ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Former ace Clayton Kershaw is having more back issues, Kenley Jansen hasn’t seen the mound yet with his closing role unclear and baseball’s highest-scoring offense stayed silent until it was too late.
It’s no wonder the Los Angeles Dodgers are down 2-0 in the NL Championship Series to the Atlanta Braves, a deficit the previous 14 NL teams to face in the best-of-seven format couldn’t overcome.
The Dodgers, who won their first five playoff games before dropping their second straight 8-7 on Tuesday night, can’t get in gear in the first neutral-site NLCS and could be headed to 32 years and counting since their last championship.
Kershaw was scratched because of back spasms not long before the left-hander was to make his second appearance — both in the playoffs the past week — a few miles from the three-time Cy Young Award winner’s hometown of Dallas. Tony Gonsolin filled in, pitching three perfect innings in his postseason debut before allowing five runs while getting just four more outs.
Not even periodic chants of “Let’s go, Dodgers” from the pandemic-reduced, mostly masked crowd of 10,624 could help in the second game with fans this season. The first was the series opener in the new 40,518-seat home of the Texas Rangers.
The NL’s best bullpen faltered for the second straight night, this time early instead of late after the Dodgers gave up four runs in the ninth inning of a 5-1 loss in the opener. LA tied an LCS record by allowing four walks in an inning, two by Gonsolin and two from lefty reliever Pedro Báez in Atlanta’s four-run fifth.
There was still no sign of Jansen, the cutter-throwing right-hander who was bypassed with the score tied in the ninth inning of the opener. The club’s career leader in saves has been struggling with velocity and command, and he hasn’t pitched since he couldn’t finish LA’s Game 2 win in the Division Series against San Diego.
Alex Wood gave up a run on two hits while walking two and hitting a batter in the left-hander’s first postseason appearance since 2018, when he came out of the bullpen nine times. Lefty Adam Kolarek surrendered Ozzie Albies’ second ninth-inning homer of the series.
The bats finally showed up late in Game 2, perhaps a sign that a comeback could be in the works even though this one fell short.
Corey Seager hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning for the first LA runs, while Mookie Betts, Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger each had his first hit of the series in a four-run ninth. Seager’s RBI double scored Betts in the ninth.
Muncy’s two-run homer pulled the Dodgers within two and forced Atlanta to use closer Mark Melancon. Bellinger’s triple scored Will Smith from first before AJ Pollock hit a game-ending groundout to third.
With the bases loaded and two outs in a scoreless game in the third, Smith bounced into a force out at third base. The Dodgers, who led the majors in runs during the regular season, didn’t put more than one runner on base in an inning again until they trailed 7-0 in the seventh.
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