ARLINGTON, Texas — Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies homered again, rookie Ian Anderson extended his postseason scoreless streak in an abbreviated start and the Atlanta Braves just held on for an 8-7 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night and a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series.
Freeman put the Braves ahead to stay with a two-run homer in the fourth off rookie Tony Gonsolin, who filled in after three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw was scratched because of back spasms. Freeman added an RBI single as part of a four-run outburst an inning later.
Albies homered in the ninth for the second night in a row, and for the second time in a row the ball was caught in the bullpen by closer Mark Melancon. That solo shot proved huge for the Braves, who led 7-0 but near squandered the lead as the Dodgers scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth.
“I didn’t feel good with a big lead because these guys are too powerful, and that’s a good ballgame to win. They all are now,” manager Brian Snitker said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot there at the end. Melancon did a great job coming in.”
Melancon took over with two outs after Corey Seager's RBI double and Max Muncy's two-run homer. Albies made a fielding error on Will Smith's grounder to second, and reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger hit an RBI triple. AJ Pollock then had a groundout to end a 4-hour, 12-minute game.
Atlanta became just the fourth team in major league history to begin a postseason 7-0. The Braves have outscored opponents 37-12.
Game 3 is Wednesday night, with 24-year-old playoff veteran Julio Urías pitching for the Dodgers against Kyle Wright, another rookie right-hander for the Braves. There have been 14 teams take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS, and all have gone on to win the pennant.
“This team’s got a lot of fight. We’ve done it all year” Bellinger said. “We were one swing, one anything away from tying that ballgame and going into extras. This is a long series. We’re looking up to the challenge.”
Freeman was hit on his right elbow by Alex Wood in the eighth and was shaken up but stayed in the game.
“Stung him pretty good and he lost feeling,” Snitker said. “But I think after he got through that inning and came back in, he got all of his strength back. He should be OK.”
Anderson allowed one hit and struck out five, but walked five while throwing 85 pitches in four innings. The 22-year-old right-hander didn’t come out for the fifth after Braves batted around in the top of the frame, building a 6-0 lead while tying a LCS record with four walks in the inning.
“We had a good game plan and in the playoffs you just have to keep guys from scoring and we were able to do that,” Anderson said. “As long as we keep winning ballgames here. ... It’s good to be up 2-0, and we get back to work tomorrow.”
The Dodgers, who had the best record in the pandemic-shortened season, trailed 7-0 until Seager’s three-run homer to greet A.J. Minter in the seventh.
Only seven weeks after his big league debut with the Braves, Anderson has pitched 15 2/3 scoreless innings and is only the second pitcher in major league history to start his postseason career not allowing a run in three consecutive starts of at least four innings. The other was Hall of Fame right-hander Christy Mathewson, who threw three shutouts in the 1905 World Series for the New York Giants.
Tyler Matzek, the second of seven Atlanta pitchers, worked two scoreless innings for the win.
When Kershaw was scratched in favor of a likely start later in the series, it set up the second matchup of rookie starting pitchers in a LCS.
Gonsolin’s postseason debut came 17 days after his prior game. The right-hander struck out seven and allowed only three hits, but gave up five runs and walked three in 4 1/3 innings.
Freeman hit a ball more than 400 feet into the right-field seats, similar to his solo shot in Game 1, after Ronald Acuna Jr. walked leading off the fourth. Gonsolin was done when Acuna walked again in the fifth, right after an RBI double by rookie Cristian Pache, in the lineup after Adam Duvall was removed from Atlanta’s NLCS roster because of a left oblique injury sustained in the series opener.
Pedro Baez then walked two of his four batters, including Travis d’Arnaud with the bases loaded before Albies’ sacrifice fly on which Bellinger made an impressive leaping catch on the run in center.
Atlanta matched the 1976 Cincinnati Reds and 2007 Colorado Rockies, one behind the record eight in a row by the 2014 Kansas City Royals — only the Reds went on to win the World Series
Dansby Swanson had an ground-rule double with two outs in the Braves seventh, with onlyone run scoring instead of two when the ball bounced over the wall. ... The four walks in an inning were the first in an NLCS since San Francisco against the Chicago Cubs in 1989. ... The announced paid attendance was 10,624, which accounted for every ticket made available to the general public in only the second MLB game this season with fans.
BRAVES GOING DEEP
Freeman was the first player to homer in Games 1 and 2 of an NLCS since Daniel Murphy when the New York Mets swept the Chicago Cubs in 2015. ... Freeman and Albies joined Swanson and d’Arnaud by homering in back-to-back Braves games this postseason. Swanson and d’Arnaud both went deep in the first two games of the NLDS against Miami.
Braves: Wright threw six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in his postseason debut in the clinching Game 3 of the NL Division Series against Miami. The 25-year-old was the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft out of Vanderbilt.
Dodgers: Urías, already pitching in his fourth postseason, was the winner in the NLDS Game 3 clincher. He allowed only one hit and an unearned run over five innings against San Diego last Thursday after being the third LA pitcher in that game.