The Los Angeles Dodgers rode a strong start from Walker Buehler, early power Corey Seager, and some sparkling defense from Mookie Betts to an essential 3-1 win over the Braves in Game 6 of the NLCS on Saturday (box score). The win evens the series at 3-3 and forces a deciding Game 7 on Sunday.
With the win, the Dodgers move one step closer to becoming the first team to come back from down 3-1 to win a best-of-seven MLB postseason series since the Cubs in the 2016 World Series. Overall, just 13 teams have pulled off that feat across modern baseball history.
The Dodgers will be playing for their third pennant in the last four years, while the Braves will be trying to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1999.
Now for some things to know about Game 6.
The Dodgers' young right-hander allowed only one run in his Game 1 start against the Braves, but his control and command weren't there. He walked five batters in as many innings and frequently struggled to hit his spots. That's probably at least somewhat owing to the fact that he's been dealing with blisters lately. In the must-win Game 6, however, Buehler found his level:
In Game 1, 64 percent of his pitches went for strikes; in Game 6 that figure rose to 73 percent. While he's long been a fastball-heavy pitcher, on Saturday he took that to extremes. Of his 89 pitches, 53 -- or 59.6 percent -- were four-seam fastballs. During the regular season, his fastball percentage was 54.4 percent. At one point, Buehler touched 99.7 mph with that heater.
It was high-wire act at times -- more on that below -- but Buehler worked six scoreless frames and put the Dodgers in prime position to force a Game 7, which they did.
Seager powered up again
Dodger shortstop Corey Seager came into Game 6 with a sparkling .400/.429/1.100 line in the current NLCS. Then in the first inning, he did this:
That blast by Seager also occasioned a bit of franchise history:
Corey Seager's 6 home runs this postseason are a Dodgers record for a single postseason— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 17, 2020
He's hit those six homers in 11 games, with at least one more to play. Depending on how Game 7 goes, consider Seager to be a strong candidate for NLCS MVP honors. All of that is in character for Seager, who's coming off the best regular season of his career.
The Braves had their chances
After Buehler enjoyed an eight-pitch first inning, the Braves appeared to flip the script with three straight singles to start the second. That gave them bases loaded with no outs. Over the last 60 years or so, teams with the bases loaded and no outs have averaged 2.25 runs scored during the inning in question. The Braves, though, came up empty and allowed the score to remain 3-0 in favor of the Dodgers.
As noted Buehler's always leaned on his four-seamer, but after loading them up he did so to an even greater degree:
That's 10 straight fastballs at one point, and the Braves put none of them in play. Riley and Markakis looked particularly overwhelmed, and that stretch of fastball dominance by Buehler kept the Braves from flipping the Game 6 script.
It would become a bit of a theme. The Braves put two on with one out in the fourth and came up empty. In the fifth, Mookie Betts took a run or maybe runs off the board with this miracle snare:
Atlanta finally plated a run in the seventh after Nick Markakis smacked a leadoff triple off reliever Blake Treinen. However, on the day the Braves had 11 hard-hit balls -- i.e., balls that left the bat at 95 mph or greater -- but managed only that one run. The Braves in all left eight runners on base and went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
The Braves got length out of Fried
After allowing three runs in the first, Braves starter Max Fried didn't figure to be in for a long afternoon/evening. Fried, though, made pitches, didn't allow another run, and lasted 6 2/3 innings on 109 pitches. That's notable considering the Braves are coming off a bullpen game in Game 5, and there are no off days during this round. Maybe that feels like little consolation to Braves fans right now, but they could've been in serious trouble for Game 7 had Fried been run early.