LOS ANGELES – Can someone look at the calendar and see if it reads October? That is exactly what the game felt like Thursday night. In game one of one of the most anticipated series in all of 2023, the Braves just edged out the Dodgers in a thrilling first game of four.
Let’s begin with the absolutely electric offensive display we all saw for both teams in this first game. Going up against one of the best arms in all of baseball in Spencer Strider, it was never going to be easy for this hot Dodger offense. But, they got the scoring started in the first with a Mookie Betts walk and Freddie Freeman single which eventually led to an RBI fielder’s choice by Max Muncy.
The Braves however were going up against Lance Lynn, who had been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball since coming to Los Angeles. The Atlanta hitters did not seem to really care about that notion, as they crushed Lynn in the second inning which just opened the floodgates for the rest of his start. Nicky Lopez walked with the bases loaded to even the score and then Ronald Acuña Jr. absolutely blasted a ball to deep left field for a grand slam. Austin Riley immediately launched a home run of his own to go back-to-back and put the game out of reach…for the time being.
The Dodgers found themselves down 7-1 after a Michael Harris II homer, and fans were thinking, “Well this is what it feels like to play one of the best.” Of course, in typical 2023 Dodgers fashion, this team responded once again. Mookie Betts took matters into his own hands and poked a three-run home run to right field over the stretch of his fellow MVP candidate Ronald Acuña Jr.’s glove to electrify the crowd and put them right back into the game, down by only three in the 5th.
A crucial error in the very next half inning by Max Muncy ended up costing the Dodgers down the stretch as the Braves extended their lead to 8-4 due to a Michael Harris II RBI single. Despite that blunder, I have to give the bullpen plenty of credit for holding the best lineup in baseball to zero earned runs in the late innings. Alex Vesia, Victor Gonzalez, Shelby Miller, and Brusdar Graterol came in and shut down the core parts of the Atlanta offense to keep the Dodgers within striking distance.
The bottom of the 7th saw Michael Busch and none other than Mookie Betts hit home runs off of one of the Braves best relievers to cut the deficit to two and start the comeback. Two clutch hits by a rookie and an MVP candidate in the same inning was not on my series bingo card, but it made the entire stadium get right back into the game. In the 8th, Max Muncy got all of a slider over the plate by A.J. Minter and just like that, it was a one-run game. Another Dodger threat ended after Amed Rosario struck out and that set up the ninth.
Mookie Betts flew out on the first pitch off of potent closer and former Angel Raisel Iglesias, which set up even more theatrics. Freddie Freeman walked and Will Smith singled to left to bring up Max Muncy, who just missed hitting a walk off home run off the end of his bat. The crowd was devastated and you could even hear the change in mood through the screen as well. Kiké Hernandez was the Dodgers’ last hope but Iglesias shut him down on three pitches to secure an electrifying win for the Braves.
The Dodgers are now 83-50 and 13 ½ games up on the 2nd place Giants in the National League West.
Here are my three takeaways:
Mookie Betts Just Outdueled Acuña Jr.
Mookie just continues to rake. He had his sixth multi-homer game this year and 29th of his career. Not to mention, he now owns the Los Angeles Dodgers record for most hits in an August at 51. Every time you thought Acuña Jr. took the lead in the MVP race Thursday night, Betts followed it up and then some. To get your team back into the game twice and play multiple positions just shows how valuable he is.
Lance Lynn Struggles
This was Lance Lynn’s worst start as a Dodger and it came against the best lineup in all of baseball. Throughout much of the year with the White Sox, the long ball hurt Lynn consistently, but lately he had found his groove with the Dodgers. This game, his breaking ball didn’t have as much control or break as in the previous four starts and the Braves took advantage of it. He gave up seven earned runs over 4 ⅓ innings with three home runs allowed. Should Dodger fans be concerned? Absolutely not. In fact, I believe this could help Lynn figure out what he needs to do against potent lineups.
This Team Does Not Quit
Most teams would go down 7-1 to the Braves and figure to pack it up and try again tomorrow, but not with this version of the Dodgers. It might get lost in the national headlines and on talk shows tomorrow, but the Dodgers almost completed a six run comeback facing the best team in baseball with their best pitchers on the mound throughout.
I know it is all about wins at this point in the year and rightfully so, but to think that the Dodgers sent out their middle starter and used only one of their better arms in the pen and still only lost by one should go a long way in the clubhouse. Even losses can be wins sometimes and that is how this team and fans should view it. The main objective is winning, but stacking good days and showing fight is just as good sometimes.