LA shows clout, but missed chances stand out

Dodgers homer twice, finish 1-for-9 with RISP in Game 3 loss

October 8th, 2018

ATLANTA -- A home run would've sufficed, too. The 2018 Dodgers hit those in bunches, after all, and they've continued that trend into the National League Division Series, where they have six through three games, accounting for 11 of their 14 runs.

But with and aboard in the ninth inning on Sunday -- having shaken Braves closer with two expert at-bats to lead off the frame -- all the Dodgers really needed was a single.

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A measly single could've sent Los Angeles to a Game 3 victory and a third straight appearance in the NL Championship Series, rather than a 6-5 loss and an unwanted Game 4 in the NLDS.

That single, that home run, that clutch hit of any kind -- it never came.

Indeed, the top half of the ninth inning served to exacerbate a worrying trend for the Dodgers, as Atlanta clawed its way back into the series with a 6-5 victory. Los Angeles, which now holds a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five, stranded nine runners and finished 1-for-9 with men in scoring position.

"To take us over the top and take the lead again, we just couldn't get that one extra hit," said manager Dave Roberts.

On the whole, the Dodgers' offense has been plenty effective this series. On Sunday, they battled back from an early five-run deficit, using fifth-inning homers from Chris Taylor and to tie the score.

But -- for as much as a team can be wasteful while outscoring its opponent, 14-6 -- the Dodgers have been wasteful this series. There's no other way to put it. With men in scoring position, they're 3-for-22, a .136 average. And those struggles were never more apparent than they were in the ninth inning of Game 3.

Pederson had worked a brilliant at-bat against Vizcaino, lining the 10th pitch he saw into the right-field corner. He was held to a single, but he advanced to second when Turner grinded his way through a seven-pitch walk.

A raucous SunTrust Park fell to a hush. Vizcaino followed with three straight balls to Muncy, and that hush turned to a chorus of palpable frustration. Facing elimination, the Braves were on the ropes.

"We had our chances," Roberts said. "Those guys made some pitches and got out of some traffic. But our guys stressed them, got on base, and gave ourselves an opportunity."

Opportunity is only half the battle. Vizcaino worked his way back from a 3-0 count and whiffed Muncy. Then he did the same to Manny Machado -- but strike three bounced to the backstop, and suddenly the tying and go-ahead runs were both in scoring position.

struck out on four pitches.

After the game, the Dodgers weren't willing to concede that their struggles with men in scoring position were representative of any sort of larger trend.

"It's only been three games," said Taylor. "We'll be fine. We've had a couple hard-hit balls that just haven't fallen."

Thing is: There's evidence to suggest this is merely the 2018 Dodgers at work. They slug. They walk. And they don't always hit with men in scoring position. During the regular season, Los Angeles led the National League in homers and walks, but finished eighth in OPS and seventh in average with RISP.

And, sometimes, living by the long ball works just fine. The Dodgers are hitting just .198 in this series. Yet they won Games 1 and 2 handily, and they nearly mounted a wild comeback in Game 3.

"We scored five runs," Turner said. "We've scored runs. It's just that a couple times we didn't get it done."

And on Sunday night, they paid for it.