The Los Angeles Dodgers are one win away from their third World Series appearance in four years after a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday.
Since falling behind 3-1 in the series, Los Angeles has come alive in the past two games. The offense exploded with six total runs in the sixth and seventh innings Friday night to turn Game 5 from a pitching duel into a blowout.
The Dodgers have been all-or-nothing through the first six games. They scored a combined 22 runs in their first two wins but were held to 10 in their three losses. The lineup hitting its stride couldn't have come at a better time with an opportunity to play in the Fall Classic at stake.
Saturday was more feast or famine for the Dodgers, who scored all three of their runs in the first inning on homers by Corey Seager and Justin Turner and an RBI single by Cody Bellinger.
Taking the mound with his team's season on the line, Walker Buehler held Atlanta's high-powered offense scoreless during his six innings of work to earn the win and force Game 7.
Notable Game Stats
- Walker Buehler (LAD): 6 IP, 7 H, 6 K
- Mookie Betts (LAD): 1-for-4, BB
- Corey Seager (LAD): 1-for-4, Solo HR, RBI
- Justin Turner (LAD): 1-for-3, Solo HR, RBI
- Max Fried (ATL): 6.2 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K
- Dansby Swanson (ATL): 3-for-4, 3 singles
- Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL): 1-for-4, RBI
Buehler's Brilliance Has Dodgers Rolling
Buehler battled his way through Game 1 of the NLCS, allowing just one run over five innings. He had to be removed because the Braves were able to draw five walks and run his pitch count up to 100 pitches.
Saturday initially looked like it might follow a similar script. Atlanta loaded the bases on three consecutive singles to start the second inning, but Buehler showed why he is the ace of the Dodgers staff by getting the next three hitters out without a run crossing the plate.
Jeff Passan @JeffPassan
Walker Buehler loaded the bases with no outs. Then he did this. FB 98 FB 98 FB 99 (strikeout) FB 98 FB 98 FB 98 FB 99 FB 100 (strikeout) FB 99 CT 94 FB 98 SL 87 (groundout) Braves have to capitalize there. A huge blown opportunity and good work by Buehler vs. bottom of lineup.
As good as Buehler was on this day, he also needed some help from his defense. The Braves threatened again in the top of the fourth by getting two runners on base with one out, but Austin Riley lined out to Bellinger in center field and Nick Markakis grounded out to Buehler.
Mookie Betts reminded everyone why he is one of the best defensive players regardless of position in Major League Baseball by robbing Marcell Ozuna of extra bases to save a run in the fifth:
The Dodgers needed Buehler and the defense to step up because the offense went quiet after a big first inning. They have thrived on big innings throughout this series. The first inning of Game 6 marked the seventh time they have scored at least three runs in an inning against Braves pitching.
Looking ahead to Game 7, the Dodgers are going to need all hands on deck from their pitching staff. It will be interesting to see how manager Dave Roberts handles things. Tony Gonsolin is lined up to start on regular rest. He had to start Game 2 because Clayton Kershaw's back flared up.
Kershaw could potentially be available out of the bullpen, but he will only have had two days of rest since his Game 4 start.
Relief pitching has been a problem for Los Angeles throughout the series. That group has given up 17 runs in six games.
Unless the Dodgers are going to steamroll Atlanta's pitching, like they did late in Game 2 and early in Game 3, late-inning relief will be a critical factor if they are going to finish this comeback and reach the World Series.
Missed Opportunities Cost Braves
As good as Buehler, Betts and the rest of the Dodgers were at keeping Atlanta's offense at bay for most of the game, the Braves also hurt themselves with a chance to close out the series.
Max Fried, who was so good at keeping the ball in the park during the regular season, gave up back-to-back long balls within the first three hitters of the first inning and looked like he was going to get pulled quick.
It's a credit to Fried that he was able to bounce back quickly, holding the Dodgers to four singles over his final 5.2 innings to keep the game close for Atlanta.
The Braves had their chances to get into that leaky Los Angeles bullpen early, but failed to capitalize in big spots. They finished 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position today. This has been an ongoing problem for them throughout the series.
In fact, outside of their 8-for-13 effort in Game 4, the Braves had five hits in 35 at-bats with runners in scoring position entering Game 6.
The Braves have been able to succeed in this series despite those numbers, but they are going to need some luck to come their way if they want to avoid losing in Game 7.
Atlanta has the talent to score runs in bunches with Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, Ozuna and Ozzie Albies leading the lineup. This was only the second time in the playoffs the offense has scored one or fewer runs.
Look for that group to put its best foot forward Sunday with a chance at playing in the World Series on the line.
The Dodgers and Braves will determine the National League representative in the World Series when they play Game 7 on Sunday at 8:15 p.m. ET.