For a brief moment, after the conclusion of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, the smog that normally envelopes Los Angeles gave way. It was replaced by a collective PHEW!
The Dodgers were five outs away from going down 3-0 in this series. Not even the most sunny-side-up L.A. fans could have felt optimistic with their team down 5-2 in the eighth inning to the Braves. But after a couple of groundballs found the outfield grass, Cody Bellinger used his beautiful left-handed swing to swat a three-run homer. Tie game.
The Dodgers plated the go-ahead run later that inning, and after setting down Atlanta in the top of the ninth, the series was 2-1. That is a world of difference from what it seemed like it was going to be moments earlier.
The Dodgers were about -180 favorites to win Game 3, and they did. Those who bet OVER 7.5 also won, as the two teams combined for 11 runs.
Dave Roberts Is Tempting Fate
There were two critical situations in Game 3 for the Dodgers where manager Dave Roberts made suspect decisions. Luckily, his team bailed him out.
In the fifth inning with the Braves leading 4-2, Roberts let right-handed reliever Corey Knebel face left-handed batting Joc Pederson with a runner on base. Pederson has 160 home runs in his career, and 149 of them have come off right-handed pitching. He has a career .490 SLG against RHP, and only .325 off LHP. Pederson smacked a hard-hit fly to center that was caught for an out, so it didn’t burn Roberts, but it was careless by the manager to not bring in a southpaw there.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers had a runner on base with two outs, down by three runs. Roberts opted to pinch-hit Albert Pujols in that spot. Now, I love Albert Pujols. Most baseball fans love Pujols, who has played 21 years in MLB and has more than 600 home runs and 3,000 hits. But since 2017, he’s been just another guy in a baseball uniform. His OPS the last five years is only .700. His punch is gone, and he doesn’t have the bat speed to get around on good big league fastballs. He struck out Tuesday night, and the threat ended.
Roberts has to trust the roster he has, but he has made some shaky decisions in this postseason. Those decisions haven’t sunk the Dodgers yet, but how much more late-inning magic is left from this team?
Dodgers’ NLCS Game 4 Starter: Julio Urías
The Dodgers have the luxury to run 20-game winner Julio Urías to the mound for a chance to tie this series. Urías pitched an inning of relief in Game 2, but that was on his regular in-between starts day. While Roberts will have a short leash for his lefty, he’d prefer to get at least five innings because his bullpen is gassed. Game 5 will be played Thursday, so there won’t be a day of rest until Friday.
Urías made two starts against Atlanta in 2021, and he was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings.
Braves’ NLCS Game 4 Starter: Bullpen Game
The Braves have gotten to the fourth game of the NLCS using only three starting pitchers. Manager Brian Snitker has a decision to make that might have ripple effects for the remainder of this series. His choices for Game 4:
- Start Huascar Ynoa and hope for 3-4 innings. Ynoa made 17 starts this season, but he had a 6.52 ERA in six starts in the last month of the regular season. Will Snitker trust Ynoa in a big game, when he hasn’t started a game in more than two weeks?
- Bullpen game starring Drew Smyly: For the first four months of the season, Smyly was the Braves’ No. 4 starter. He wasn’t overwhelming, but he handled the job well, averaging five innings per start and posting a 4.75 ERA. But in August his ERA ballooned to 6.08, and Smyly was sent to the bullpen. He hasn’t made a start since August 30, and the lefty hasn’t pitched this postseason. But Atlanta has him on the NLCS roster for a reason, and maybe Snitker would use the southpaw to open Game 4, hoping for 1 to 2 innings in a bullpen game.
- Run out Max Fried: The Game 1 starter would be on three days rest if the Braves decide to hand the ball to ace Max Fried. The lefty went six innings and allowed two runs in the opener of the NLCS. But would using Fried make it even more likely that a bullpen game would happen for a crucial Game 6 or 7?
As of 11:30 EST on Wednesday, the Braves had not selected an opener for this bullpen game.
NLCS Game 4 Pick
The oddsmakers have the Dodgers favored to win Game 4 at home to even the NLCS. Early on Wednesday morning, BetRivers and FanDuel both have them at -208, while BetMGM goes even shorter at -227. The Braves are +180 underdogs on multiple oddsboards, and the total is 8 runs. Find the best price on the Dodgers and UNDER.