The Atlanta Braves jumped out to an early lead in Game 5 but their offense went quiet through the middle innings and it cost them in a 7-3 loss. The Braves will get another chance to end the series on Saturday with Max Fried facing Walker Buehler in a rematch of the Game 1 matchup. Here are four thoughts from Friday’s loss.
A.J. Minter starts and impresses
Let’s begin with something good. The Braves had not used a classic opener all season but that was the situation that they were faced with in Game 5. A.J. Minter got the call and Brian Snitker was hoping to get at least one inning out of him. Minter gave them much more than that tossing three scoreless innings allowing one hit while striking out seven. He became the first pitcher in postseason history to strike out seven hitters in an outing of three innings or less.
Hitters lose patience through the middle innings
The Braves manufactured a run in the first and the second and appeared poised to extend the lead in the third when Marcell Ozuna and Travis d’Arnaud led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Ozzie Albies advanced the runners with a ground out and then Dansby Swanson hit a fly ball to right that Mookie Betts made a nice running shoestring catch. Ozuna scored on the play but the Dodgers challenged and replay showed that he in fact left the bag at third early. The call was overturned and the inning was over.
The Dodgers would retire the next nine hitters in a row and a lot of those at-bats were short one or two pitch at-bats. They had the advantage early but appeared to lose their focus and it cost them.
Dodgers get to Will Smith and Jacob Webb
The bullpen decisions will get beat to death between now and the start of Game 6 but there wasn’t a lot of choices available to Snitker in a game with nothing but relievers. The one striking difference was how Dodgers hitters began to grind out at-bats which as I touched on above, was the opposite approach taken by the Braves.
Tyler Matzek worked a scoreless 1 1/3 innings after Minter and then gave way to Shane Greene who would be pitching in the third straight game. Greene allowed a one-out single to AJ Pollock but then retired Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor to end the inning. Snitker stuck with him to start the sixth and he was in trouble from the start after Mookie Betts reached on an infield single to open the inning. Greene got Seager to fly out and then retired Betts when he was caught in a run down on a ground ball by Turner.
Greene would exit as Snitker would turn to Will Smith to face Max Muncy. Smith quickly fell behind 3-0, battled back to 3-2 and then lost him on the sixth pitch. That would set up the Will Smith versus Will Smith everyone was waiting for but it wouldn’t end well for the Braves. The Dodgers backstop worked the count to 3-2 and then went down and got a fastball and drove it out to left to put Los Angeles up 4-2.
Jacob Webb took over in the seventh and struck out Pollock and Pederson to begin the inning. Webb then ran a 1-1 fastball up and in to Chris Taylor. The ball hit the knob of the bat but the umpire initially ruled it a hit batter. Webb protested loudly and replay would overturn the call but it appeared that the Atlanta righty may have lost a little focus. Taylor worked the count to 2-2 and then doubled and scored on a single by Betts. Seager then jumped on the first pitch he saw and drove it out for his second homer of the game to make it 7-2. At that point, it became about preserving bullpen arms for the remainder of the series for the Braves.
Atlanta still leads the series 3-2
It is important to maintain perspective. While the Braves may have let one get away it was foolish to expect the Dodgers to just roll over. Atlanta still has a 3-2 edge in the series and will have Max Fried lined up for Game 6 and Ian Anderson for Game 7 if needed. They are still in great position and just need to get back to grinding out some at-bats and putting the pressure back on Los Angeles.