Following their Game 2 loss to the Braves in the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers spoke about what their late offensive burst -- seven runs from the seventh through the ninth inning -- could do for them going forward. Until that point, Los Angeles had mustered one run in 15 innings against the Braves. Even in defeat, manager Dave Roberts called the late rally “an exhale.”
He couldn’t have known how prophetic that would prove. One night later, the Dodgers turned their momentum into the most productive inning in Major League Baseball postseason history, scoring 11 runs to open a 15-3 thumping of the Braves in Game 3 of the NLCS. Max Muncy's grand slam and Joc Pederson's three-run homer highlighted the record-setting inning at Globe Life Field, transforming the game’s final three-plus hours into a mere formality.
The Dodgers now trail the Braves, 2-1, in the best-of-seven series, with Clayton Kershaw set to match up against rookie Bryse Wilson in Game 4.
Their exhale is complete.
“That was kind of our whole goal, was just carrying the momentum over from last night,” Muncy said. “We were able to do that.”
Consider Muncy’s words a rather severe understatement. The 11-run first was the largest half-inning of offense in postseason history, breaking the record of 10 runs achieved four times -- most recently by the Cardinals against a similar Braves roster in Game 5 of last year’s NL Division Series. It also marked the first time the Dodgers had scored 11-plus runs in an inning since Aug. 8, 1954, when they sent 13 men home in the eighth against the Reds at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.
And it nearly didn’t happen. Grounding the first pitch of the game to third base, Mookie Betts was called out at first despite one of his three fastest 90-foot sprint splits of the season. Only after a Dodgers challenge did the officiating crew overturn the call, allowing Betts to score one pitch later on Corey Seager’s RBI double.
“That just got the whole bench -- it lit a match,” Pederson said. “Everybody was excited and just ran with that momentum.”
Even then, Braves starter Kyle Wright was able to induce consecutive groundouts to give himself an escape hatch. At that point, an 11-run barrage was far from Wright’s mind; coming off a scoreless playoff debut last week against the Marlins, he was a pitch away from making it back to the dugout.
The Dodgers didn’t oblige. Will Smith followed with an RBI double, Cody Bellinger walked, then Pederson punctuated the inning with a three-run homer, though his punctuation proved to be more comma than exclamation point. The real exclamation came six batters later, after Edwin Ríos homered, Wright departed and reliever Grant Dayton entered. Dayton allowed an RBI single to Seager, then loaded the bases before serving up a Statcast-projected 435-foot grand slam to Muncy, making the Dodgers the first team to hit three first-inning homers in a postseason game.
“There are not too many things that are cooler than that,” Muncy said.
In the dugout, Dodgers players celebrated all those firsts as loudly as they could by clapping, shouting and banging their hands on the railing. Bellinger climbed the steps with a bat in his hand, raising it high over his head in jubilation. So thoroughly stymied over the first 15 innings of this series, Los Angeles needed only 32 minutes to change the tenor of the NLCS.
Across the field, Wright began thinking not of “flushing” the historic inning, but learning from it.
“If I flush it away, I'm not going to get any better,” he said. “Whenever it comes down to it, you can either feel sorry for yourself or find a way to bounce back.”
What Wright knew was what the Dodgers knew, too. Eleven runs were not merely a postseason record. They were a pronouncement of strength for a once-struggling lineup and a proclamation that the series is far from over.
“This team’s got a lot of fight,” Seager said. “We’ve done it all year. We were one swing, one anything away from tying [Game 2] and going into extras. So it’s never over until it’s over. This is a long series, and we’re looking up to the challenge.”