The Los Angeles Dodgers are set up to win their first game of the 2021 NLCS on Tuesday.
Dave Roberts' team can gain an advantage in Game 3 through Walker Buehler, and a win at home could affect the manager's strategy for the rest of the series.
Roberts used projected Game 4 starter Julio Urias in relief in Game 2, but the move backfired. Atlanta leveled the game on back-to-back RBI hits from Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley. Urias could be saved for Game 5 if Buehler wins Game 3.
Atlanta is countering Buehler with Charlie Morton in Game 3, but there is a big question mark surrounding its plans for Game 4. It could call on Max Fried on short rest, or let one of the other starters take over so Fried goes on full rest in Game 5.
Atlanta has made the better pitching decisions so far, but the complexion of the series could change now that the NL East champion is out of its home stadium.
Game 3: Tuesday, October 19 (5:08 p.m. ET, TBS)
Game 4: Wednesday, October 20 (8:08 p.m. ET, TBS)
Game 5: Thursday, October 21 (8:08 p.m. ET, TBS)*
Game 6: Saturday, October 23 (5:08 p.m. ET, TBS)*
Game 7: Sunday, October 24 (7:38 p.m. ET, TBS)*
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
Game 3: Atlanta (+155; bet $100 to win $155); Los Angeles (-180; bet $180 to win $100); Over/Under: 7.5
Series Price: Atlanta (-190); Los Angeles (+160)
Los Angeles in 7
Roberts' move to call on Urias in Game 2 didn't work, but if a few decisions go in his favor, the Dodgers can win the series.
Their comeback attempt starts with Buehler in Game 3. The right-handed hurler conceded a single earned run in 11 innings in the 2020 NLCS against Atlanta at a neutral site.
The 27-year-old has conceded three earned runs once in a postseason start since 2019. If he keeps Atlanta's bats at bay, Los Angeles can ride him six or seven innings and not max out their bullpen.
That would be a massive boost for Roberts, who could then shift around his pitching plans if Urias does not start Game 4.
Los Angeles could use Tony Gonsolin to kick off a bullpen outing in Game 4 to give Urias an opportunity to pitch on more rest in Game 5.
In that scenario, the Dodgers would line up Max Scherzer and Buehler to pitch in Games 6 and 7 if the series gets that far.
That should be a terrifying thought for Atlanta, especially if it can't use Fried after Game 5. The left-hander would start on regular rest on Thursday after pitching in Game 1.
If Buehler neutralizes Morton in Game 3, Atlanta could be at a disadvantage in Game 4. Huascar Ynoa seems the best option to make that start.
The 23-year-old gave up two earned runs in relief in NLDS Game 4 versus the Milwaukee Brewers. He finished the regular season by allowing 21 earned runs in six September starts.
If the Dodgers win Game 3, they could be inclined to use Gonsolin and a combination of relievers to allow Urias to go head-to-head with Fried in Game 5.
In the last three postseasons, Urias conceded more than two earned runs once in 12 appearances.
If the Dodgers get that version of the Mexican in either Game 4 or 5, they could limit the production of Atlanta's bats and earn a needed victory.
Atlanta is in the driver's seat in the series, but it also had a 2-0 lead in last year's NLCS before the Dodgers offense exploded for 15 runs in Game 3.
Los Angeles does not need 15 runs on Tuesday, but if Buehler pitches well and the Dodgers bats get to Morton, it could flip the complexion of the series and set the reigning World Series champion up for success.
Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference
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