Dodgers eager to embrace 2020 NLCS storyline against Braves

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA- The Atlanta Braves know what happened last October and want to avoid a repeat. The Los Angeles Dodgers plan on an encore.

Atlanta held 2-0 and 3-1 leads in the NL Championship Series before the Dodgers won three consecutive games in a playoff entirely at the neutral ballpark of Arlington, Texas, then beat Tampa Bay for their first World Series title since 1988.

The host Braves won the first two games of this year’s NLCS, then LA took two of three at Dodger Stadium forcing a Game 6 back at Truist Park on Saturday night with the Braves still one win from their first Series trip since 1999. The Dodgers made the surprise decision Friday night to scratch Max Scherzer.

“I think we’ve got a mental advantage right now, getting back on that plane and going back there playing Game 6,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said earlier Friday. “History’s a powerful thing to the mind, and so we feel good and I think that we’re going to use it to our advantage.”

Even so, Roberts acknowledged “at the end of the day we still got to go out there and play a good baseball game.”

Facing elimination, the Dodgers turned up their power game to beat the Braves 11-2 on Thursday night.

First baseman Freddie Freeman says the Braves must prove they won’t follow the same path to another collapse. Atlanta has a revamped outfield and home-field advantage,

“It seems because every day it’s brought up the last couple days,” Freeman said of last year’s collapse. “So I don’t think we have a choice until we kill that narrative. We’re up 3-2 and we’re going home. That’s a great position to be in.”

Atlanta’s Ian Anderson is to start Game 6. While Los Angeles did not say who will start Saturday, Walker Buehler is available to start for the Dodgers on Sunday.

“I like the guys we’re going to be running out there and we just got to go out there and play to win one game,” Roberts said.

Los Angeles has won seven consecutive elimination games.

Chris Taylor hit three homers and drove in six runs on Thursday night. AJ Pollock added two homers and drove in four runs as the Dodgers set a franchise postseason record with 17 hits.

Taylor became the 11th player to hit three homers in a postseason game and the first to accomplish the feat with his team facing elimination.

“I think for us it’s always just been about winning one game and we try to keep that mentality all year, do everything we can to win tonight, and just sort of take it one day at a time,” Taylor said.

Anderson said Thursday the Braves are “definitely on a mission to kind of dispel” the repeat of their 2020 NLCS loss.

“So, yeah, I mean, we’re still in a good spot,” Anderson said. “The vibes are still good.”

Anderson lasted only three innings in Atlanta’s 5-4 win in Game 2. Scherzer was pulled after 4 1/3 innings with what he said was a dead arm on two days’ rest after getting his first career save in the Division Series finale at San Francisco.

Roberts said 36-year-old left-hander David Price is replacing left-hander Joe Kelly on the roster. Kelly left in the first inning Thursday night with tightness in his right biceps and won’t be eligible to return in the World Series should the Dodgers advance.

Price, the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner, was 5-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 11 starts and 28 relief appearances in the regular season. He has at 4.62 ERA in 23 postseason games with Tampa Bay, Detroit, Toronto and Boston.

Roberts also revealed Friday that left-hander Justin Bruihl wasn’t available in Game 5 due to a sore arm and may be replaced. Bruihl was receiving treatment on Friday before attempting to throw. He experienced the soreness while warming up on Thursday night.

Roberts said Bruihl “wanted to be out there but just his arm wouldn’t let him. … We are going to bring an arm just in case he can’t go.”

Roberts said he has not decided on a possible replacement for Bruihl.

Trevor Bauer pulls on No. 96 for Yokohama’s BayStars

Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

YOKOHAMA, Japan – Trevor Bauer apparently was shunned by every major league team, so he’s signed a one-year deal with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.

Before about 75 reporters in a Yokohama hotel, he slipped on the BayStars uniform – No. 96 – on Friday and said all the right things. Not a single Japanese reporter asked him about his suspension in the United States over domestic violence allegations or the reasons surrounding it.

The only question about it came from The Associated Press. Bauer disputed the fact the question suggested he was suspended from the major leagues.

“I don’t believe that’s accurate,” he said of the suspension. “But I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to pitch again. I’ve always wanted to play in Japan.”

He said the suspension dealt technically with matters of pay, and he said he had contacted major league teams about playing this year. He said he would have been eligible, but did not say if he had offers.

The 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Jan. 12, three weeks after an arbitrator reduced his suspension imposed by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred from 324 to 194 games.

The penalty followed an investigation into domestic violence, which the pitcher has denied.

Manfred suspended Bauer last April for violating the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy, after a San Diego woman said he beat and sexually abused her in 2021.

Bauer has maintained he did nothing wrong, saying everything that happened between him and the woman was consensual. He was never charged with a crime.

Bauer joined his hometown Dodgers before the 2021 season and was 8-5 with a 2.59 ERA in 17 starts before being placed on paid leave.

Bauer said his goal with the BayStars was to strike out 200 and keep his average fastball velocity at 96 mph – hence his uniform number. He said he is also working on a better change-up pitch.

He said he hoped to play by mid-April – about two weeks after the Japanese season begins – and said he has been training for the last 1 1/2 years.

“I’ve been doing a lot of strength training and throwing,” he said. “I didn’t really take any time off. So I’ve had a year and a half of development time. I’m stronger than ever. More powerful than ever.”

Yokohama has not won a title in 25 years, and Bauer said that was his goal in the one-year deal.

“First and foremost, I want to help the Stars win a championship,” he said. “That involves pitching well. That involves helping teammates and learning from them. If they have questions – you know – share my knowledge with them.”

He also repeated several times about his desire to play in Japan, dating from a collegiate tournament in 2009 at the Tokyo Dome. He said playing in Japan was on his mind even before winning the Cy Young – and also immediately after.

“The Tokyo Dome was sold out,” he said. “I’d never played in front of that many people – probably combined in my life. In the United States, college games aren’t very big, so seeing that amount of passion. How many people came to a college game in Japan. It really struck me.”

He said he’d been practicing with the Japanese ball, which he said was slightly softer with higher seams.

“But overall it just feels like a baseball and the pitches move the same. The velocity is similar. I don’t notice much of a difference.”

Other teams in Japan have made similar controversial signings before.

Former major league reliever Roberto Osuna – who received a 75-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy – signed last season with the Chiba Lotte Marines.

He has signed for this season with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

In 1987, Dodgers relief pitcher Steve Howe, who had a career plagued with drug problems, tried to sign with the Seibu Lions. But he did not play in the country after the Japanese baseball commissioner disqualified Howe because of his history of drug abuse.

Bauer was an All-Star in 2018 and went 83-69 with a 3.79 ERA in 10 seasons for Arizona (2012), Cleveland, (2013-19), Cincinnati (2019-20) and the Dodgers. He won the NL Cy Young Award with Cincinnati during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.