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Braves explode to early lead and hold off Dodgers to claim 2-0 lead in NLCS

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The Braves offense did their thing on Tuesday evening as the Braves took a commanding lead in the NLCS.

League Championship - Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Ian Anderson was a bit wild, but pitched well enough to extend his postseason scoreless innings streak as the Braves offense led by Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies jumped all over the Dodgers early and, despite a late rally from the Dodgers, beat LA by the final score of 8-7 to give the Braves a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship series.

The first couple of innings went by largely without incident. Tony Gonsolin was mowing through Braves hitters at a rate that made one wonder if the Dodgers didn’t upgrade their starter with the scratching of Kershaw. Ian had a rough first inning that saw a pair of walks and some long at-bats that ran up his pitch count, but a 13 pitch second inning got him back on track.

The third inning was more of the same. Gonsolin at least gave up some decently hard contact with Austin Riley hitting a hard lineout, but Nick Markakis continued his total futility at the plate and Cristian Pache grounded out on the first pitch his saw. Ian did find himself in trouble in the third inning after walking Mookie Betts and then giving up a two out single to Justin Turner and then a walk to Max Muncy. Fortunately, Ian got weak contact to end the inning, but at 66 pitches...it was looking like it was going to be a short night for him....but at least his postseason scoreless inning streak remained intact.

The top of the fourth had a promising start with Ronald Acuna Jr. working a five pitch walk. It went from promising to productive as Freddie Freeman, who should start clearing a spot on his mantle for his NL MVP award in this humble writer’s opinion, connected for a two-run homer to give the Braves a 2-0 lead. The Braves would then work some good at-bats to help run Gonsolin’s pitch count up, which is good because he began the fourth at 28 pitches, and then Ozzie Albies singled with two outs. After a decently long at-bat, Dansby would record the third out but Gonsolin was at 60 pitches and things were looking up for the Atlanta Braves professional baseball club.

Ian Anderson would navigate the bottom of the fourth inning with another walk, this one to Joc Pederson, but with no other damage. Unfortunately, his pitch count meant that his night was done with a final line of 4 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, and 5 K.

The top of the fifth started with an Austin Riley strikeout, after a good at-bat, followed by Nick Markakis working a 10 pitch walk which feels like a miracle given how a lot of his at-bats have looked recently. That brought Cristian Pache to the plate who worked a deep count and then cracked a double to left that brought home Markakis to extend the Braves’ lead to 3-0. Acuna would then walk again and that was it for Tony Gonsolin as Pedro Baez was brought in from the bullpen.

That would bring Freddie Freeman to the plate against a righty reliever with two on and one out. Of course he delivered with an RBI single that brought in Cristian Pache to make it a 4-0 Braves lead. Marcell Ozuna would then walk to load the bases for Travis d’Arnaud. TdA would go on to walk to force in another run and give Ozzie a chance with the bases loaded. After working another deep count, Ozzie would hit a sac fly to make it a 6-0 game. Dansby Swanson would finally strike out to end the inning after Dylan Floro came in to relieve Baez, but the damage was done.

Tyler Matzek would enter the game in the bottom of the fifth. There was a certain amount of interest in his appearance as he had warmed up before the 40 minute slog that was the top of the fifth, but he retired Mookie Betts quickly on two pitches. He would then walk Corey Seager, but after some questionable umpiring, he would get Justin Turner to ground into a double play to end the inning.

The Braves would go quietly in the top of the 6th with the notable exception of a Nick Markakis double...everyone, finish your drink. Matzek would stay in for the bottom of the sixth inning to face Max Muncy who promptly grounded out. Will Smith would single to left before Matzek struck out Cody Bellinger and got AJ Pollock to line out to end the inning.

The top of the seventh would be started by old friend Alex Wood who got Freddie Freeman to ground out and then Marcell Ozuna to pop out before walking Travis d’Arnaud on five pitches. Ozzie Albies, who is fast, would single on a grounder to short and the Braves had something cooking again. Dansby would deliver with a ground-rule double that scored Travis d’Arnaud. The Dodgers intentionally walked Austin Riley to get to lefty Nick Markakis who flew out to end the inning.

Darren O’Day would start the bottom of the seventh which started with Joc Pederson reaching base after a really hard grounder took a weird hop and ate Ozzie Albies up. Chris Taylor would then single to give Mookie Betts a chance to do some damage with two on and none out. Fortunately, O’Day would strike Mookie out before yielding to AJ Minter. This would not end particularly well as Minter would give up a three run homer to Corey Seager as his first batter and just like that...the Braves’ lead shrunk to 7-3. He got a quick flyout from Justin Turner and then struck out Muncy and the Braves found themselves with a four run lead to protect and six more outs to get.

After another Acuna strikeout, btw...he definitely doesn’t look right and I expect that we will find out that he was quite hurt after the season, Alex Wood would plunk Freddie Freeman with two out in the top of the 8th and it was pretty clear that it didn’t feel good. Freddie would stay in the game as Ozuna flew out to left and would take the field in the bottom half of the inning, so it appears that all is well.

Chris Martin would get the ball in the bottom of the eighth and would proceed to strike out Will Smith, the other one, on four pitches. Cody Bellinger would pop out for out number two which was followed by an AJ Pollock single before Joc Pederson just missed a ball to center that Cristian Pache corralled to send the Dodgers back to the dugout down to their last three outs.

The Braves were not done scoring runs, however, as Ozzie Albies got an at-bat against a lefty which is usually a good thing. This time...it was. A solo homer from him with one out in the 9th extended the lead to 8-3. Dansby Swanson would follow with a single and it started to feel like the Braves were doing that thing they do late in games a lot. Nick Markakis would single, which put him at reaching base three times in the game, to advance Dansby but Cristian Pache would ground out to end the inning.

With the margin a bit more safe, the Braves went with Josh Tomlin for the ninth inning. Chris Taylor struck out before Mookie Betts singled to left. Corey Seager would then double Mookie home and the nervousness started to settle in for Braves fans everywhere. It didn’t help that, after a strikeout, that Max Muncy homered off Tomlin to make it an 8-6 game. Mark Melancon would enter the game and Ozzie booted the grounder that would have ended the game before Bellinger tripled to put the tying run on third. Fortunately for everyone, Austin Riley was able to handle a sharp grounder his way and mercifully record the third and final out.