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Braves are making the improbable real against the Dodgers in NLCS

Braves are making the improbable real against the Dodgers in NLCS

For a National League Championship Series that seems to relish bringing the improbable to life, even this was outlandish. It was the ninth inning of Game 2, and Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies yanked a fastball toward left-center field. The ball flew over the fence — and directly into the glove of Mark Melancon, the Braves’ closer, who grinned and galloped gleefully around the team’s bullpen. Relievers occasionally snag home run balls, sure, but from the same batter in the same inning off the same pitch type in the same series? Melancon had done it in Game 1 too.

The theme of improbability linking Monday to Tuesday wasn’t limited to reliever cosplaying outfielder. The Braves beat the Los Angeles Dodgers again. The same Dodgers who only four times this year lost back-to-back games. The same Dodgers who entered this series in Las Vegas as 70% favorites, the third-highest percentage in an LCS in two decades, even though Atlanta had similarly run roughshod over its wild-card and division series opponents.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

There is but one undefeated team remaining in this postseason, and it’s the Braves, whose 8-7 victory was an NL record-tying seventh in a row to start the playoffs — and far more convincing than the final score indicated. The Dodgers tattooed Josh Tomlin, the Braves’ mop-up guy, for three runs in the ninth inning before Melancon worked around an error and a triple to record a one-out save. Going into the ninth, Atlanta held an 8-3 lead and was primed to post back-to-back wins by at least four runs against the Dodgers. In four-run games during the regular season, the Dodgers were 23-3.3

In other words, the Braves are doing to the Dodgers what the Dodgers did to everyone else this year.

“There’s no reason for anyone to take their foot off the gas,” Melancon said. “Nobody’s won anything yet.”

Melancon’s caution is understandable, and yet what he and his 27 teammates have done in the first two games of the NLCS is what none of the nine other West division teams nor the Milwaukee Brewers could do with the Dodgers: make them look human. Los Angeles finished the regular season 43-17, a 116-win pace in a typical season. The Dodgers hit, the Dodgers pitched and the Dodgers fielded, an orchestral blend of talent. Their depth reinforced them on offense and buttressed them in the bullpen. This wasn’t just a good team. It was a great team.nfl cheap nike jerseys

And it might still be, though the hole from which Los Angeles must dig itself grew troublingly deep on Tuesday. The day had begun with the Dodgers scratching starter Clayton Kershaw from his scheduled start because of a back spasm. Los Angeles moved up rookie Tony Gonsolin, whom the Braves knocked around for five runs in 4⅓ innings while their own rookie starter, Ian Anderson, tiptoed around trouble and tossed four shutout innings to extend his postseason scoreless streak to 15⅔ frames.

Atlanta’s routine was familiar: a dose of power from MVP-to-be Freddie Freeman, who homered for the second consecutive day to put the Braves ahead 2-0, and bend-and-bend-and-bend-some-more-but-don’t-break pitching by their staff. Through the top of the seventh inning, when Atlanta held a 7-0 lead, the team’s postseason earned-run average was 0.84.