The Braves barged to a 5-0 lead in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Dodgers thanks in large measure to a Ronald Acuna Jr. off fellow rookie Walker Buehler. The Dodgers, though, , and a pair of home runs in the fifth tied the score. Atlanta stalwart Freddie Freeman to lead off the sixth. In the ninth, the Dodgers looked poised to flip the script yet again when the first two batters of the inning reached. However, Arodys Vizcaino battled back from a 3-0 count to strike out Max Muncy. Then he got Manny Machado and Brian Dozier to chase two-strike sliders to escape the jam and give the Braves a 6-5 win at home. With the win, the Braves force a Game 4 Monday back in Atlanta.
Here’s what you need to know about Dodgers vs. Braves Game 3:
Freeman broke his home run drought
The Braves’ franchise first baseman had a strong 2018 on balance, but he didn’t put up his customary power numbers in the second half (just seven of his 23 homers this season came after the break). Coming into Game 3, he hadn’t homered since Sept. 19., and he’d hit just four since Aug. 14. Then he did this off Alex Wood on the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth:
With that blast, Freeman’s drought was over, and — much more important — the Braves had recaptured the lead in this do-or-die game.
Dodger power was on display
The Dodgers during the regular season led the NL in home runs despite playing their home games in a ballpark that benefits the pitcher. So you know they can bang. The Braves learned that in the fifth inning of Game 3, as Chris Taylor launched a two-run shot to cut the lead to 5-4 and then Max Muncy tied it up with this blast:
Mercy. Muncy in the regular season blasted 35 home runs in just 395 at-bats, and this one gives him two for the series. Also, Machado just homering in the fifth (fly out to the wall), and then Matt Kemp almost went yard in the sixth (double).
The Braves finally scored
As you know, the Braves were blanked in Games 1 and 2 of this series. That comes on the heels of their scoring a total of one run over their final two games of the regular season. For those counting, that’s one run in their last 36 innings. In the second inning, though, they finally broke through against Dodger pitching.
An intentional walk to Charlie Culberson loaded the bases for pitcher Sean Newcomb. Buehler, though, walked him on four straight pitches to force in a run. And with that, the Braves’ drought had ended. But, oh, they weren’t done …
Acuna made history
In the second inning, Braves rookie phenom Acuna crushed a no-doubt grand slam off a struggling Buehler:
Buehler started off 3-0 on Acuna, and what looked like ball four was called a strike. That set up the act of baseball violence you saw above. That also occasioned some postseason history for young Mr. Acuna:
Acuna was the top overall prospect in baseball before he authored an outstanding rookie season. Speaking of said rookie season, he hit 26 home runs in 111 regular season games. So that power stroke isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s been watching.
As for Buehler, he threw just nine strikes in 27 pitches in that second inning. One of those strikes, he’d like to have back.
Snitker wasn’t messing around
Being down 0-2, the Braves were faced with elimination in Game 3. This, of course, wasn’t lost on Atlanta manager Brian Snitker. The surest sign of this was when he lifted starter Sean Newcomb (not long after letting him bat with the bases loaded) with two out and two on in the top of the third, even though he was staked to a 5-0 lead. Kevin Gausman came in, and a Justin Turner single plus an Acuna error allowed two runs to score before Machado whiffed to end it. Snitker’s aggressive hook, though, showed he wasn’t taking any chances. He wound up using seven pitchers to grind out the win.
Markakis made a key play in the ninth
Joc Pederson singled on the 10th pitch of his at-bat to lead off the ninth. Here’s the hit, but note Markakis’ swift catch and throw in right to limit Pederson to one base:
Justin Turner’s walk would force Pederson to second, and then a wild pitch on the strikeout of Machado (Kurt Suzuki should’ve blocked it) sent the runners to second and third. If Markakis doesn’t get that ball in that quickly, Pederson has a double and probably comes home to score the tying run on that wild pitch (assuming the sequences remain the same). It was an overlooked moment, but Markakis’ nice display of outfield fundamentals wound up making a big difference.
The Braves are alive
The win in Game 3 means the Dodgers now lead the series 2-1. So the Dodgers need one more win to advance to the NLCS to face the Brewers, while the Braves must win the final two games. That, of course, would mean three straight wins over the Dodgers. The good news for the Braves is that the Dodgers this season endured 10 losing streaks that spanned three or more games.
Game 4 is scheduled for Monday back at SunTrust Park in Atlanta. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET. Mike Foltynewicz is the probable starter for the Braves, and Rich Hill is lined up for the Dodgers.
Relive commentary from Sunday’s Game 3. If the live blog doesn’t load,.