Mookie Betts knew diving for the ball would be a mistake.
As Dansby Swanson’s bloop to right field in the third inning descended, Betts reached toward his feet and caught it. His throw to home plate was late, but it didn’t matter: a replay challenge determined Marcell Ozuna had left early from third base and was out on appeal, negating the Braves’ third run of the game.
The Dodgers had their momentum shift in what became a 7-3 victory over the Braves in Game 5 of the NLCS on Friday in Arlington, Texas.
Corey Seager’s homer leading off the fourth sliced the Braves’ lead to 2-1. Which to the Dodgers sounded much nicer than 3-0.
“We were able to get a stop,” Betts said, referring to his catch. “[Thursday] we couldn’t stop the bleeding and today we were able to get a stop right there and put some pressure right on them.”
Betts downplayed his catch as the turning point of the game, instead pointing to Max Muncy’s walk in the sixth that preceded Will Smith’s three-run homer off lefty reliever Will Smith that put the Dodgers ahead for the first time.
But Dodgers manager Dave Roberts perhaps put Betts’ play in the proper perspective.
“We’ve had a lot of great plays this year, but if you are talking about a momentum shift, that is the play of the year for me,” Roberts said. “The probability of catching that baseball, where Joe [Kelly] was at, the game score, potentially having to go to [Blake] Treinen right there, to get that double play, for me that was the play of the game.”
The numbers say Clayton Kershaw is a postseason disappointment, but his manager doesn’t want to hear it.
Before the Dodgers faced the Braves on Friday, Roberts again defended his ace, who allowed four runs over five-plus innings the previous night. Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young award winner, is 11-12 with a 4.31 ERA lifetime in the postseason.
“There’s other times when you are talking about short rest where people nowadays just don’t do it and he’s done it numerous times,” Roberts said. “And other relievers giving up his runs. There’s just a lot of things that go into easily pinning on Clayton that he’s not a postseason pitcher. I just know that there’s not a team that wouldn’t want him taking the ball in the postseason.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker prefers the traditional LCS format that includes off days to the alignment this year, which could have the teams playing seven straight days. The off days were eliminated to streamline the postseason, getting to the World Series faster. The World Series will include the traditional days off following Games 2 and 5.
The flip side of eliminating the off days is teams don’t have to travel this year because of the playoff bubble.
“I think having off days is less taxing,” Snitker said. “The travel, we’re so used to that, it doesn’t bother us. This is a grind here, this seven days in a row. It taxes you, that is for sure. I think having the day off obviously from a pitching standpoint is good, because once you get to where you are going [with travel], you have all day to rest, so you can catch up a little bit.”
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