Sports Minute: Seager homers again, Dodgers force NLCS Game 7 with 3-1 win
By STEPHEN HAWKINSAP Baseball Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Corey Seager homered again, Walker Buehler pitched six scoreless innings and the Los Angeles Dodgers pushed the NL Championship Series to Game 7 with a 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.
The Dodgers avoided elimination for the second time in less than 24 hours, and now have a winner-take-all game to try to get to their third World Series in four years. They haven't won a championship since 1988.
“I’m still sort of recovering from this one, but already thinking about Game 7,” manager Dave Roberts said. “That’s what you live for.”
Max Fried took his first loss all year for the Braves, who were trying to celebrate manager Brian Snitker's 65th birthday with the franchise's first World Series since 1999. But the young left-hander worked into the seventh without allowing another run after LA's three-run first.
“Shoot, we’ll go out there and let ’er fly. A Game 7 is another baseball game,” Snitker said. “It’s not fourth-and-1 and let me get the first down. It’s a baseball game. You have to treat it as such.”
Game 7 is Sunday night, with Roberts staying quiet about his starter and the Braves going with rookie right-hander Ian Anderson, who has thrown 15 2/3 scoreless innings in his three postseason starts. The Dodgers could go with Tony Gonsolin or give the ball to Clayton Kershaw on short rest.
Justin Turner also homered for the NL West champions, and Kenley Jansen threw a six-pitch ninth for his 18th career postseason save.
It was Jansen's first save chance in five appearances since closing out the Dodgers’ first playoff win this season in the wild-card round. He struck out the side on 12 pitches in Friday night’s 7-3 win.
“Two huge outings, not only for us, but him personally, you can just see the confidence he has on the mound attacking guys,” Turner said. “That’s the Kenley Jansen I and all of us in there all know and love.”
Fried allowed only two homers in his 11 starts while going 7-0 during the regular season, but the Dodgers went deep twice in three pitches in the first.
Seager pulled a towering shot to right on a 73-mph curveball, and Turner connected on a 93-mph sinker that went 418 feet to straightaway center. Max Muncy walked and scored after back-to-back singles by Will Smith and Cody Bellinger.
Seager, who homered twice in Game 4 on Friday night, has NLCS records with five homers and 11 RBIs, and still a game to play. His six homers overall are already a Dodgers postseason record.
The last batter Fried faced Saturday was Muncy, who struck out for the second out of the seventh. Fried allowed eight hits while striking out five and walking four.
Mookie Betts, the 2018 AL MVP and first-year Dodger, made a leaping catch against the right field wall to end the fifth. While it wouldn’t have been a homer, it robbed Marcell Ozuna of extra bases, and the Braves a likely run.
Betts let out a emphatic shout while pumping both fists, then celebrated with Bellinger while Buehler held his right arm high in the air.
Buehler threw 65 of his 89 pitches for strikes, allowing seven hits while striking out six without a walk. After Atlanta loaded the bases with three singles in a row to start the top of second — the last hit by his Vanderbilt roommate Dansby Swanson — the right-hander really brought the heat, with 10 consecutive fastballs to get out of the jam.
“It’s unbelievable. You just watch his demeanor now with the bases loaded, first strikeout, calm and collected, second strikeout calm and collected, then he gets out of it, and you see the emotion come out of him after the fact,” Turner said. “His mound presence is just unbelievable.”
Austin Riley struck out on a 98.7 mph pitch before Nick Markakis took a called third strike on 99.7 mph. Cristian Pache, the 21-year-old rookie who had an RBI in each of his first four NLCS starts, was retired on an inning-ending groundout.
It was a much different result than Buehler’s postseason debut two years ago in Game 3 of the NL Division Series, when the Braves also loaded the bases against him in the second inning. After a walk drove in a run, Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a grand slam on the next pitch for a 5-0 lead.
With Buehler out of Saturday’s game, Nick Markakis greeted Blake Treinen with triple to right leading off off the seventh and came home on a one-out double by Acuña.
The Braves had a strange sixth against Buehler, when Ozzie Albies hit a slow chopper down the first base line that was fielded by Muncy, who then made the tag before the ball popped out. Albies thought he was out and never touched first base. Muncy tossed the ball to Buehler, who tagged the runner already heading back to the Atlanta dugout.
Swanson followed with his third single, before a stolen base and throwing error by catcher Austin Barnes sent him to third base. Riley then hit a long, loud foul ball into the upper deck only feet foul in the left-field corner before he struck out.
The Dodgers are playing in a Game 7 for the third time in four years. They beat Milwaukee 5-1 in the deciding game of the 2018 NLCS, after losing 5-1 to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. Atlanta hasn’t played in a Game 7 since its 15-0 win over St. Louis in the 1996 NLCS.
The 14 homers by Los Angeles are tied for the most in an NLCS, and two behind the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays for the most in any LCS. ... Only once before have the Dodgers won three consecutive potential elimination games to take a series. That was in the best-of-five NL Division Series in 1981. They won the World Series that year. ... It was the first time in 10 postseason starts that Buehler didn’t have at least seven strikeouts. He shares the record with Randy Johnson with nine consecutive postseason starts with at least seven strikeouts.
Braves: Anderson needed 85 pitches to get through four innings in Game 2, when he allowed only one hit with five strikeouts. But he walked five batters in a game Atlanta held on to win 8-7.
Dodgers: Gonsolin’s postseason debut starting Game 2 came after Kershaw was scratched because of back spasms. Gonsolin struck out seven but allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings. Kershaw pitched Game 4 on Thursday.
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