The Atlanta Braves look to halt their 20-season World Series drought on Friday when they face the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at Arlington, Texas.
Marcell Ozuna played a big part in giving the Braves a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, going 4-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs on Thursday in Atlanta's 10-2 victory.
The 29-year-old designated hitter couldn't help but picture the celebration another victory would bring.
"It feels amazing. It feels awesome," Ozuna said. "It's going to be a dream for me to be in the World Series for the first time. Let's go and let's keep doing our job."
Atlanta is closing in on claiming the NL pennant despite getting routed 15-3 on Wednesday. Leading NL Most Valuable Players candidate Freddie Freeman said the atmosphere was loose prior to Thursday's game -- complete with singing and dancing in the clubhouse -- and manager Brian Snitker was impressed with how quickly his players put the lopsided loss behind them.
"Feels good, feels really good," Snitker said after Game 5. "Still have a lot of work to do, you know how quick things can turn. I was really proud of the guys, how they bounced back."
The Dodgers must win three straight games to avoid another disappointing end to their season.
Another loss would mark the fourth time in five seasons that Los Angeles would be eliminated in either the NLCS (twice) or the World Series (twice).
The last team to recover from a 3-1 deficit in a League Championship Series was the 2012 San Francisco Giants, who won the final three games against the St. Louis Cardinals and then swept the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is well aware of the task his club faces after it had just three hits Thursday and was shut down on one run and one hit over six innings by 22-year-old Braves rookie Bryse Wilson.
"They've pitched really well. You've got to give those guys credit," Roberts said of the Braves. "When we did hit the ball hard ... we just didn't find any luck. That's baseball. You've got to give credit to that guy."
Los Angeles expected to get over the hump this season when it acquired Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox. However, the star right fielder is 2-for-14 in the series with no RBIs.
Reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger is also struggling. He is 3-for-16 with a homer in the series, and two of the hits (including the long ball) came in the Wednesday rout.
With their season on the line, the Dodgers will start 23-year-old right-hander Dustin May.
May has pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings over three appearances this postseason, including 1 2/3 innings in relief against Atlanta in Game 1. He has allowed one hit and two walks while striking out six.
Overall, he has a 1.l3 postseason ERA in five career appearances (one start) covering eight innings.
May has made one regular-season appearance against the Braves and took the loss when he gave up four runs on three hits over two innings of relief on Aug. 18, 2019.
Also, when Ozuna was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, he homered against May. That occurred on Aug. 7, 2019, in May's second career start.
Snitker declined to name a starter for Game 5 and indicated it would be a bullpen game.
Snitker said prior to Game 4 that he would not start left-hander Max Fried on Friday, presumably saving the NL Cy Young Award candidate for a possible Game 6 on Saturday.
Atlanta's Game 3 starter, Kyle Wright, would figure to be available for some innings after throwing just 28 pitches and retiring only two batters. He gave up seven runs and five hits -- including two homers -- before exiting during a rally in which the Dodgers set a postseason single-inning record by scoring 11 runs.
--Field Level Media