Historic Offensive Explosion Re-Establishes Dodgers as Clear NLCS Favorites

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterOctober 15, 2020

Los Angeles Dodgers' Max Muncy (13) celebrates his grand slam home run during the first inning in Game 3 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

Game 3 of the National League Championship Series was over pretty much as soon as it began when the Los Angeles Dodgers rode an 11-run first inning to an eventual 15-3 victory over Atlanta.

Atlanta still has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, but it's not overstating things to say the Dodgers now have all the momentum after Wednesday's action.

      

Notable Players of the Game

Three for Los Angeles:

  • 1B Max Muncy: 2-for-4, 2 BB, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI. His grand slam capped the Dodgers' offensive onslaught in the first inning, effectively turning everyone's attention to Game 4.
  • SS Corey Seager: 3-for-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI. He was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle by the third inning, and he might even have gotten it if manager Dave Roberts hadn't removed him in the fifth inning.
  • SP Julio Urias: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 R (1 ER), 5 K. He wasn't great, but he topped 100 pitches for the first time in his career and didn't blow a lead that started at 11 runs and got as large as 15 runs.

     

Three for Atlanta:

  • SP Kyle Wright0.2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 7 R (7 ER), 0 K. He was down a run after only two pitches, and he had a 94.50 ERA by the time the book on him was closed. A "More like Kyle Wrong" quip seems in order.
  • RP Huascar Ynoa: 4.0 IP, 1 H, 4 BB, 0 R, 4 K. The game was already well out of hand when Ynoa entered in the third, but the innings he ate could prove huge later in the series.
  • CF Cristian Pache: 1-for-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI. The 21-year-old's homer in the third inning was the first of his major league career, and it secured him a special spot in Atlanta lore.

    

Where the NLCS Stands

-Atlanta leads 2-1, with the series set to continue Thursday from Globe Life Field at 8:08 p.m. ET.

-The Dodgers had to scratch Clayton Kershaw from Game 2 on Tuesday because of back spasms, but Roberts confirmed after Game 3 that the ace left-hander is good to go for Game 4 on Thursday.

-Atlanta is slated to start right-hander Bryse Wilson in Game 4. This will be his first assignment of the postseason and his first outing of any kind since the finale of Atlanta's regular season on Sept. 27.

-Game 5 will be played Friday. If necessary, Games 6 and 7 will take place Saturday and Sunday.

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Why the Dodgers' Offensive Explosion in Game 3 Changes Everything

The Dodgers rewrote the Major League Baseball record books when they went off for 11 runs in the first inning Wednesday:

The Boys in Blue also rewrote their own record books in the end. Their 15 runs are the most they've ever scored in a postseason game, topping the 13 they tallied in both Game 3 of the 2013 National League Division Series and Game 2 of the 1956 World Series.

What's more, Los Angeles' beatdown of Atlanta in Game 3 came on the heels of an offensive reawakening in the later innings of Game 2. Though the Dodgers incurred an 8-7 loss that put them in a 2-0 series hole, they outscored Atlanta 7-2 in the final three innings.

This is more like the offense that paced a 43-win effort in this year's 60-game season with an MLB-high average of 5.82 runs per game. The Dodgers also led with 118 home runs, and they've now hit eight in the NLCS after mustering all of two through the Wild Card and Division Series rounds.

It wasn't the biggest surprise to see Los Angeles' hitters struggle opposite Atlanta aces Max Fried and Ian Anderson in Games 1 and 2. The two combined for a 2.14 ERA in 17 starts during the regular season, and thus far have a 1.38 ERA through six starts in the playoffs.

Yet Atlanta's starters nonetheless posted an ugly 5.51 ERA during the regular season, which points to a soft underbelly the Dodgers began exposing with their domination of Wright in Game 3.

Said underbelly only figures to get softer once Wilson takes the mound for Game 4. He's made 15 total appearances and only seven starts in three seasons, and he hasn't exactly made the most of them in posting a 5.91 ERA.

So much like with Wright in Game 3, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker will need to have a short hook ready for Wilson in Game 4. That wouldn't be ideal for Atlanta's bullpen, which had to cover 8.1 innings in Game 3.

The heavier workloads would likely continue into Game 5 and (if necessary) Game 6. Due to a lack of other options after Wright and Wilson, Snitker would presumably task Fried and Anderson with starting those games on only three days' rest.

For their part, the Dodgers came into this series with five starters—Kershaw, Urias, Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin—who had an aggregate 2.75 ERA in 46 starts during the regular season.

Even despite his iffy back and extensive history of October disappointments, outpitching Wilson won't be too tall an order for Kershaw in Game 4. If he's up to it, the Dodgers could start May in Game 5 and then turn things over to Buehler on regular rest for Game 6 if they get there.

Granted, Atlanta can root its confidence for the remainder of the series in the reality that it still has the lead. With two more wins, the club can be back in the World Series for the first time since 1999.

The Dodgers, however, have the advantages of a red-hot offense and much better pitching options. That may be enough for them to keep their comeback going long enough to earn a trip to their third Fall Classic in the last four years.

        

Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.