how good they have been and why so many considered their advance to the World Series a fait accompli. The Braves ended that speech and another win would go a long way to ending the NLCS.

“Hopefully,” Melancon said, “[Wednesday] the night is three in a row. “

In fact, he was talking about taking another Albies home ball. But if the sentiment applies to the Dodgers instead, he’ll happily give up playing off-court again.

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