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NLCS Game 5 Preview: It's Do-Or-Die For Dodgers Baseball

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - "It's time for Dodgers baseball!" - A phrase Dodgers coined by the legendary Vin Scully, and one fans have cherished for decades.

This motto has gained a new twist this postseason, as they head into Game 5 of the NLCS on Thursday evening, facing their fourth elimination game in the last two weeks.

The Dodgers are currently down 3-1 in the NLCS versus the Atlanta Braves. After storming back in the eighth inning of Game 3 in a game that would've put them down three games-to-none, the Dodgers fell in dramatic fashion in Game 4, losing 9-2.

They've been here before.

In 2020, nearly the exact same thing happened. They were down 2-0, won Game 3, lost Game 4, and bounced back to win three straight and eventually the World Series over the Tampa Bay Rays.

The 2020 Dodgers are the 14th team in MLB history to come back from a 0-2 deficit in the postseason, and in the cases where they've done that as a franchise they've won four World Series (1955, 1965, 1981, 2020).

Dodgers fans should recall that the Dodgers are also the 14th team in MLB history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the postseason, which they did in 2020 against... the Atlanta Braves.

"No one needs to really tell anyone that we can do it,'' Pollock said Wednesday. "We've done it. We've been here. Obviously we got to grind tomorrow, but we win tomorrow, we're not in a bad spot."

It's worth noting that no team has ever done that in consecutive postseasons (but the 1985 Kansas City Royals did it twice in the same postseason).

Whether it's "Do-or-die" or "Never Say Die," this Dodgers team does not give in easily. They've won the previous six elimination games they've played in - One against the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card play-in game, two against the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS, and three in last season's NLCS against the Braves.

Fans echo that sentiment, confident that if anyone can do it, it's the Boys in Blue.

Dodgers' Manager Dave Roberts has tabbed Joe Kelly as Game 5's starter, a game that has already been dubbed as a bullpen game, similar to Game 1 of the series. Despite the loss, Dodgers pitching was impressive in that game, as eight pitchers combined for just three runs over the nine innings, striking out 14 men and walking none.

Out of the bullpen this season, Kelly sported a 2.86 ERA over 44 innings pitched, including 50 strikeouts and just three home runs allowed. This postseason, he's pitched in six games and over 4.2 innings he's allowed just one run and struck out five.

For the Dodgers today, pitching will likely be an "all hands on deck" mentality and there aren't yet any indications as to who will follow him out of the pen, but it's safe to assume that both Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler will be two of the only pitchers unavailable today, as they would likely start Games 6 and 7, respectively, should the Dodgers win and extend the series.

Facing off against the Dodgers will be Max Fried. Fried, who started Game 1 of the series for Atlanta, went six innings, allowing two runs on eight hits. This season, Fried was 14-7 with a 3.04 ERA and 158 strikeouts.

Against Fried in their careers, the Dodgers sport a .246 average, with 28 total hits, including four homers, eight walks and 31 strikeouts. They will also have Austin Barnes on the bench, who has three hits off Fried in his lifetime, including one homer.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers will be without Justin Turner for the second time this series, and for the remainder of the postseason as he suffered a Grade 2 hamstring strain in Wednesday's game. Chris Taylor will take over the hot corner in his place.

Thursday's game will be as good a time as any for Trea Turner to break out of his slump (8 for 44 this postseason), as he has hit .375 off of Fried when the two matchup, with nine hits in 24 plate appearances, including a home run.

The Dodgers Game 5 lineup looks like this heading into game-time (with playoff numbers):

  1. Mookie Betts, RF (.368, 1 HR, 5 RBI)
  2. Trea Turner, 2B (.182, 0 HR, 1 RBI)
  3. Corey Seager, SS (.205, 2 HR, 6 RBI)
  4. Will Smith, C (.278, 3 HR, 4 RBI)
  5. AJ Pollock, LF (.231, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
  6. Albert Pujols, 1B (.273, 0 HR, 0 RBI)
  7. Chris Taylor, 3B (.286, 1 HR, 6 RBI)
  8. Cody Bellinger, CF (.296, 1 HR, 6 RBI)
  9. Joe Kelly, P (1-0, 4.2 IP, 1.93 ERA, 5 K)

Roberts has stacked the lineup with right-handed hitters, in the hopes that the advantage lies with them against the left-handed Fried. The Dodgers will be pushing the issue of run support tonight, something that has escaped them this postseason (.221 with RISP and 72 men left on base) - except for when it matters most.

It was around this time last postseason when the Dodgers' bats woke up, as they would score 63 runs over their final 11 games.

It's Do-or-Die for Dodgers baseball in Game 5 tonight.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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