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MLB Playoffs: Braves edge Dodgers, take 2-0 lead in NLCS

Oct. 14 (UPI) — The Atlanta Braves nearly gave up a 7-0 lead before they halted a late rally by the Atlanta Braves to take a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series.

“This is a good ballclub we’re playing, and they’re explosive, as we saw,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after the 8-7 win on Tuesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

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“I didn’t feel good with a big lead, because these guys are too powerful. But that’s a good ballgame to win. They all are now. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot there at the end, and [pitcher Mark] Melancon did a great job coming in.”

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman went 2 for 4 with three RBIs in the victory. Starting pitcher Ian Anderson baffled batters with his fastball, curveball and changeup trio to allow just one hit over four shutout innings.

“He kept us off-balance all night,” Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager said of Anderson. “He was in the zone when he needed to be and got us to chase [pitches].”

The Braves put up five runs on Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin, who was thrown into action after Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was scratched from his scheduled start hours before Game 2.

Anderson and Gonsolin kept the game scoreless through the first three innings. Gonsolin then walked Ronald Acuna at the start of the fourth frame. Freeman then stepped into the batter’s box. The Braves first baseman proceeded to smash a 3-2 splitter from Gonsolin to right field for a 408-foot, two-run homer.

The Braves added to the lead with a four-run fifth inning. Christian Pache plated Nick Markakis with an RBI double for the first run of the inning.

Freeman then brought in another run with a single to center field. Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez then walked Travis d’Arnaud with the bases loaded to make the score 5-0.

Ozzie Albies hit an RBI sacrifice fly for the final run of the inning. Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson then plated d’Arnaud with a ground-rule double in the top of the seventh inning.

The Dodgers began their rally in the bottom of the seventh frame. Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor hit back-to-back singles to start the half-inning. Braves relief pitcher Darren O’Day then struck out Mookie Betts before he was replaced by A.J. Minter.

The fellow Dodgers reliever allowed a 416-foot, three-run homer to Seager in his first exchange of the game to cut the Braves lead to 7-3.

Albies then smacked a 426-foot solo shot for the Braves in the second at-bat of the ninth inning. The Dodgers answered with a four-run rally in the bottom of the final frame, but could not close the gap.

Seager plated Betts with an RBI double in the third at-bat of the half-inning. Max Muncy hit a two-run homer two at-bats later to make the score 8-6. Will Smith reached base on a fielding error in the next at-bat before Bellinger brought him in with an RBI triple for the final run of the game.

Melancon then forced an A.J. Pollock ground out for the final out of Game 2. The Braves relief pitcher earned a save for his late-game effort.

Albies went 3 for 4 with two RBIs for the Braves. Swanson and Nick Markakis had two hits apiece for Atlanta. Seager went 2 for 4 with four RBIs and was the only Dodgers player with more than one hit in the loss.

The Dodgers face the Braves in Game 3 at 6:05 p.m. EDT on Wednesday in Arlington. Left-handed pitcher Julio Urias is expected to start for the Dodgers. The Braves plan to start right-handed pitcher Kyle Wright.

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