LA racks up record 11-run inning for first win of series
ARLINGTON, Texas－The Los Angeles Dodgers were already having a grand time before Max Muncy's big slam capped the highest-scoring inning in a major-league playoff game.
That new ballpark in his home state of Texas where the Dodgers hope to keep playing right through the World Series suddenly doesn't seem too big anymore, and they are right back in the National League Championship Series after a 15-3 rout of the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.
Muncy's slam off Grant Dayton capped an 11-run first inning when Los Angeles benefitted from a game-starting replay challenge, hit three home runs and had nine consecutive batters reach base after two outs. The Dodgers set franchise postseason records for runs and home runs with five, cutting their NLCS deficit to 2 games to 1.
"It's pretty cool. Not too many things that are cooler than that,"Muncy said. "But the biggest thing to me is our team got a W and got us back on track."
Joc Pederson hit a three-run homer off starter Kyle Wright to start his four-hit night, and Edwin Rios went deep on next pitch. Corey Seager had a pair of RBI hits in the opening burst, then added a solo homer in the third as the Dodgers built a 15-0 lead－the first team with that many runs in the first three innings of a postseason game.
Julio Urias made his first postseason start and improved to 3-0 in these playoffs, striking out five while allowing one run and three hits over five innings. He walked the first two batters but no more.
The Braves' miserable start was eerily similar to their Game 5 flop in last year's division series against St. Louis, when they gave up a 10-run first inning at home in a season-ending start by Mike Foltynewicz.
Manager Dave Roberts said Clayton Kershaw will start Game 4 for the Dodgers, two nights after the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner was scratched because of back spasms.
Bryse Wilson makes his postseason debut as the third rookie right-handed starter for Atlanta in this series in what will be his first appearance since the final day of the regular season on Sept 27.
"We still are in a good spot with four games left," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Like I say, for the whole team, you just turn the page and get ready to go tomorrow."
The Dodgers had left the tying run at third base in a four-run bottom of the ninth during an 8-7 loss on Tuesday night. They were the visiting team in Game 3 and sent 14 batters to the plate for seven hits, three walks and a hit batter over 32 minutes in the 29,786th half-inning in postseason history.
"It was a carry-over," reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger insisted.
"That was fun to be a part of," Pederson said. "I think some of the momentum from last night, the last inning definitely carried over and got us feeling a little bit more comfortable at the plate."
Those 15 runs came after the Braves had allowed only nine runs in their previous six games plus eight innings, a stretch that included four shutouts en route to a 7-0 postseason start.
Bellinger walked and scored in the first, led off the second with a homer and added an RBI single in the third. His long ball came right after his running, leaping catch at the center-field wall to rob Ozzie Albies with two on to end the Atlanta first.
"It's not ideal how we started the series, but we feel good about ourselves," Bellinger said.
Astros stay alive
In San Diego, the Houston Astros avoided a sweep with a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
Randy Arozarena hit a two-run shot in the fourth inning for his fifth homer of the postseason, but the Rays didn't score again until the ninth.
"The team feels good," Arozarena said through a translator. "We're going to stay positive. We came in here knowing we were going to face a solid team."
The foundation of Tampa Bay's success this fall is not offense: After batting .238 in the regular season to rank 21st in the majors, the Rays are hitting a meager.209 in the postseason with a .692 OPS－both the worst among the four remaining teams－despite its 8-3 record.
"We've got to get the bats going, no doubt about it," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. "We've been carried here by our pitching and defense, which is how we're built, but we sure would like to get some (hits). It's not coming easy for anybody now. We've got guys in our lineup that are scuffling a little bit."
Indeed, the Rays got to the brink of their franchise's second World Series appearance relying on that stellar pitching staff, superb team defense and the hot bat of Arozarena, who's batting.438 in the playoffs with a jaw-dropping 19 hits.
While nobody has matched Arozarena's production for Tampa Bay in October, several teammates have stepped up in different games to provide key hits and runs. It never happened in their first potential closeout game of the ALCS.
Although the final destination hasn't been determined, Arozarena's postseason is already a remarkable journey. His 19 hits are the fourth-most by a rookie in a single postseason.
Nicknamed "The Cuban Rocket,"Arozarena defected from Havana to Mexico in 2015 and signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals for $1.25 million in 2016. He made his big-league debut last year for St. Louis, but was traded to the Rays in the offseason.
Arozarena missed the first 34 regular-season games after catching COVID-19 and then took time to build up to full strength－he got a head start by doing hundreds of push-ups per day while in isolation.