Dodgers rout Braves to take 2-1 lead in NLDS

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It was a close back-and-forth affair between the Braves and Dodgers for the first three and a half innings in Game 3 of the NLDS in Los Angeles tonight. The game was tied at four-all, then the Dodger offense woke up, building a lead as large as nine runs entering the bottom of the ninth.

The Braves gave starter Julio Teheran a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on two RBI singles. The right-hander would fork over the lead in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly by Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu followed by a three-run home run by Carl Crawford. The Braves quickly tied the game up in the top of the third on two defensive miscues by Ryu, failing to touch first base covering on a double play attempt, then making a late throw home on a fielder’s choice attempt, allowing the Braves to score a run on each blunder.

In the bottom half of the third, the Dodgers took the lead again on RBI singles by Adrian Gonzalez and Skip Schumaker. They put the game out of reach in the fourth against Braves reliever Alex Wood as Hanley Ramirez hit an RBI triple, Yasiel Puig hit an RBI single, and Juan Uribe blasted an opposite-field two-run home run to put his team up 10-4. The four runs scored in the fourth were all unearned as Crawford reached to lead off the inning, prompting the avalanche.

Neither starter could make it past the third inning. Ryu needed 68 pitches to get through three innings, allowing the four runs on six hits and a walk while striking out just one batter. Teheran needed 66 pitches to get through two and two-thirds, allowing six runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out five.

Chris Capuano came on in relief of Ryu, holding the Braves scoreless over three innings without allowing a hit, though he did walk three while striking out three. J.P. Howell pitched one and one-third scoreless before giving way to Ronald Belisario, who finished the eighth without any damage.

With runners on first and second against Braves reliever Jordan Walden in the eighth, Ramirez lined a single to left-center to plate his team’s 11th run of the game. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez brought in Luis Avilan to keep the faintest glimmer of hope alive, but Gonzalez hit a grounder back up the middle which Avilan deflected. Second baseman Elliott Johnson was unable to make a play as the Dodgers’ 12th run crossed the plate. Puig lined an RBI single to right field, allowing Ramirez to touch home for run number 13. David Hale came in and finally closed the barn door after the horse had bolted. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called on Paco Rodriguez in the ninth. The lefty allowed a one-out two-run home run to Jason Heyward and a two-out single to Evan Gattis. Kenley Jansen came in and struck out Brian McCann for out number 27 to wrap up the 13-6 victory at long last.

The Dodgers can wrap up the NLDS at home tomorrow night behind starter Ricky Nolasco, who will oppose Braves right-hander Freddy Garcia in Game 4.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.