Freddie Freeman hit a tiebreaking homer leading off the sixth inning after the Los Angeles Dodgers had come back from a five-run deficit, and the host Atlanta Braves stayed alive in the National League Division Series with a 6-5 victory in Game 3 on Sunday night.
The Dodgers, trying to reach the NL Championship Series for the third straight year, lead the best-of-five series 2-1 after a pair of shutouts in Los Angeles. Los Angeles still can advance to play the Milwaukee Brewers with a victory Monday at Atlanta.
Rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. hit a grand slam to climax a five-run second inning for the Braves, but the Dodgers fought back thanks in part to homers by Chris Taylor and Max Muncy.
Freeman’s homer, the first ever for the veteran first baseman in the postseason, came on the first pitch from reliever Alex Wood. The lefty tossed a curveball that stayed over the middle of the plate.
“My heart is still pounding,” Freeman said postgame. “He stuck me out two days ago. I didn’t know if he’d start me off with a strike, but I thought he’d go with his out pitch. He left it up, and I got it.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Freeman, “It’s always him. He’s the guy that we count on.”
Atlanta closer Arodys Vizcaino recorded the save by striking out three consecutive Dodgers after allowing a single and a walk to open the ninth inning.
Acuna’s second-inning grand slam came on a 3-1 fastball after Walker Buehler had given the Braves their first run of the series on a two-out, four-pitch walk to opposing starter Sean Newcomb, a .044 hitter with one RBI in the regular season.
“I think that he lost his focus a little bit,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Acuna, at age 20, became the youngest major-leaguer to hit a bases-loaded homer in the postseason. Mickey Mantle did it at 21 for the New York Yankees in the 1953 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Newcomb, who pitched two innings of relief in Game 1, lasted 2 2/3 innings in Game 3 and was charged with two runs (one earned).
Kevin Gausman gave up a two-run homer to Taylor in the fifth before Muncy followed by going deep off Max Fried to tie the game later in the inning.
Buehler retired 10 straight batters after Acuna’s homer. He allowed just two hits but yielded five runs while striking out seven and walking three over five innings.
Matt Kemp, who led off the Dodgers’ sixth with a double, was cut down at the plate trying to score on a ground ball. Rookie Touki Toussaint (1-0) became the pitcher of record for the Braves when Freeman homered off Wood (0-1) in the bottom of the inning. Toussaint tossed one scoreless inning.
Los Angeles stranded two runners in the eighth before stranding two in scoring position in the ninth.
“We had our chances,” Roberts said. “We couldn’t get that one extra hit.”
–Field Level Media