ARLINGTON, Texas — One night after a record-setting run-scoring performance, the Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t muster more than one hit against a rookie with seven career starts and are now on the verge of getting bounced from the National League Championship Series.
The Atlanta Braves‘ Bryse Wilson, who hadn’t pitched in nearly three weeks, threw six one-hit innings and held the advantage his offense provided off a shaky Clayton Kershaw in a 10-2 victory Thursday at Globe Life Field. Atlanta leads the series 3-1 and will have three chances at securing its first World Series berth since 1999.
A stout 22-year-old right-hander with a linebacker’s build — and mentality — Wilson previously pitched Sept. 27, the Braves’ final regular-season game, and wasn’t even named Atlanta’s Game 4 starter until Wednesday. He challenged the Dodgers all night with a variety of fastballs and was aided at times by the winds that gusted throughout the stadium, which had its retractable roof open. Aside from Edwin Rios‘ second-inning home run, the Dodgers — who had scored 11 in the first inning of Game 3 to set a postseason record for runs in one frame — suffered from the same magically vanishing offense against Wilson that plagued them in Games 1 and 2.
Wilson struck out five and walked one over an efficient six innings that took just 74 pitches, most of them four-seam fastballs as well as cutters and sinkers that moved in opposing directions. Manager Brian Snitker pulled him before the seventh, owing to his lack of activity and the bullpen’s excellence. The Dodgers managed only three hits in the game, and the Game 4 loss allows the Braves to keep their top two starters, Max Fried and Ian Anderson, on full rest for potential Games 6 and 7.
“Wow. That’s about all I can say,” said Snitker, who came into the game hopeful that Wilson would last at least four innings. “That kid stepped up. … The kid hadn’t pitched in three weeks. That was just an unbelievable job.”
Kershaw, who missed his scheduled Game 2 start because of back spasms, was outdueling Wilson before Marcell Ozuna homered off him in the fourth. Two innings later, Kershaw’s night fell apart in a hurry. Ronald Acuna Jr. legged out an infield single, Freddie Freeman smashed an RBI double and Ozuna chased Kershaw with another run-scoring double. He wound up coming around, along with two others, to ugly up Kershaw’s line and the scoreboard. The Braves led 6-1, and Kershaw exited with another poor playoff performance: five innings, seven hits, four runs, one walk, four strikeouts.
“To be able to do it as someone as well-established as Clayton Kershaw is — it’s a great honor to be able to pitch against him,” Wilson said.
Drafted in the fourth round in 2016, Wilson rocketed to the major leagues within two years, though with Atlanta’s variety of young power pitching, he had yet to secure a place in the Braves’ rotation. With Cole Hamels‘ shoulder sidelining him at the end of the season, Wilson’s Sept. 22 start of five shutout innings against the Miami Marlins clinched the NL East and helped secure the Braves the No. 2 seed in the NL playoffs. In that game, he said, “I was able to establish a huge level of confidence that I felt like I didn’t have before. That’s why I was able to do what I did tonight.”
Atlanta’s World Series drought of more than two decades comes after a stretch in which it played in five of eight World Series, winning just one, against Cleveland in 1995. The Braves’ resurgence, fueled by a core of homegrown talent, is peaking during this postseason, during which they’re 8-1. Acuna, Freeman and Ozzie Albies, all signed and developed by the Braves, each had two hits in Game 4, and the Braves compiled 14.
The Dodgers’ only rally came in the seventh inning, when they trailed 7-2 and loaded the bases. Pinch hitter Will Smith hit a shot up the middle, but Albies was shifted into a perfect spot and didn’t need to move to snag the line drive. Tyler Matzek and Shane Greene held the Dodgers scoreless over the final two innings to put them on the verge of elimination.
They’ll return with hard-throwing Dustin May in Game 5 on Friday against what’s likely a bullpen game from Atlanta that could feature Kyle Wright, whom the Dodgers chased during the first inning of their outburst Wednesday. Game 6 would feature Fried against Walker Buehler and Game 7 Anderson versus Tony Gonsolin, though both teams presumably would take an all-hands-on-deck approach — one that could feature Wilson returning on short rest.