ARLINGTON, Texas — The Los Angeles Dodgers and their predecessors from Brooklyn have been playing baseball for well over a century and have participated in dozens of playoff series across the country.
But in all that history, they never had a playoff game quite like Wednesday’s, a bizarre contest that featured an unprecedented postseason offensive eruption in a neutral-site park in an American League city.
Just another quirky landmark in the oddest sports year yet.
The Dodgers summarily pounded the Atlanta Braves, 15-3, in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field, the home of the Texas Rangers, in a trouncing that established a catalog of records.
The Dodgers scored the most runs and hit the most home runs they ever had in a postseason game — and they accomplished all of that in just the first three innings.
“That was fun to be a part of,” said Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, who hit a three-run home run to go with three other hits.
The Dodgers hit five home runs, including a grand slam by Max Muncy in a first inning that was so one-sided, it seemed surreal. Dodgers runners just kept circling the bases, until they had touched home plate 11 times — and, yes, that was a record, too — and it all happened before Atlanta’s first turn at bat. It was the most runs scored in a single inning of a postseason game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, besting the previous high by one run.
There were two walks, two singles, two doubles and three home runs in the inning, including back-to-back shots by Pederson and Edwin Rios before Muncy’s slam. There was nothing Kyle Wright, the Braves’ shellshocked starting pitcher, could do to stop the onslaught.
If there was a silver-ish lining for Atlanta, it was that they held the Dodgers scoreless over the final six innings without relying on their most important relief pitchers in a blowout — and yet they still surrendered the equivalent of two touchdowns and a field goal.
Atlanta also took several of its players out of the game, giving them a break that could prove critical in a seven-game series with no days off.
“The last four hours were not a lot of fun,” Braves Manager Brian Snitker said after the game, “but as you look back, if you lose the game, that’s probably the best possible way.”
Many fans had traveled 800 miles from Atlanta to see their team play in the first baseball series with spectators this season, but many had checked out before the first inning was over — just like Wright.
He was charged with seven runs while recording just two outs. His replacement, Grant Dayton, allowed eight runs in two innings of work.
It was just the second time in postseason history that two pitchers on the same team had allowed at least seven runs each in the same game. The first came in 1999 when Bartolo Colon gave up seven runs and Steve Reed gave up eight as the Boston Red Sox beat Cleveland, 23-7. So the Braves could at least take comfort in the fact that there have been bigger postseason blowouts than this one.
Wright said he did not was in no rush to forget about the game, because then he would not learn from it.
“You can either feel sorry for yourself or find a way to bounce back,” he said. “Learning from it and getting better is what I’m going to do.”
But back to the record books: The Dodgers matched the record set by the Braves in 1996 for most runs in an N.L.C.S. game. The high mark for runs in any league championship series game is 19, set by the Yankees in Game 3 of the 2004 A.L.C.S. at Boston, which gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in that series (the Red Sox, of course, won the next four games).
The Dodgers still trail the Braves by two games to one in the best-of-seven series, but momentum has been wrenched away from Atlanta by Los Angeles’s perpetually dangerous offense.
That process actually may have begun in the late innings of Game 2, on Tuesday. In Game 1 of the series, the Braves limited the Dodgers to one run, then held them scoreless through the first six innings of Game 2. But the Dodgers have one of the most feared offenses in baseball, scoring the most runs in the regular season (349 — one more than the Braves).
In the ninth inning of Game 2, they scored four times before ultimately falling short in an 8-7 loss. But, after having trailed by 7-0 at one point, it was a signal that their slumping bats had awoken, and it carried into Game 3.
“I do think last night’s ninth bled over into tonight,” said Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ manager. “It was just a fun offensive night for us.”
Game 4 is set for Thursday night at the same stadium, with Clayton Kershaw expected to pitch for the Dodgers after dealing with a bout of back spasms, against Bryse Wilson..
The entire N.L.C.S. is being held at Globe Life Field because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it is the first series to be played in front of fans all year. There were 10,664 in attendance for Game 3, the Rangers announced, with all available tickets sold.
But the Dodgers stripped the game of all excitement in the top of the first, which required 32 minutes to pack in all the scoring. Los Angeles sent 14 batters to the plate, beginning with Mookie Betts, who hit a sharp grounder down the third base line, where Johan Camargo made a strong throw on a close play.
Betts was originally ruled out, but the call was overturned after a video review — and from there things went totally out of whack for Atlanta. Wright could never get the third out, as nine batters came up after the second out, and 10 runs scored.
“There were pretty much no positives from that,” Wright lamented, “but I only threw 30 pitches.”
There was even a strange play in the inning in which Justin Turner, the Dodgers’ designated hitter, was ruled to have been hit by a pitch after he reached out with his foot to deflect the ball.
It seemed everything the Dodgers did set some kind of record: They had 18 total bases in the first inning, a league championship series record, and five extra-base hits, which tied the N.L.C.S. record.
The only record either team is really interested in, though, is becoming the first team to win an N.L.C.S. at an American League park, and earning a spot in the World Series.
“At end of the day, it’s one game,” said Dansby Swanson, the Braves’ shortstop. “If I know anything about this team, it’s that we prepare and we’ll come back and compete, because that’s just what we do.”