Dodgers vs. Braves score: Atlanta wins NLCS Game 4, pushes defending champions to the brink

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The Atlanta Braves are one win away from their first trip to the World Series since 1999. After seeing the Dodgers bust through with an eighth-inning comeback to win Game 3, the Braves bounced back in a big way Wednesday to take NLCS Game 4, 9-2, at Dodger Stadium. Atlanta now owns a 3-1 series lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series. 

The day started off poorly for the Braves, as scheduled starter Huascar Ynoa had to be scratched from the lineup card due to a shoulder injury. The Braves had no choice but to go with a bullpen game, hoping the second man in -- Drew Smyly -- could provide some length. Smyly was up to the task, working 3 1/3 innings. He was charged with two runs, though those came home after his exit in the bottom of the fifth. The rest of the Braves bullpen was spotless, going 5 2/3 scoreless innings. 

Meantime, the Braves offense took control of this one early. Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall started the second inning with back-to-back home runs. Freddie Freeman added a solo shot of his own in the third. Rosario nearly hit for the cycle with a single, triple and two homers with four RBI. Instead of hitting a double for the second cycle in postseason history in the ninth, Rosario blasted a three-run homer that put the game away. Meanwhile, Duvall added an incredible defensive play and later a sac fly. Freeman also had an RBI double in the ninth. Those were the three offensive stars for the Braves. 

Game 5 is set to take place Thursday night. The Dodgers -- who also trailed Atlanta, 3-1, in last year's NLCS -- will be facing elimination for the fourth time this postseason. They obviously won their previous three and they'll have to run that to six in order to go back to the Fall Classic. The Braves will send lefty Max Fried to the mound in the hopes of winning the pennant. The Dodgers counter with a bullpen game. 

Now for some Game 4 takeaways. 

Eddie Rosario looks like the NLCS MVP

They of course don't hand out that particular award until the series is over, but right now it's Rosario's to lose. He came into Game 4 with a slash of line of .500/.571/.500 plus some (mostly successful) daredevil baserunning. In Game 5, he got started early with a second-inning homer off Julio Urías: 

He was not done. Rosario notched a line-drive triple in the third, and he notched a line-drive single in the fifth. So, yes, by the fifth inning he was a double shy of the first cycle in National League postseason history. Rosario made an out his next time up, but the line moved sufficiently in the ninth to give him one more shot at history. Here's what he did: 

That's a home run instead of a double, so it's not a cycle. With Rosasio's 12 total bases on the night, that's even better than a cycle. He's also now 10 for 17 in the NLCS. Like it says up there, Rosario is the NLCS MVP at the moment. Also of note: 

Duvall moved the needle early

Adam Duvall came in having done little at the plate in the NLCS, but he changed that early right after Rosario homered: 

Duvall was the caboose of that back-to-back job, and his first home run of the 2021 postseason gave the Braves a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first, he used his glove in center to take what might have been a home run away from Gavin Lux: 

Duvall, primarily a corner outfielder, had played very little center field before this season. However, he became the regular in center late in the regular season and has started every game of the playoffs at the position. That snare in Game 4 suggests he's adapting quite well to up-the-middle duty. 

The bullpen game worked for Atlanta 

The plan to make Game 4 a bullpen game was complicated a bit early when Huascar Ynoa, Atlanta's planned "opener," was a late scratch because of shoulder inflammation. (He was removed from the NLCS roster and replaced by lefty Dylan Lee.) Instead, manager Brian Snitker went with Jesse Chavez, who also appeared in Games 2 and 3. Chavez worked a perfect first, and then Drew Smyly did the heavy lifting for the next 3 1/3 innings. The Dodgers didn't manage their first hit until the fifth, when they were able to push across two runs against Smyly. From there, Chris Martin, A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek, and Will Smith worked the final 4 2/3 without allowing a run. Combined, six Braves pitchers allowed two runs on four hits with four strikeouts and only one walk. They also allowed the rotation to skip a turn heading into the potential clincher on Thursday. 

The Dodgers are facing long odds

No NL team has repeated as World Series champions since the 1975-76 Reds. It's looking like the Dodgers won't be breaking that streak. Down 3-1 in this best-of-seven, they're tasked with beating the Braves three straight times.  

History, not surprisingly, doesn't give the Dodgers' a great chance of pulling this off. Overall, teams down 3-1 in a best-of-seven MLB postseason series have gone on to win that series just 15.7 percent of the time. Teams down 3-1 who began the series on the road, as the Dodgers did, have gone on to win the series just 13.7 percent of the time. 

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October 21, 2021, 4:19 AM
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Freeman's back.

October 21, 2021, 3:16 AM
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Braves now 88.2 percent to win Game 4.

October 21, 2021, 2:42 AM
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October 21, 2021, 2:16 AM
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and after a Chris Taylor flyout, Cody Bellinger steals second and then AJ Pollock goes the other way with a line drive single. It's 5-2 Braves. Lotta game left and Braves have to piece it together with relievers.

October 21, 2021, 2:01 AM
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