Dodgers Face Elimination Again, This Time in Atlanta

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Once again the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in an elimination game. The comparison to last year’s playoffs has been made, when the Dodgers came back to win two elimination games against the Atlanta Braves, but things are quite a but different this season. First, these games are not being played in the COVID-19 inspired Arlington, Texas bubble, with just family and close friends in attendance. All the playoff games are in the teams’ respective parks, packed with pandemic-compliant fans.

Here’s a crucial second reason this year’s playoffs are nothing like 2020: Injuries. Both teams are missing important players. The Braves are missing outfielders Ronald Acuña, Jr. and Marcel Ozuna and most recently, relief pitcher Huascar Ynoa.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner wearing a T-shirt honoring his teammate Albert Pujols
(Claudia Gestro)

Atlanta has filled up their outfield holes very well with Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and former Dodger Joc Pederson, all of whom have delivered quite a bit in Atlanta’s postseason run.

The Dodgers are missing two of their most important postseason offensive weapons: Justin Turner and Max Muncy. who is especially missed this season. He had 36 home runs and 91 RBI before he was injured in the last game of the season. J.T. has led his team in the postseason since coming over in 2014. His playoff batting average is .275 and he’s batted in 13 home runs and 42 RBI. Los Angeles will miss — is missing — their offensive output, not to mention their defensive skills. Turner plays third base and Muncy is on first.

Los Angeles also has several pitchers listed as injured and at least day-to-day: Justin Bruihl, Joe Kelly and Max Scherzer, who was scheduled to get the start tonight, but was replaced by Walker Buehler, who threw 76 pitches in Game 3, which was just four days ago. He’s going on short rest. It should also be noted starter Clayton Kershaw has been out for quite some time.

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler
(Claudia Gestro)

After his last start Buehler became irritated when a reporter asked him about pitching on short rest. He also told reporter LAPX Claudia Gestro the error by Gavin Lux was not a distraction, but admitted that, “… I didn’t execute a lot of pitches after that …” You can read more of his comments here.

The reason the Dodgers are in this Game 6 elimination game is because they smoked the Braves in Game 5, the first elimination game of this series. Chris Taylor joined an elite cob of players who have hit three home runs in one playoff game. That list includes Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Jose Altuve, former Dodger Kiké Hernandez and Taylor’s current teammate, Albert Pujols. Taylor had a six-RBI night and his teammate, A.J. Pollock, had two home runs with four RBI. Pujols had two hits and scored twice.

Dodgers first baseman Albert Pujols
(Claudia Gestro)

Game 5 was a bullpen game for the Dodgers, with Joe Kelly opening. He left in the first inning after giving up two runs. After the game it was announced his arm had soreness and then the team said he had a season-ending strain on his right biceps.

Manager Dave Roberts is hoping Buehler can go deeper into the game than he has so far this postseason. Roberts would like to give key members of his bullpen some rest if there is going to be a Game 7.

The Dodger bats need to stay hot if they are going to move into the World Series.  Truist Park in Atlanta is a hostile environment. The fans will be loud so the big key will be to score runs early and often — take the crowd out of the game.

Ian Anderson will get the start for the Braves. The Dodgers pounded on him a little in Game 2. Anderson only pitched three innings, throwing 56 pitches, giving up three walks and two runs, including a home run. If the Dodgers can get to him early — again — they stand a great chance.

Pitcher Max Fried and first baseman Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves. Both are California natives. Fried started for the Braves in Game 5 (Claudia Gestro)

The wrinkle is, Braves manager Brian Snitker is like Dave Roberts: he isn’t afraid to go to his bullpen early and often — and he will put starters on the mound in relief.

It’s another tough game for the Dodgers, but they have been here before. Dodgers fans have watched their team come from behind so often it seems like it’s how the boys like to play. Taylor even said the Dodgers seem to play better when their backs are against thew wall … but everyone on the team would prefer to take the lead early and put their foot on the other team’s neck.

Game time is 5:08 p.m. Pacific Time.

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UPDATE: The Atlanta Braves won Game 6 in Atlanta to advance to the 2021 World Series. Great pitching and timely hitting gave the Braves a 4-2 edge.

On the Dodgers part, it was a lack of offense that was a big reason for their loss. They only managed to push across two runs; Chris Taylor, who had three home runs in Game 5, had just one hit. Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler threw 77 pitches in four innings, giving up for runs.

Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros. Game 1 of the 2021 World Series will be Tuesday, October 26 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. Game time is 5:09 p.m. Pacific Time.