Down 2-0, Dodgers have Braves where they want them at home

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Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler warms up during a workout ahead of Game 3 of baseball's National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES – Trailing 2-0 in the NL Championship Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers have the Atlanta Braves right where they want them. At their house.

The Braves’ last win at Dodger Stadium was June 9, 2018. They’ve lost nine straight in Los Angeles, getting swept in a three-game series in late August and were shut out twice in the 2018 NL Division Series.

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Going back to the 2013 NLDS, the Braves have dropped 19 of their last 22 in LA.

The Dodgers were an MLB-best 58-23 at home, ending the regular season on franchise-record 15-game winning streak at Chavez Ravine. But as a wild-card team, they don’t have home-field advantage in the NL playoffs despite 106 wins.

“We’re back home,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Monday. “We expect to win Game 3.”

The series resumes Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles is a 3-2 favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

“They’re just really good here, really good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s fun to come out here. Dodger Stadium is an electric place and the weather’s nice.”

Charlie Morton (0-1, 3.86 ERA in the postseason) starts for the Braves. Walker Buehler (0-1, 3.38), a 16-game winner in the regular season, takes the mound for the Dodgers.

“If the baseball sayings are right, you’re only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher,” All-Star pitcher Max Scherzer said, “and so we got Walk going on the mound and we definitely believe we can win with him. Our mindset is just win the next game.”

Buehler will start on two extra days' rest after opening Game 4 of the NLDS on short rest a week ago.

“I got a little sick in San Francisco, but I’m feeling all right, so no worse for the wear,” he said Monday, declining to specify what or how he felt ill.

The Cy Young Award contender has proven to be reliable in big games, with a 2.50 ERA in 13 postseason starts.

“With Walker being on extra rest, I think to have him, to push him, go deeper is certainly a very good option,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers expect to have Justin Turner back at third base. He was reduced to pinch-hitting in Game 2 because of a neck injury, ending his streak of 77 consecutive postseason starts. He's struggled at the plate in the postseason, hitting .050 against San Francisco in the NLDS.

The Dodgers have been down before against Atlanta. Playing last postseason at a neutral site in Texas, they overcame a 1-3 deficit to beat the Braves in the NLCS. LA went on to win its first World Series championship since 1988.

After last year, the 88-win Braves aren't taking anything for granted.

“It's like one of those things where you can’t stop now, you got to continue to apply the pressure,” said third baseman Austin Riley, whose RBI single won Game 1.

Snitker added, "With a year’s experience and in the same position these guys are better versed for it right now.”

Game 4 is Wednesday and a possible Game 5 the following day, cutting out any rest for the bullpen and seemingly making it harder for the Dodgers to use their starters in relief, as they did in the first two games.

“Things just aren’t, can’t be scripted. You’ve got to kind of sometimes go off-script to what we feel, what I feel is the best chance to win a game, let alone a particular series,” Roberts said. “A decision that doesn’t work out doesn’t mean it’s the wrong decision.”

The Dodgers will go with a bullpen game either Wednesday or possibly Thursday, with 20-game winner Julio Urías pitching one of those two days. Max Scherzer would start a potential Game 6 back in Atlanta, Roberts said.

The Dodgers are 1 for 18 with runners in scoring position and they had six runs and 14 hits in the first two games.

Still, both came down to the bottom of the ninth.

“I don’t need numbers to see, to know what I see,” Roberts said, “and if we’re going to chase, then there’s no reason for him to throw the ball in the strike zone. We’ve got to kind of lock in more in the strike zone and when we do that we’ll have more success.”

The Dodgers' big hitters — Corey Seager, NL batting champion Trea Turner and Mookie Betts — have yet to get going. The team hit 237 homers — fourth-best in the majors — during the regular season, but has just seven in this postseason.

“I think in this in that particular instance it’s an approach thing,” Roberts said. “It’s an approach thing and I think that certain times in scoring position we’re expanding too much.”

The Braves made history as just the second team ever to win the first two games of a League Championship Series on walk-offs, joining the 1969 Baltimore Orioles. Historically, teams that take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven postseason major league series go on to win the series 84% of the time.

Along with his teammates, Atlanta slugger Freddie Freeman will be looking to reset in LA. He's 0 for 8 in the series, striking out seven times.

“He can get hot at any moment,” Roberts said.


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