There was the former evaders closer and made a save against his old team.
There, the Braves were one step closer, also faltering against his former side in a game at Truist Park on Sunday that dragged on into the night.
And, of course, there was the old Braves hero, who set his old club on fire at the end of an emotional reunion weekend in this city.
In the end, neither Kenley Jansen nor Craig Kimbrel even Freddie Freeman was not part of the series that ultimately made the Dodgers’ decision 5-3 extra innings win – of Chris Taylor and Trea Turner instead providing the leading RBIs to help the Dodgers win two out of three games against their National League foe.
It was the Dodgers’ first win in extra innings after losing five.
But in a series that was all about Freeman’s return to Atlanta, and that could very well have served as a prelude to a third consecutive postseason meeting involving the teams this fall, it was only too fitting that all three familiar faces played a prominent role in getting the match 11 innings.
“We all know these are two great teams,” Freeman said, “who have a good chance of meeting again.”
At first, it looked like Sunday’s series finale wouldn’t even reach the bottom of the ninth.
Despite a solid 5 2/3 inning, start on one run from Tony Gonsolin – who regained the best ERA in the majors at 1.58 after requalifying with the league’s minimum innings threshold – The Dodgers’ offense was silenced for eight innings.
Braves starter Spencer Strider ruled them out for the first six. Three Braves relievers combined to lead to scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth.
Going into the ninth, the Dodgers were hitless in seven at bats with runners in scoring position.
And the result seemed so certain, that when he left the field half an inning early, Freeman had tears in his eyes – seemingly believing his emotional homecoming was about to end.
“I’m emotionally drained,” Freeman said. “It exceeded all my expectations.”
It also took a little longer than he expected.
Looking for his second save in a row against the Dodgers in the ninth, Jansen recorded two quick strikeouts before running into problems.
Gavin Lux hit a line-drive single to the right. Taylor lined a single to the left, then stole second base.
Then, with the Dodgers (45-26) to their final attack, Trayce Thompson — which was later added to the lineup Zach McKinstry was scratched from neck stiffness – hit a float that just grazed the top of Matt Olson’s glove at first base and fell safely into shallow right field to score both runs.
†[I had] no idea,” Thompson said of the hit, which he initially thought was disallowed, looking around as the ball drifted the other way. “I was just trying to go up and compete. Luckily it definitely went down.”
Freeman nearly delivered a storybook ending in 10th, he hit an RBI double in the lead-off down the line that gave his new team a 3-2 lead while silencing his old fans, who forced him to welcomed the start of the match to the plate with a loud ovation before chasing him out at key moments for the rest of the night.
“When I was booed at Truist Park, I didn’t see it coming in my life at all,” said Freeman, who went four to 12 on the series.
“But it’s okay. They’re great baseball fans. They care about their team. So I kind of expected that at some point.”
Kimbrel, another former Braves star, failed to protect the lead. Two pitches in the bottom of the 10th, Olson lined a single to the middle that tied the score again. William Contreras was close to walking it out later in the inning, but saw a deep flyout in the middle die on the warning lane before the last out.
That kept the game alive for Taylor and Turner in the 11th. Taylor hit an RBI double that was deflected at third base along the foul line by Austin Riley. Turner skipped an insurance run with a single in the middle.
In the bottom of the 11th, Brusdar Graterol was called up and converted his first regular season save of his career, hitting 102.5 mph with his fastball despite going against the United States for the third day in a row. Braves (42-32) pitched.
“That was quite a game, a whole series,” said manager Dave Roberts. “The way they implemented pitching, we used pitching and every game felt like a post-season game, really.”
It might not be the last time it feels that way between the Dodgers and Braves this year.
“That squad, [there’s] a good chance they’ll be there by the end of the year,” Taylor said. “To squeeze one out and win one that way, with several guys contributing, sort of chipping, that was a good team win for us.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times†