Atlanta claps back with offensive outburst of its own to put Dodgers on ropes

Marcell Ozuna homered twice, MVP candidate Freddie Freeman delivered the go-ahead hit off Clayton Kershaw and the Atlanta Braves moved within one win of ending a two-decade World Series drought by routing the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 on Thursday night.

The Braves took a 3-1 lead in the NL Championship Series, bouncing back from getting pounded 15-3 the previous night. Atlanta will try to reach its first World Series since 1999 when it plays Game 5 Friday night.

Ozuna had four hits and drove in four runs. It was 1-all in the sixth when the Braves scored six times, with Freeman hitting a tiebreaking double and Ozuna following with an RBI double that chased Kershaw.

A night after the Dodgers had a record 11-run first, they managed only one hit — a solo homer by Edwin Rios — over six innings against 22-year-old rookie right-hander Bryse Wilson in his post-season debut.

While the Braves’ outburst also lasted more than a half-hour but without as many runs as LA’s a day earlier, it was more than big enough enough after Ronald Acuna Jr. led off the decisive six-run sixth with an infield single on a play that ended with him, Kershaw and second baseman Kike Hernandez all on the ground. They all took tumbles because of their effort, and weren’t knocked down by the sometimes bothersome breezy conditions in the new Texas ballpark with the roof open.

Kershaw fell down after coming off the mound while reaching up to try to field the high-chopper. Hernandez went to the ground after grabbing the ball and making a sidearm throw then went wide while Acuna tumbled after passing the base and landed awkwardly on his left wrist that was irritated twice during the regular season. Acuna went to second base because of the errant throw after being tended to for several moments.

After trying glasses in the field and getting eyedrops early in the game, Freeman apparently had no problems seeing when he doubled home Acuna for a 2-1 lead before Ozuna followed with another double. Reliever Brusdar Graterol got the first out before giving up three consecutive hits, including Dansby Swanson’s two-run double and Austin Riley’s RBI single. Rookie centre fielder Cristian Pache capped the inning with an RBI single made it 7-1.

Freeman and Ozuna each added RBI singles in the eighth.

Wilson wins pitching duel

Atlanta had gotten even 1-1 in the fourth when Ozuna turned an 86-mph slider from Kershaw into a 109-mph rocket that went 422 feet to left for his second post-season homer. Ozuna went even deeper in the seventh, a 434-foot shot to straight away centre.

Wilson became the third-youngest pitcher to allow one or no hits over at least six innings in a post-season game. The right-hander struck out five and walked one, starting with a 1-2-3 first on 10 pitches and throwing his last pitch before .

Kershaw, scratched from his scheduled start in Game 2 two days earlier because of back spasms, struck out four, walked one and allowed four runs on seven hits in five-plus innings. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner is now 11-12 with 4.31 ERA in post-season, as opposed to his 175-76 record and 2.43 ERA in the regular season during his 13 years in the big leagues.

Rios, batting seventh and the fourth left-hander in a row in the Dodgers starting lineup against Wilson, homered to right leading off the third. The ball landed on the tarp covering the first several rows of seats closest to the field, and separating fans sitting in socially distanced pods of up to four people beyond that.

After being left off the NL Division Series roster because of a groin injury, and not playing in the NLCS opener, Rios homered when starting the last two games. He had one of the Dodgers’ post-season record five on Wednesday night.

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