Sloppy defense allows Braves to tie, but Dodgers quickly retake lead in third

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Carl Crawford delivered a gut-punch to the Braves in the bottom of the second, sending a three-run home run over the fence in right field to put the Dodgers up 4-2, but starter Hyun-Jin Ryu and some sloppy defense allowed the Braves to quickly tie the game at four apiece in the top of the third. But the relentless Dodger offense continued their assault to retake the lead.

Leading off the top of the third inning against Justin Upton, Ryu quickly fell behind 3-0, but battled back to 3-2 before Upton laced a line drive to center for a single. Freddie Freeman followed up with a single of his own, putting runners at first and second with nobody out. At the end of an 11-pitch at-bat that included seven foul balls, Gattis blooped a single to center to load the bases for Brian McCann. McCann hit a weak ground ball to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who fired to second to attempt a double play, but when shortstop Hanley Ramirez fired to Ryu covering first, Ryu couldn’t find the bag with his foot. Upton scored on the play, bringing the score to 4-3 in favor of the Dodgers.

Ryu made another miscue against Chris Johnson. The Braves third baseman hit a weak dribbler that bounced a few feet down the first base line. Ryu dashed off the mound, picked up the ball and fired home in an attempt to get Freeman, but the throw was a couple seconds too late. The gaffe allowed the Braves to tie the game at four-all. Andrelton Simmons mercifully grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Ryu is at 68 pitches through three innings.

The Dodgers continued attacking the Braves, however, retaking the lead in the bottom half of the third. Hanley Ramirez doubled to lead off the inning against Braves starter Julio Teheran. Adrian Gonzalez promptly knocked him in with a line drive single to left, putting the Dodgers back on top 5-4. Yasiel Puig beat out a double play attempt by the Braves infield, then advanced to second base on a throwing error by Johnson. Juan Uribe struck out for the second out of the inning, but Skip Schumaker gave the Dodgers some insurance with a line drive single to left field, scoring Puig to put the Dodgers up 6-4. A.J. Ellis then lined a single to right field, bringing Ryu to the plate.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly pinch-hit Michael Young for Ryu, ending his night. His line: 3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K on 68 pitches. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez brought in Alex Wood in relief of Teheran, ending his starter’s night. Teheran’s line: 2.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 K on 66 pitches. Wood struck out Young to, at long last, end the third inning.

All in all, an eventful third inning in Game 3 of the NLDS. This game could have a huge impact on the final two games (if necessary) of the series since both teams will need at least six innings out of their respective bullpens to get through the night.

Dusty Baker drops truth bombs

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Dusty Baker was fired last offseason despite leading the Nationals to 95 and 97-win seasons. This was not new for him. Cincinnati let him go after taking a miserable Reds team to back-to-back 90+ win seasons — three in the space of four years — and making it to the playoffs in his final two seasons. In both cases the team that let him go cratered as soon as he left. There are likely reasons that have nothing to do with Dusty Baker for that, but it seems like more than mere coincidence too.

I say that because every time someone gets to Dusty Baker for an interview, he drops some major truth bombs that make you wonder why anyone wouldn’t want him in charge. Sure, like any manager he has his faults and blind spots — more so in his distant past than in his recent past, I should not — but the guy is smart, has more experience than anyone going and is almost universally loved by his players.

Recently he sat down with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic to talk about life, baseball and everything, and once again the truth bombs were dropping. About the state of front offices today. About the different way black and white ex-managers and ex-players are treated. About what seems to be collusion on the free agent market. And, of course, about the state of the 2018 Nationals, who are likely to miss the playoffs despite being, more or less, the same team he led to those 97 wins last year. It’s an absolute must-read on any of those topics, but taken together it’s a “block off some time this afternoon and enjoy the hell out of it” read.

Two of my favorite passages follow. The first one is a great general point in life: always beware of people who spend more time telling you why they are successful than actually, you know, being successful.

In Cincinnati, no matter what I did or what we did — we brought them from the bottom — they were all over me, all the time, no matter what. If we won, it wasn’t winning the right way. They were like, “I don’t understand this mode of thinking.” Well, I don’t want you to understand my mode of thinking. That’s how I can beat you.

The second one is just delicious for what he does not say:

Rosenthal: Bryce Harper struggled for two-plus months. He didn’t struggle for two-plus months when you had him…

Baker: I know.

Based on the tone of the rest of the interview, in which Baker does not hesitate to say exactly what he thinks, it’s abundantly clear that he believes the Nats have messed Harper up somehow and that it wouldn’t have happened under him.

Like I said, though: there is a TON of great stuff in here. From a guy who, if you’ve listened to him talk when he does not give a crap about what people may say about him, has time and again revealed himself to  be one of the most interesting baseball figures of the past several decades.