Alexander: Maybe the way the Dodgers won was poetic justice

Maybe this is how it had to happen.

Maybe, after all of those years of pitching changes that didn’t work, home runs that crushed dreams and endless ammunition for second-guessers, the Dodgers would finally win a championship because of the other manager’s unforced error.

Those who follow the Tampa Bay Rays, whether they actually attend games in St. Petersburg or not, will be arguing and bemoaning and hashing over this moment for a good long time to come: Rays manager Kevin Cash coming to the mound to take the ball from Blake Snell with one out in the sixth inning, with Snell having given up his second hit but also having struck out nine and appearing to be nowhere near out of gas.

And somewhere in the Dodger dugout, as the Dodgers took the lead against a relief pitcher who had made six appearances in the postseason and given up runs in all six, and had allowed all three runners he’d inherited in this series to score, Dave Roberts was thinking, “Better him than me.”

All of those October disappointments, all of those nights and days that Dodgers managers – not only Roberts but Don Mattingly before him – had to choose between going with a starter too long or going with a reliever they weren’t necessarily sure they could trust … Dodger fans won’t forget them all, but they won’t have to obsess about them any more.

“It is surreal,” Austin Barnes said Tuesday night. If it is surreal for the players, how must it be for those who have watched all those disappointments, to finally see the Dodgers win a World Series for the first time in 32 years and the seventh time in franchise history?

They finally sealed the deal, 3-1, in Game 6 on neutral ground that wasn’t so neutral. The home of the Texas Rangers for three weeks may as well have been Dodger Stadium East. The Dodgers had the home clubhouse, had familiarity with the quirks of the ballpark, and by the end had the majority of the crowd in Globe Life Park.

And should anyone scoff about a championship in a 60-game schedule caused by a runaway pandemic, there was a reminder of the very real health hurdles every team had faced at the very end of Game 6: Justin Turner had been removed from the game after the seventh inning. As the game ended, Fox reported that he’d come out because of a positive COVID-19 test.

After a rash of positive tests early in the season, the game had almost gotten through the end of its signature event, in a bubble, without a positive. But social media erupted when Turner, the heart and soul of this team, came back on the field to hold the trophy and join the team picture.

“A lot of the people who he interacted with (on the field) would be in the contact tracing web,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said, referring to the fact that team personnel and their families had all been within the bubble. “And before we are to interact with other people, I think it’s important for us all to clear the requisite testing hurdles to make sure that we’re in a good spot before we do that.”

So the Dodgers might not be leaving Dallas right away, after all, at least until they receive test resulits.

Before Turner returned to the field, he had tweeted this:

Thanks to everyone reaching out! I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA#WorldSeriesChamps

— Justin Turner (@redturn2) October 28, 2020

For sure, this was a twist that was so 2020.

But it didn’t dampen the joy of accomplishment, especially for those who had been through those earlier Octobers.

“Everyone in this ballpark wearing Dodger blue, everyone in the world wearing Dodger blue, they never wavered,” Roberts hollered into the microphone during the trophy presentation, as the predominantly pro-Dodgers crowd roared.

Later, Clayton Kershaw was asked what this might do for his legacy, and he shrugged off the question.

“I don’t care about any of that, man,” he said. “We won the World Series. I don’t care about legacy. I don’t care about what happened last year. I don’t care about what people think. I don’t care at all, man. We won the World Series. The 2020 Dodgers won the World Series. I was like, who cares about all that other stuff? To be a part of that team, all that other stuff is just pointless. It doesn’t matter. We won. It’s great.”

For the record, it does matter. His pitching in this postseason changed the narrative, and this championship will change it further.

“When people talk about him, it’s World Series champion first, then future Hall of Famer,” Roberts said.

But Tuesday night it all went back to the moment that Cash emerged from the dugout to remove Snell with one out in the sixth after he’d given up a single to Austin Barnes. Snell had thrown 73 pitches, 48 for strikes, and thrown 29 four-seam fastballs (averaging 96.3 mph, according to Statcast) without one being put in play.

“I was pretty happy because he was dominating us and we just weren’t seeing him,” Roberts said. “Once Austin got that hit and they went to the pen, I think that Mookie (Betts) looked at me with a little smile.”

If Dodger fans hadn’t seen this so closely and so agonizingly over the years from their side of the field, they might have sympathized. This time? No way.

And it was also fitting that Betts scored the go-ahead run in the sixth by beating the throw home on an infield hit, much as he did in Game 1. He used his legs – and later his bat, when he hit a 434-foot home run in the eighth inning – to put the Dodgers in position for one of those rings.

Remember? The ones he promised the day he signed his 12-year contract extension in July.

The celebration scream Mookie unleashed as he rounded first after the home run said it all. This was the bonus L.A. got when Friedman made the trade for Betts back in February. He doesn’t just provide performance and leadership, he does it with joy and passion, and he makes it easier for others to follow his lead. This never seemed to be a team that was too cool for the room.

It was, instead, a team on a mission from day one. The veterans who had been through these struggles felt it all along, but perhaps it really hit home the moment Betts addressed the team at Camelback Ranch about what it takes to win a championship. Through all of the disruptions and inconveniences that followed during this most unusual of all seasons, they maintained that focus on the mission.

They were the best team in the regular season. And at the end they were not only the best of the eight Dodgers teams that have won consecutive NL West championships, they were the best team in baseball, period.

“I feel like there’s been a lot of times where we’ve sat as a group, we’ve sat in front of you guys and we’ve talked internally and to you guys about, ‘Oh, this is the best team we’ve ever played on,’ ” Kiké Hernández said before Tuesday night’s game. “And, you know, this season, I think we can all agree that this is the best team that we’ve seen since we’ve been here.”

Remember, the 2017 Dodgers won 104 games. The 2019 Dodgers won 106. This one won more than 71 percent of its games in a 60-game season. An accurate comparison is probably impossible to make, given the unusual conditions, but winning the final game of the season was the main separator. Hernández pointed another.

“I guess, look at the trade deadline,” he said. “There’s a lot of questions about a lot of teams, but there wasn’t really a lot of questions about what did the Dodgers need to get over the edge? And that just tells you how complete, how deep we were and we are as a team that we didn’t feel the need to go after somebody to get us over the hump.

“And I guess, you know, just by the years I’ve been here, there’s always been that question about what do they need and what they don’t have. And this year there wasn’t really that. We kind of have it all. And it’s allowed us to be in this position that we are today.”

Which will include being sized for World Series rings.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

 

 

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Alexander: For Dodgers, one victory away from ending the wait

One more victory to a World Series championship, and two chances to get it. Did you ever think the Dodgers would reach that point?

They’re there. They have a chance to turn the devastating insanity of Saturday night’s ninth inning into a footnote. They have an opportunity to end a 32-season drought, and particularly to wipe away the frustration of the last seven Octobers with teams that were good enough to win, and in some cases should have won, but didn’t.

On Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas, Tony Gonsolin will start what is expected to be a bullpen game, and before Dodger fans throw up their hands let’s recall that a bullpen game got the Dodgers to the World Series in Game 7 of the NLCS against Atlanta, although it will be hard to envision them getting another 12 outs from Julio Urias just three days after his Game 4 start against Tampa Bay. But it’s possible.

And if they need a Game 7, they will have Walker Buehler. Do you like their chances to win one of the next two?

(Yes, smart guy in the back of the room, we hear you saying it might depend on whether they can keep the bullpen phone on mute. But Dave Roberts’ moves worked over the last three innings on Sunday night, so you might want to keep that snark under wraps for the moment.)

The Dodgers’ first task Sunday was to erase the memories of Saturday night, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ two-run rally in the ninth to even the series. Three runs in the first two innings on Sunday helped. But really, there shouldn’t have been much doubt in their ability to recover from Saturday night’s ninth-inning gut punch, the end of a weird, wild and ultimately discouraging game.

“Everybody (in the clubhouse) was pretty positive,” shortstop Corey Seager said before the game. “You have to be at this point. Once you (left) the locker room, it was over with. We started preparing for today.

“… (Saturday) night was an extremely weird ending and kind of the whole play in general. It wasn’t just that last play. It was throughout the game, there were points where we could have been better.”

But this is the mantra Roberts has preached to his team all along, since he became the Dodgers’ manager in 2016, and as is often the case with a manager or coach, you can tell it sinks in when the players repeat the things he says. To those in the Dodger clubhouse, it is all about winning a baseball game today, and nothing else matters.

“It makes it easier (to shrug off adversity), but it’s not easy to do,” Roberts said. “I think that past successes or failures, things looking out, sort of bleed into kind of a player’s psyche and a team psyche. But that is a message that we believe in. And so now when you can kind of drown out all that other stuff, past and future, it does make it easier to focus on that night’s ball game.

“And (Sunday night) there were 28 players collectively focused on winning tonight. And we got it done.”

Of course, there’s always the baseball adage that momentum more often lies in the identity of that day’s starting pitcher. It has not always been a given in October that Clayton Kershaw would provide that momentum, but in facing the Rays for the second time in five days he did. His six strikeouts pushed him past Justin Verlander into No. 1 all-time for postseason strikeouts, with 207, and he left the bullpen with a two-run lead that Dustin May, Victor González and Blake Treinen took to the finish line.

Should the Dodgers pull this off, the vindication of Kershaw the postseason performer should be front and center. He came into this year with a 4.43 career postseason ERA, as well as the memories of all of those home runs surrendered in big games.

In five postseason starts this season, he is 4-1, compared to his career won-loss record of 9-11 going into these playoffs. His ERA this fall is 2.93, compared to that 4.43. His WHIP is 0.847, compared to 1.074.

A lot of that has been the result of more reasonable usage. He has not had to go on short rest, he has not been needed out of the bullpen, and Roberts said he thinks those factors have helped.

“To his credit, he will do whatever we ask,” the manager said. “And I just don’t know many pitchers who would do that. But in this situation, in this case, we’ve used him kind of more conventional (fashion). And he’s responded really well. So we’re just very lucky to have him and I couldn’t be happier that the postseason he’s had mirrors who he is as a pitcher. He deserves it and it’s great.”

Kershaw acknowledged that those moments of watching the bullpen finish his games can be difficult, not because of the relievers’ success necessarily but because sitting and watching is harder than being able to do something about it yourself.

“I was talking to some of the guys, Walker and some of the other starters,” he said. “The actual day that you pitch, you feel like you can have some say, some control of the game. But sitting there in the dugout watching the last few innings or watching a whole game, for that matter, it’s so stressful in the postseason, especially just because you care so much.”

But if the waiting was hard before, imagine what the break between Games 5 and 6 will be like, one win away.

“The off day’s gonna be hard,” he said. “It’s going to be good for us, obviously resetting our bullpen and things like that, which is huge. But sitting around one win away from a World Series is going to be hard, especially when you’ve been in the same hotel for four weeks now.

“But, you know, I think we can wait one more day and we’ll all be ready to go. Game six, I mean, for myself personally, I’m still gonna try and get ready, try and recover as best I can and be ready to pitch at any moment, just because it’s the last two games of this season.”

If he’s not needed, so much the better. Either way, whatever happens promises to be memorable.

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Whicker: Dodgers derailed by a gust of craziness in an ‘un-perfect storm’

Because baseball turned into pinball, we’re thinking more about Mookie Wilson than Mookie Betts.

Because Chris Taylor took a peek at the action and looked away from the baseball, Clayton Kershaw is pitching to tilt a world Series on Sunday, not to win it.

Because Will Smith decided to maneuver a baseball before he actually caught it, Kenley Jansen remains associated with bumps in the night instead of strike-three handshakes.

None of that fully explains the runaway train of a Game 4 on Saturday that suddenly crashed into the Bad News Bears.

The Dodgers were one strike away from taking a 3-1 lead in this World Series. Just one fewer misplay would have kept the score tied. Instead, Brett Phillips singled with two out on Jansen’s 1-2 pitch in the bottom of the ninth, and suddenly we were all attending a night at the Improv. Whose game is it anyway? Two runs scored and made it Tampa Bay’s game, 8-7, and now the Dodgers have to win two out of three to nail down their first world championship since Ronald Reagan was President.

Baseball, there you go again.

“It was an un-perfect storm,” said Dave Roberts, the Dodgers manager, who could not stifle his frustration and anger at the moment the Jenga tower crashed down.

In 1986 Bill Buckner allowed Wilson’s grounder to roll through his legs, and the Red Sox lost a chance to win their first World Series since 1918. That was a one-car pileup. This was a chain reaction on the freeway.

The Dodgers had methodically answered every Tampa Bay comeback to get to the bottom of the ninth with a 7-6 lead. Corey Seager had picked up four hits, Joc Pederson had produced a two-run, two-out, go-ahead hit as a pinch-hitter, and Seager had floated an RBI single in the eighth to give L.A. the last lead it would presumably need.

Brusdar Graterol had bustled in and overpowered the Rays in the eighth. That summoned Jansen to pitch the ninth. That, of course, sparked a cacophonous Greek chorus of second-guessing toward Roberts, but the truth is that if Roberts messed anything up, it was his insistence on using Pedro Baez and watching him give up two go-ahead and tying home runs to left-handed hitters in consecutive innings.

The Dodgers had lifted Roberts off that hook. Jansen has been throwing well. He did on Saturday, too.

Jansen shattered enough wood on Kevin Kiermaier’s base hit to build a mousetrap. Kiermaier stood on first base with the handle in his hand and not much else. Then Jansen walked Arozarena, which isn’t ideal when he is the winning run. Still, there were two outs when Phillips comes up.

Phillips was a .202 hitter this season. He is a former Astro/Brewer/Royal who came to Tampa Bay on Aug. 27 and hadn’t had a hit since Sept. 25. He was left off the ALCS roster and would have been couch-bound in a normal year when only 25 men get dressed for the playoffs.

Folks in Lancaster might remember him as a scorching hitter for the JetHawks in 2015. But here he was just a guy who would stand on the dugout’s top step and write “Randy Good Player” on his clipboard after Arozarena would hit his daily home run in the playoffs. Later, Phillips would write, “Randy>Your Favorite Player.”

But now he was standing, unsmiling, on the bridge. Jansen’s cutter was sharp when he got to that 1-and-2 count. The 92 mph fastball that followed was straight. Phillips got a legitimate single, and then the world stopped turning.

Taylor was in center. Cody Bellinger was DH-ing because of back spasms. Taylor basically won an NLCS as a center fielder in 2018 when he dived to catch Christian Yelich’s drive in Milwaukee. He has no problem playing there.

Kiermaier was scoring, but Taylor was looking for Arozarena. The ball snow-coned in his webbing and then scooted away, and Arozarena was so excited that he hit high gear, coming around third, and … fell.

Yeah, he just went backside-over-teakettle halfway down the line, in front of coach Ozzie Timmons. But Smith didn’t know that.

Cutoff man Max Muncy made the throw, and Smith was already thinking about the sweep tag he needed to execute. The game wasn’t slowing down for him, either. He swept, and the ball bounced off his mitt as Arozarena was trying to figure out what to do. Jansen was not backing up Smith on the play. The ball rolled to the place where bad Dodger losses are stored. Arozarena went in head-first and pounded the home plate with his right hand, like a wrestling referee counting out a victim.

Phillips was one of the few who saw none of that. He had no idea what happened to Arozarena.

“All I know is that I’ve got a blazing headache right now,” Phillips said. “I just got a hit and started running and now all the boys are happy. It’s the most excited I’ve been since the day I got married.”

The Dodgers have scored 25 runs in these four games and won two of them. They keep beating up on the Rays’ best relievers. They get fine starting pitching, at least for as long as Roberts will let those starters pitch. Julio Arias had eight strikeouts in 4-2/3 innings, but he gave up two solo home runs and was gone.

“We’ll do what we always do,” third baseman Justin Turner said. “After every game, we go back and evaluate what happened. It’s going to be the same way here.”

Nothing will be the same as this.

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Whicker: Brandon Lowe, as in pow, gives Rays the power surge they need

First off, it’s Brandon Lowe, rhymes with “Somehow.” For most of this playoff grind he has been trying to get a hit somehow.

He was 0 for 18 in five games against the Yankees and 4 for 26 in seven games against Houston. He was the final member of the American League champions to remove the cloak of anonymity that tends to shroud members of the Tampa Bay Rays, thanks to where they play and how relatively little they get paid and how few fans bother to see them.

Snap judgments are dangerous in baseball. Judgments over 60 games are, too, just to pick a number. Lowe piled up 14 home runs and 57 RBIs, and his OPS of .916 led the team. It was difficult to believe the Rays could win three series basically without him, but each time they did, they threw him a lifeline.

“Back in college (Maryland) I used to beat myself up pretty bad,” Lowe said. “I try not to do that anymore. I’ve learned to handle that through the years of baseball. It doesn’t matter if I go 5 for 5 with five homers or 0 for 5 with five strikeouts. Once I get home and see my wife, it flushes the day.

“But I wasn’t feeling that good. To say my mind wasn’t going in a lot of different directions, I’d be lying to you. Still, as soon as I’d start dragging my feet, someone would come along and tell me to get it going.”

Lowe was hitting in the No. 2 spot on Wednesday night, as the Rays bravely showed up at Globe Life Park after an 8-3 beating at the hands of the Dodgers on Tuesday. To get behind would be inadvisable. Leadoff man Austin Meadows popped up, and Lowe got to 3-and-1 against Tony Gonsolin and slapped a 95 mph fastball over the fence in left-center. As if he was trying to catch up on delinquent payments, Lowe came up in the fifth and hit Dustin May’s 0-and-2 slider over the same fence. That made it 3-0, and even though the Dodgers replied with homers by Corey Seager and Chris Taylor, Tampa Bay would not trail again.

The 6-4 victory evened the World Series and set up a hotel-bound off day in Arlington, Texas, rather than the cross-country charter flight from LAX to Tampa. It will not be a sleepless morning for Lowe.

“It was pure joy when I got back in the dugout,” Lowe said, referring to the ice-breaking home run. “(Manager Kevin) Cash didn’t say anything to me. I kinda liked that. He just acted like I’ve been hitting home runs for the last couple of weeks.”

There is no such thing as a typical Ray, considering how often management plays 52-card pick up with its roster. But Lowe is the type of “asset” the franchise seeks. He was a third-round pick from Maryland, a player who fought through two bad leg injuries to earn All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors. Then he became the best player in the Class A Florida State League, and last year the Rays made their own singular kind of commitment to him – a six-year, $24 million contract.

It fits in with the Everyman vibe, which dovetails neatly into a we’ll-show-you mindset. Lowe was asked about what he learned from the nature of his two home runs, where the pitches came from and where he sent them, and he just shook his head.

“When you’re 5-foot-11 like me you’re not too worried about hitting home runs,” Lowe said. “I’m out there against guys throwing 99 mph two-seamers. I’m just trying to hit the ball somewhere.

“But we knew this Series wasn’t over. We only lost one game, and we knew we were coming out here with a Hall of Fame pitcher on the mound tonight.”

Whether Blake Snell actually sees the Hall without buying a ticket is unknown, but the lefty is a former Cy Young Award winner and he muffled the Dodgers with well-placed heat and a slider/curve combination that piled up eight strikeouts in the first four hitless innings.

However, Cash has a zero-tolerance policy toward his starters – i.e., he only tolerates zeroes – and the bullpen got warm when Snell walked Kiké Hernandez with two out and then Chris Taylor pounded a two-run homer. After Mookie Betts walked and Seager singled, Snell was gone without a chance for a win.

Nick Anderson came in to strike out Justin Turner, which is tough to do during October RBI situations, and the Rays added to their cushion.

Gonsolin and Dustin May, supposedly two of the Dodgers’ future starting pillars, absorbed most of the flak. Manager Dave Roberts admitted he’s pushing Gonsolin and May into “uncharted territory,”  but it’s difficult to pitch when you’re on top of a trap door.

“It’s a big ask to be quite frank,” Roberts said. “People have to adjust to certain roles. But both of them are going to have to make pitches.”

Roberts did say Julio Urias will start Game 4 after he served as the late-inning hammer in Game 7 of the NLCS against the Braves.

Those inside baseball knew this wouldn’t be a walkover series. The Rays know this is the very best place to make a name, or to clarify one.

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World Series Game 2 updates: Tony Gonsolin to start for Dodgers

Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin will start Game 2 of the World Series against the Rays on Wednesday.

Gonsolin produced a short outing as the NLCS Game 7 starter on Sunday. Blake Snell will start for the Rays.

The Dodgers’ bats came alive Tuesday and provided Clayton Kershaw with support to take a 1-0 series lead against Tampa Bay.

Kershaw, the veteran left-hander, struck out eight and allowed one run over six innings in an 8-3 victory.

GAME 2

When: Tuesday, 5:08 p.m. PST

Where: Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas

TV: FOX (Ch. 11)


Complete World Series schedule | Game 1 box score |


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Alexander: Dodgers’ Mookie Betts delivers a Ruthian performance

If the baseball fans of New England hadn’t already been experiencing enough anguish watching Mookie Betts spearhead a postseason run in Dodger blue, Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night probably made them even sicker.

Betts became the first player in World Series history to score two runs, steal two bases and hit a home run in the same game in the Dodgers’ 8-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Betts stole second and third in the fifth, the latter the front end of a double steal with Corey Seager, and then broke for home on Max Muncy’s grounder to first with the infield in and beat Yandy Díaz’s throw home, a bit of daring that touched off a four-run inning and turned a 2-1 game into a 6-1 game. An inning later, he hit reliever Josh Fleming’s first pitch over the right field fence, a 349-foot shot that extended the lead to 7-1.

Oh, but there was also this. Betts became the first man to walk and score two bases in the same inning in a World Series game since a fellow named Babe Ruth did so for the Yankees against the New York Giants in 1921. (Fifth inning of Game 2 at the Polo Grounds, to be precise.)

First observation: How crazy a world is this when a man’s home run isn’t Ruthian but his stolen bases are?

Second observation: That encompasses two of the worst baseball transactions in Boston history in one sentence. If you know a Red Sox fan, he or she could probably use a kind word or two about now.

But it’s evident to anyone who watches the Dodgers play, and more so if you watch Betts night in and night out: This club, following that early February trade, is better equipped to win the World Series than it has been at any point in the last 32 years.

“The pressure Mookie puts on other teams is huge for us,” catcher Austin Barnes said. “We felt it before, you know, when we played (him) in the (2018) World Series. He’s bringing a different element to the game for us.”

Clayton Kershaw, who punched a hole in his own postseason narrative Tuesday night with a relentlessly efficient six innings (two hits, one run, eight strikeouts and a slider that was meh in the first inning and masterful in the last five), was asked if, when his team is playing up to its capability, anybody else could beat it.

“I mean, if we play at our best, no,” he said via Zoom. “I think we are the best team and I think our clubhouse believes that. There’s going to be certain times when we get beat, and that happens. But as a collective group, if everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing and playing the way they’re supposed to. I don’t see how that can happen.”

There are the big things Betts provides, like the home run, or the stolen bases, or the crazy good defensive plays he keeps making in right field.

And there are the little things, things that go unseen by the public but not unnoticed by his team.

Case in point: It was late when the Dodgers finished off the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series on Sunday night in Arlington, Texas, nearly 11 p.m. when the game ended and well after that when the team got back to its hotel.

A large number of players congregated in one of the outdoor spaces on the hotel grounds and, Justin Turner said Monday, “were talking baseball, talking about the series that we just went through and, you know, different situations and different plays that came up. Although I think we were trying to celebrate it a little bit, everyone’s mind just went straight back to baseball.”

Said Betts: “It definitely showed that we’re here to win, man. And just in those conversations, you can tell. You can tell. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

And that Monday, for an optional workout on the one day off between series, both buses were at full capacity.

That commitment starts with the leadership of veterans Betts and Turner. It might go all the way back to the address Betts gave in the clubhouse during the first week of spring training, when he emphasized the importance of that ring and described what kind of effort it would take to get one.

He related Tuesday night that he’d given himself one of those pep talks after he’d come in second to Mike Trout in the American League MVP race in 2016.

“I knew it was going to be tough for me to repeat that or get better,” he recalled. “And I think I told myself, ‘I just want to be consistent.’

“Watching the greats play, they’re all just really consistent. You know, they hit their home runs constantly, are driving in runs constantly, walk constantly, make good plays constantly. That’s not just one and then a long period of time before another one. You just have to be good at all aspects of the game all the time. Don’t take plays off. And I think 2016 was when I told myself, that’s what I want to do.”

This is why the Dodgers traded for him. This is why they made sure he couldn’t get away by giving him a 12-year, $365 million extension the day before this shortened season began.

It might already be the best money they’ve ever committed to. Three more victories, and there will be no doubt.

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NLCS Game 7 live updates: Dodgers vs. Braves

The Dodgers have battled back into the NLCS and forced a Game 7 against the Braves.

Los Angeles has not named a starting pitcher but Clayton Kershaw is expected to be an strong option.

GAME 7

The Dodgers and Braves are tied at 3 in the best-of-seven NLCS

When: Sunday, 5:15 p.m. PST

Where: Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas

TV: FOX

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NLCS Game 6 live updates: Dodgers’ Walker Buehler to start vs. Braves

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler will start Game 6 on Saturday in another must-win situation against the Braves, who lead the series 3-2.

The Dodgers are expected to have multiple arms available in the bullpen except Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin, according to SCNG’s Bill Plunkett.

GAME 6

Braves lead Dodgers 3-2 in best-of-seven NLCS

When: Saturday, 1:38 p.m. PST

Where: Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas

TV: FS1

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Alexander: Dodgers emphasized doing ‘something special’

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager celebrates his two-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen throws against the Atlanta Braves during the ninth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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  • Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman is safe at second past Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner after a double during the eighth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager celebrates his two-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager celebrates his two-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager hits two-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager celebrates his two-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Victor Gonzalez throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chris Taylor scores past Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud on a hit by Mookie Betts during the seventh inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Enrique Hernandez forces Atlanta Braves Johan Camargo out at second after Cristian Pache hit into a double play during the seventh inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate a three-run home run by Will Smith against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas.(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Will Smith (16) celebrates a three-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez throws against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Will Smith (16) celebrates a three-run home run off Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Will Smith during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May watches from the dugout during the seventh inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Will Smith, right, reacts after giving up a three-run home run to Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith, back left, in the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Will Smith celebrates a three-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Will Smith celebrates a three-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Will Smith (16) celebrates a three-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas.(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Atlanta Braves’ Dansby Swanson is safe at third past Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager on a single by Nick Markakis during the second inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Atlanta Braves’ Cristian Pache celebrates after a RBI-single single against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the second inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Atlanta Braves’ Dansby Swanson celebrates with Freddie Freeman after scoring on a single by Cristian Pache during the second inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly throws against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager hits a home run against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager celebrates a home run against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager watches his home run against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager celebrates a home run against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Atlanta Braves’ Marcell Ozuna watches after getting called out at home after leaving third early during the third inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Blake Treinen throws against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman, foreground runs on his way to scoring from third base on a sacrifice fly from teammate Travis d’Arnaud in the first inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts (50) catches a fly ball from Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson then throws to home in the third inning of Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

  • Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Shane Greene throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fifth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts is save at first past Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts steals seconds past Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts is tagged out in a run down by Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Shane Greene during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts is tagged out in a run down by Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Shane Greene during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts steals seconds past Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts steals seconds past Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies during the sixth inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger reacts after striking out against the Atlanta Braves during the second inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Atlanta Braves’ Dansby Swanson is safe at third past Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager on a single by Nick Markakis during the second inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy walks to the dugout after striking out against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman celebrates at the dugout after scoring on a sacrifice fly by Travis d’Arnaud during the first inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May throws against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman hits double against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May throws against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy reacts after striking out against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May warms up before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May warms up before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Justin Turner hit a double against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Atlanta Braves relief pitcher A.J. Minter throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Atlanta Braves relief pitcher A.J. Minter throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Atlanta Braves relief pitcher A.J. Minter throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker watches batting practice before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker watches batting practice before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager warms up during batting practice before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker watches batting practice before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker watches batting practice before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Fans watch batting practice before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies warms up during batting practice before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Fans watch batting practice before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Atlanta Braves third baseman Pablo Sandoval smiles during batting practice before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw watches batting practice before Game 5 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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How do you handle it, emotionally, when your season – and all those expectations you’ve faced from day one – are on the line?

The Dodgers handled it calmly, confidently and with aplomb Friday night.

“We’re still pretty confident in our team,” pitcher Walker Buehler said in the afternoon, before the Dodgers’ 7-3 victory over Atlanta to stave off elimination. “And, you know, obviously being (down) 3-1, there’s going to have to be something kind of special happen. And I think we have the ability to do that. I think we’re a pretty consistent group, and that’s definitely evident in the way that guys are feeling today.”

That evidently was the tone in the Dodgers’ clubhouse, the opportunity to be part of something special. That phrase could be shorthand for making history, which is what Corey Seager did when he became the first shortstop to hit four home runs in a postseason series by slamming a pair Friday and driving in three runs.

Something special also applied to catcher Will Smith, who won his personal duel with Braves pitcher Will Smith – the first meeting ever in the postseason between a hitter and pitcher with the same name – with a go-ahead, three-run shot in the sixth that made it 4-2. Seager’s two-run blast an inning later pretty much turned the lights out on the Braves for the evening.

(It was Will the younger getting the best of Will the elder. Somewhere in there is a name for a new craft beer, or maybe two, but we digress.)

The specialness applied to Mookie Betts’ myriad contributions, including the snag of a sinking liner in the third that turned into an unassisted double play (thanks to Marcell Ozuna leaving third base too soon to attempt to score) and turned into a game-changing play. Momentum is normally overrated in baseball, but that play was worth more than the run it saved.

And that special tag even applied to the end of an unintended bullpen game, when Kenley Jansen – yes, that Kenley Jansen – struck out the side on 12 pitches and displayed some velocity that had been hidden previously in this postseason. He got into the 92-93 mph range and hit 94 on his final pitch of the night.

“He was attacking guys, it was coming in good, he was hitting spots,” the Dodgers’ Will Smith said on Zoom afterward. “He looked good, and we’re gonna need him these next two games.”

Jansen’s main contribution seemed to be to save Brusdar Graterol’s arm for Game 6, but … hey, you never know.

So the Dodgers have a chance to do something that’s not necessarily impossible, but the odds remain long.

Seven teams have come back from 3-1 deficits since the League Championship Series became a best-of-seven format in 1985, and six more teams have done so in the World Series. Those 13 comebacks have come over the span of 86 series all-time in which teams had a 3-1 lead, dating to the 1905 World Series (New York Giants over Philadelphia A’s in five games, for those who are wondering). The success rate is less than 15 percent.

More than half of all of those series (45 of 86) finished in five. So the Dodgers have already beaten the odds in one sense. But that’s not nearly enough.

“There’s a lot of guys in this room that have faced elimination games before, so we have that experience,” third baseman Justin Turner said in the afternoon. “And, you know, the one thing we talked about is, this is an opportunity to do something special. So everyone’s embracing the challenge and ready to go.”

That “something special” … you think the veterans in the Dodger clubhouse didn’t plant that seed?

“As a young player, you’re always looking to the veterans who’ve had experience, whether it’s knowing when to get excited, when to calm, when to back off a little bit,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “And just to see guys like Justin come out with a big hit, break the ice a little bit, Mookie doing what he’s doing, it just kind of leads the way for the young guys.”

Maybe the Dodgers were inspired by baseball’s villains. The Houston Astros dug themselves a 3-0 series hole in San Diego against Tampa Bay and have crawled out of it, and those teams will play a Game 7 on Saturday evening.

The Dodgers will attempt to pull off their own escape, knowing that theirs carries more pressure. The Astros, after all, made the tournament as a sub-.500 team, thanks to postseason expansion. The Dodgers had the best record in baseball during the regular season, they led the majors in home runs and ERA, and they seemed to have it all through that 60-game sprint and the first two rounds of the playoffs.

But then they seemingly didn’t against a Braves club that has depth and talent of its own, and almost as long a World Series title famine. It’s been since ’88 for the Dodgers, with all of their recent October frustrations making it seem even more interminable, but it’s been since ’95 for the Braves.

Now the Dodgers have another shot at Max Fried, who held them to four hits through six innings in Game 1. If they get past that, they get another crack at rookie Ian Anderson, who limited them to two hits through his six innings in Game 2. The Dodgers’ mantra offensively is that the more they see of a pitcher, the better their chances.

“Just seeing guys twice, that’s huge,” Seager said. “The first time (against Fried) we did a really good job, we grinded it and he never gave in and made pitches when he needed to. And now we’ve kind of built up a little knowledge of what it’s going to be like, what to expect. And (we) can hopefully build off of it.”

The alternative is the offseason. That’s no choice at all.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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Alexander: Dodgers’ late rally doesn’t produce a win, but it provides hope

You know it’s bad when Fox’s Joe Buck and John Smoltz are discussing “The Masked Singer” or Freddie Freeman’s tattered T-shirt or 3-pound hot dogs by the middle innings.

This was bad, for the Dodgers and their fans. Discouragingly so. Depressingly so. Edge-of-the-cliff so. They were trailing 7-0 in the game, about to go down 2-0 in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, and channels were being changed in homes throughout Southern California.

But when you’re down, a little hope goes a long way. And while history is still not encouraging, maybe the climb back seems a little more doable after Tuesday night’s ninth inning, when those very same Dodgers had the tying run on third base when their 8-7 loss to Atlanta finally ended.

“I don’t think the emotions lagged” as the Braves piled up their lead, Manager Dave Roberts said. “I thought that early on we had some opportunities to get a lead and we just couldn’t come up with the hits.”

The clouds started parting when Corey Seager slammed a three-run home run off left-handed reliever A.J. Minter in the seventh to pull the Dodgers within 7-3.

“I thought that was an exhale for everybody,” Roberts said.

The dugout appeared more animated and enthusiastic in the ninth when Betts singled for his first hit of the series, Seager doubled him home and Max Muncy delivered his first hit of the series, a 404-foot shot deep into the right field seats for a two-run home run to bring the Dodgers within 8-6. And the energy level appeared to rise even more when Ozzie Albies booted Will Smith’s grounder to keep hope alive, and Cody Bellinger drove him in with a triple into the right field corner, his first hit in nine at-bats this series.

It didn’t result in a victory; closer Mark Melancon got A.J. Pollock on a grounder to third for the final out. But it got Melancon in the game for the second straight night, and that is part of the Dodgers’ grand plan, to get some real-time intel on these pitchers and, just maybe, win a battle of attrition should the series somehow lengthen.

“The more we can see ’em, the better off we’re going to be,” Seager said. “As long as we keep grinding out the starters, trying to get to the bullpen as fast as possible and start seeing guys that we’ve seen in the past couple of nights, it’ll definitely be helpful.

“… It’s been a battle for us the last two days. They’ve thrown some pretty good games, and we’ve got to make the adjustment.”

The Braves top starters, Max Fried in Game 1 and Ian Anderson in Game 2, were as good as advertised. Kyle Wright, the Game 3 starter for Atlanta, had a 5.21 ERA in eight regular-season starts but contributed six shutout innings against Miami in the last round.

(While we’re at it, I think we can retire the narrative that these games are being played in Globe Life Cavern. The Braves hit three home runs Monday night, and Freeman and Albies each hit their second homers of the series Tuesday before Seager and Muncy hit theirs. It took a while, but with the roof open the game in the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark more closely resembles real 2020 baseball.)

How much all of this translates to Game 3, when the Dodgers (presumably) send Julio Urias to the mound against Wright, remains to be seen. The plan appears to be Urias on Wednesday and Clayton Kershaw in Game 4 on Thursday, his back permitting, although Roberts was just vague enough to leave himself wiggle room for any wrinkles he or the front office might come up with Wednesday morning. An “opener,” anyone?

As we’ve said, history is less than encouraging. The Dodgers have been behind 0-2 in postseason series 15 times in their history and rallied to win four times, in the 1955, ’65 and ’81 World Series and the 1981 best-of-five division series.

There’s also this: In 68 series since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format in 1985, 31 teams have taken 2-0 leads. Only three have lost. Then again, none of those series were contested entirely at one venue with no off-days, so there is some new territory here.

One of those losses was the Dodgers’ six-game loss to St. Louis in 1985, and somewhere Tom Lasorda is probably still getting second-guessed for not walking Jack Clark with first base open in Game 6. So Roberts should understand that whatever second-guessing he gets, it could be worse. They could still be debating his bullpen decisions in 2055.

Of course, the third and last of those comebacks was by Boston in 2004, when the Red Sox rallied from a 3-0 series deficit against the Yankees and Roberts the base stealer had something to do with the turnaround. So he might issue his guys a reminder of the possibilities Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s just one game at a time,” he said. “I mean, I know it sounds cliche, but you just gotta … that’s the only way to do it, and to approach it. Us showing some life offensively was very good to see … just to see us fighting, that was a good thing.”

Fight is good. Runs are better. If this indeed is the soft underbelly of the Braves’ rotation the Dodgers are about to get into, they have a chance to make this a series after all.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

Read more about Alexander: Dodgers’ late rally doesn’t produce a win, but it provides hope This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

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