By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) — Freddie Freeman put the Atlanta Braves ahead, then watched from first base as they almost give away the lead — and possibly their whole season.
“My heart’s still pounding,” he said, moments after the last out. “That’s how we’ve been all year.”
Reliever Arodys Vizcaino escaped his own jam in a nervy ninth inning and the Braves stopped the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-5 Sunday night, avoiding a sweep and cutting their deficit in the NL Division Series to 2-1.
“I like our chances. We’ve got a uniform on, so we know we’ve got a chance,” Freeman said.
Rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. hit a grand slam that helped the Braves build an early 5-0 lead. After the Dodgers rallied to tie it, Freeman homered in the sixth.
In the ninth, the Dodgers got runners on first and second with no outs after a single and a walk. Vizcaino came back from a 3-0 count to strike out slugger Max Muncy, and followed up by fanning Manny Machado on a wild pitch that moved the runners to second and third.
Because the Braves had already used their allotment of six mound visits, no one could go out to talk with the Atlanta closer, to give him a moment to settle down.
Not that he needed a break, apparently.
With the entire crowd at SunTrust Park standing, chanting and chopping, Vizcaino fanned a swinging Brian Dozier to end it.
“Credit to our guys for fighting back,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “… We had our chances. And those guys made some pitches and got out of some traffic, but our guys stressed them, got on base, and gave ourselves an opportunity. But yeah, to take us over the top and take the lead again, we couldn’t get that one extra hit.”
Game 4 is Monday afternoon at Atlanta.
Shut out in the first two games at Dodger Stadium, the NL East champion Baby Braves bounced back.
Acuna connected in the second, right after Dodgers rookie Walker Buehler walked Braves starter Sean Newcomb on four pitches with the bases loaded.
“He continues to amaze,” Freeman said of Acuna. “I don’t think we needed or wanted anybody else in that situation.”
Roberts stuck with Buehler, who allowed no baserunners in the next three innings.
“It was good to see him recalibrate and give us five innings to at some point save our pen,” Roberts said.
Buehler gave up five runs on only two hits and three walks in five innings.
“This one is on me,” Buehler said, adding there is “no excuse for the second inning. … Sometimes you just lose it. I’m proud of the way I found the zone again after that and moving forward.”
Freeman connected on the first pitch from former teammate Alex Wood to put Atlanta back on top.
“Hopefully we’ll have some more big moments during this postseason and this isn’t the only one,” Freeman said.
Tagged at the outset, Buehler regained control as the Dodgers began their rally. Newcomb was pulled after walking a pair of walks in the third and Justin Turner hit an RBI single off Kevin Gausman. Taylor also scored when Acuna bobbled the ball in left field for an error.
Taylor connected off Gausman, and Muncy added a tying homer off Max Fried in the fifth.
The Dodgers threatened in the sixth. Matt Kemp led off the inning with a double, but with one out was thrown out on shortstop Charlie Culberson’s throw to the plate.
At 20, Acuna became the youngest player to hit a postseason grand slam — Mickey Mantle was 21 when he did it for the New York Yankees in the 1953 World Series.
Mantle? That’s a new name for Acuna.
“No, I don’t recognize him,” he said through a translator. “I wasn’t even born.”
NO SWEEP FOR YOU
Los Angeles was denied its second straight NLDS sweep after winning three straight over Arizona in 2017.
The attendance was 42,385, setting a SunTrust Park record in the second-year stadium’s first postseason game.
The Dodgers are expected to start LHP Rich Hill (11-5, 3.66) when the series continues on Monday. Hill pitched seven scoreless innings in an 8-2 win over Atlanta on July 26.
The Braves will start RHP Mike Foltynewicz, who gave up four runs and three hits in two innings in Thursday night’s 6-0 Game 1 loss.
“He’s raring to go and itching to get the ball, and it’s still elimination,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “So we’re going to try and go with the best we got.”