LOS ANGELES -- A year after their season ended in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, the Braves will get another crack at reaching their first World Series since 1999.
With a 9-2 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday night, Atlanta has a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS, the same situation it was in a year ago against this same Los Angeles team. This time, however, the Braves will lean on ace Max Fried to try to get them over the hump in Thursday night's Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers, on the other hand, will try to repeat history by winning the final three games of the series. But this time, they’ll have to do it without third baseman Justin Turner, who left Game 4 with a left hamstring injury and was replaced on the NLCS roster on Thursday.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know before Thursday’s game.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 5 will air on TBS at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Thursday. It is also available to stream on MLB.TV with authentication.
What are the starting lineups?
Braves: With the Dodgers starting a right-hander, Eddie Rosario, who has produced a four-hit performance in two of the past four games, was slotted into the leadoff spot.
Dodgers: With the left-handed Fried on the mound, Los Angeles is deploying a right-handed-heavy lineup. Trea Turner was moved up to the two-hole, and with Justin Turner out, Chris Taylor moved to third base. Albert Pujols, who had a pinch-hit single in Game 4, got the start at first base.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Braves: Fried (14-7, 3.04 ERA) produced an MLB-best 1.74 ERA in the second half of the regular season. He has extended his success into the postseason. He tossed six scoreless innings against the Brewers in Game 2 of the NL Division Series and limited the Dodgers to two runs over six innings in Game 1 of the NLCS.
“Max lives for these types of games,” Atlanta left-hander Drew Smyly said. “He loves to take the ball at that moment. He’s one of the most prepared pitchers I’ve ever been around.”
Dodgers: Right-handed reliever Joe Kelly will make the start for Los Angeles in Game 5, with fellow righty Corey Knebel (4-0, 2.45 ERA) likely to follow him in some form. With no bulk pitcher available, it’ll be a traditional bullpen game for the Dodgers.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Braves: Manager Brian Snitker said he will have everybody available, including Tyler Matzek, who has pitched in each of the team’s first eight postseason games. However, using Matzek for a third consecutive day may be something Snitker would like to avoid. Luke Jackson got a welcome chance to rest on Wednesday, but A.J. Minter tossed two innings, so there’s a chance the Braves will ask Chris Martin or Jacob Webb to pitch in some high-leverage situations to account for the recent workloads of Minter and Matzek.
Dodgers: With Tony Gonsolin throwing 39 pitches on Wednesday, the Dodgers don’t have a bulk pitcher available for Game 5. They do, however, have a rested Blake Treinen, Kenley Jansen, Alex Vesia and Brusdar Graterol. With Los Angeles' season on the line, expect all four of those pitchers to be available for multiple innings in relief.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Braves: Atlanta may want to stay away from Matzek and Minter. But if it has a one- or two-run lead late, there’s a chance both could be used.
Dodgers: Gonsolin will likely be unavailable after pitching on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Any injuries of note?
Braves: Outfielder Jorge Soler could miss all or a significant portion of the NLCS. He was placed on the COVID-19 injured list prior to Game 4 of the NLDS on Oct. 12, and he will likely remain there for at least through Friday. Right-handed reliever Huascar Ynoa will miss the rest of the season with right shoulder inflammation.
Dodgers: First baseman Max Muncy (left elbow injury) and left-hander Clayton Kershaw (left elbow) are not on the team’s NLCS roster. Muncy is hopeful to return for a potential World Series appearance, but that still remains a longshot. Kershaw is out for the remainder of the season. As for Justin Turner, the Dodgers are likely to replace him on the roster Thursday after he exited Game 4 with a left hamstring injury.
Who is hot and who is not?
Braves: Rosario has hit .467 with a 1.248 OPS during the postseason. Freeman homered Wednesday and has multiple hits in each of the past two games. d’Arnaud is 5-for-25 with nine strikeouts in eight postseason games.
Dodgers: Trea Turner continued his struggles at the plate, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout in Game 4. The star second baseman is now 8-for-44 with 11 strikeouts this postseason after leading the Majors with a .328 batting average in the regular season.
Bellinger built off his huge game-tying homer in Game 3 by delivering some of the Dodgers' best at-bats of the night in Game 4. The 2019 NL MVP Award winner has an .832 OPS in 27 at-bats.
Anything else fans might want to know?
Teams with a 3-1 lead in best-of-seven postseason series have gone on to win 75 of 89 times (84 percent). Of course, the last time a team rallied from a 3-1 hole was the Dodgers in last year’s NLCS against the Braves.