Dodgers on brink of elimination after Game 4 loss to Braves

The bills keep coming due.

Before using Max Scherzer in relief in Game 5 of their National League Division Series win, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts acknowledged there is always a potential “cost” to using a starting pitcher out of the bullpen between his starts.

Pitching for the fourth time in 12 days when he started Game 2 of the NL Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, Scherzer said his arm was “dead” and he lasted only 4-1/3 innings in a loss.

Julio Urias pitched out of the bullpen in that game and was ineffective, allowing two runs in his inning.

Pitching for the fourth time in 12 days in Game 4 on Wednesday night, Urias gave up three home runs in the first 11 batters he faced (and for just the second time in his career) and the Dodgers never recovered, losing to the Braves, 9-2.

Baseball wisdom says momentum is only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher. Urias wasn’t very good – but the Dodgers’ offense did nothing to build on the momentum of Cody Bellinger’s restorative three-run home run in the eighth inning of Game 3, getting no hits until the fifth inning and only four total.

The Braves’ win (their first at Dodger Stadium since June 2018) gives them a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS – for the second year in a row against the Dodgers. Facing elimination in Game 5 for the fourth time in 11 games this postseason, the Dodgers need to win Thursday just to extend the series back to Atlanta.

“There’s really no need to tell anyone that we can do it. We’ve done it. We’ve been here,” Dodgers outfielder AJ Pollock said. “If we win tomorrow, we’re not in a bad spot. So it’s going to be a big day tomorrow. We got to regroup. We got to get after it and anything can happen if we win tomorrow.”

They will have to do it without heroes of postseasons past Max Muncy (injured elbow) or Justin Turner now. Turner left Game 4 in the seventh inning with a hamstring injury and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said “I think that will be it for him” in this series.

And they will try to do it while quilting together yet another “bullpen game.”

“You never want to have your backs against the wall. That’s not how you draw it up,” Roberts said. “We have a very resilient team, a very tough team and it’s not going to get much tougher than facing (Braves Game 5 starter) Max Fried in an elimination game. But we’ve done it before.

“I would love to go to Atlanta.”

Urias didn’t give up a home run in 35 innings over his final six starts in the regular season and just one in his first 11 innings of the postseason. But Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall hit back-to-back homers to start the second inning and Freddie Freeman added a third solo homer to start the third inning.

Rosario continued to be the hottest hitter in the postseason not named Kiké Hernandez, lining a ball into the right field corner later in the third inning and stretching it to a triple when Mookie Betts mishandled it.

After an intentional walk, Joc Pederson lobbed a flare into shallow center field. Gavin Lux ran in but let it fall in front of him for an RBI single rather than risk a diving attempt. Urias seemed to glare out into center field after the Braves’ fourth run scored.

Ten times in the 17 batters Urias faced in the first three innings he got two strikes on the batter. Those 10 batters hit two of the home runs plus Pederson’s RBI single, a Travis d’Arnaud single, Rosario’s triple and a Freeman walk.

“We had a plan going into the game. Obviously, they made their adjustments. They hit the ball when I made those pitches,” Urias said through an interpreter.

“It was their day.”

Urias gave up another run in the fifth, throwing 92 pitches in five very difficult innings. But he would not blame the extra work and unsettled schedule of the previous 12 days.

“I mean, there’s a potential cost. I don’t think anyone knows,” Roberts said of the decision to pitch Scherzer and Urias out of the bullpen between starts. “I just thought the stuff was really good. There might have been some misses, which certainly there were. But I think that if you’re talking about where Max’s stuff, I think, was certainly compromised in his outing in Atlanta … I just didn’t see the stuff compromised (in Game 4). I didn’t.”

Meanwhile, the Dodgers didn’t have a single hit to call their own and Lux was robbed of a possible home run by center fielder Duvall in the second inning.

The combination of Jesse Chavez and Drew Smyly retired the first 10 Dodgers in order and didn’t give up a hit until Justin Turner’s one-out single in the fifth. Their second hit, a single by Bellinger, followed immediately and Bellinger stole second base without a throw – the Dodgers’ franchise-record 14th stolen base this postseason.

Pollock came off the bench and delivered a two-out, two-run single. But the Dodgers had just one hit over the final four innings – a pinch-hit single by Albert Pujols in the seventh inning. Justin Turner bounced into a double play after that hit and pulled up while running to first base, obviously injured.

It was the fifth time in 10 postseason games that the Dodgers have produced two runs or fewer.

“Every time I write the lineup out I feel very good about our club and how we matchup … and what we’re going to do that particular night,” Roberts said. “It just hasn’t been as consistent as I don’t think anyone expected.

“We’ve got to change that, and the only way we can do it is tomorrow. … Fried isn’t going to feel sorry for us. He’s going to go for the jugular. … We’ve got to find a way to stress him, get guys on base, and push them across. That’s just the bottom line.”

The Braves put the game away with four runs in the ninth off Tony Gonsolin, including Rosario’s fourth hit and second home run of the game.

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