Braves wary of giving up another 2-0 NLCS lead to Dodgers


LOS ANGELES — Rare is the team that falters in the postseason and receives an opportunity to pick up the following year where it left off, with a chance for a do-over.

But here are the Braves, if not already in that spot close to it after winning the first two games of the NLCS. The series will resume Tuesday at Dodger Stadium with a sense of unfinished business hovering among these Braves who absorbed last year’s disappointment.

In last year’s NLCS — played in the playoff bubble in Arlington, Texas — the Braves won the first two games and extended that lead to 3-1 before the Dodgers rallied for three straight victories to win a third straight pennant in four seasons.

“It’s one of those things where it’s just, it’s in the back of your mind,” Braves third baseman Austin Riley said. “They’re a really good ballclub, they’re never out of it until the last say. It’s just one of those things where we got to go there, play our ballgame that we’re capable of playing and see how things go. I like where we’re at right now, so it should be a good matchup.”

As defending World Series champions, back on their own turf, the Dodgers expect nothing less than a repeat of last year’s NLCS comeback.

“I believe we’re going to win this series,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I believe we’re going to win [Tuesday].”

The Braves signed Charlie Morton last winter with assignments like Tuesday’s in mind. The veteran postseason horse is scheduled to get the ball in Game 3 against Walker Buehler in what has become an almost must-win game for the Dodgers. The 2004 Red Sox, who overcame the Yankees in the ALCS, are the only team to erase a 3-0 series deficit in the postseason.

Austin Riley
Austin Riley
AP

Buehler started Game 5 of the NLDS against the Giants last Thursday and allowed one earned run on three hits over 4 ¹/₃ innings. Morton hasn’t pitched in a week, after he allowed two earned runs over 3 ¹/₃ innings in the Braves’ victory over the Brewers in Game 4 of the NLDS.

“I think if you look at both clubs, as far as usage and leverage uses, they’re in the same position we are,” Roberts said, referring to the bullpens when asked about the fatigue factor. “But the thing is that they have got a two-game lead in the series. So I think for us, Walker’s ready to go. He’s got an extra couple days, so certainly for Game 3 we’re going to lean on him.

“This is kind of how the series has played out and I think that both guys or both teams are in the same situation outside of the most important factor that [the Braves] have got a two-game-to-nothing lead.”

Riley has carried the Braves offensively. In Game 1, he homered and delivered a walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning. In Game 2, he stroked a game-tying RBI single in the eighth inning before the Braves won on Eddie Rosario’s walk-off single in the ninth against Kenley Jansen.

Those heroics have occurred as the Braves await Freddie Freeman’s emergence. The All-Star first baseman struck out in seven straight plate appearances to begin the series before flying out in his final at-bat on Sunday.

“We still have so much respect for him and he can get hot at any moment,” Roberts said. “I think we’ve done a great job of containing him, but some other guys we got to sort of figure out.”

One of those “other guys” might be Joc Pederson, the former Dodgers outfielder who smashed his third homer of the postseason on Sunday. Pederson signed with the Cubs last offseason before the Braves acquired him at the trade deadline.

“This is a lot bigger than me, this is 25 of us pulling and have one common goal,” Pederson said. “Obviously I was part of the Dodgers for a long time and they’re a really good team and organization, but right now they’re in the way of our common goal.”



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