WITH their season running dangerously short on time, the Los Angeles Dodgers went long on Sunday, doing what they do best with a pair of late home runs to advance to their third World Series in four seasons.
Cody Bellinger hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning, one inning after pinch-hitter Enrique Hernandez tied it with his own homer, and the Dodgers earned a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS) at Arlington, Texas.
The team that led the major leagues with 118 home runs in the regular season saved two more for the clutch, finishing off an NLCS when they went deep 16 times. It helped Los Angeles to rally from a 3-1 series deficit as it won three consecutive elimination games.
Bellinger’s home run deep into the seats in right field came on a 2-2 sinker from Braves right-hander Chris Martin (0-1).
“He threw me some good pitches,” Bellinger said. “I fouled some of those off that I couldn’t see too well, and I saw one that I could drive. I just tried to put a good swing on it.
“I knew it right away. It was one of those where you just know. It felt pretty good.”
The Dodgers mixed and matched their pitching staff in Game 7, using four pitchers, including two rookies, before Julio Urias (4-0) finished off the victory with three perfect innings.
“You’re just doing anything you can to help your team win,” Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager said after he was named NLCS MVP with five home runs and 11 RBIs in the seven games. “But it wasn’t just me. Everyone grinded. We did what we could, move runners, we hit homers in big spots, man. We played awesome.”
Dansby Swanson hit a home run for the Braves, while rookie right-hander Ian Anderson went three innings at the outset, giving up his first runs of the postseason in four outings. The Braves were unable to reach their first World Series since 1999.
“It’s tough to explain the emotions,” Braves veteran Freddie Freeman said. “I don’t think we exceeded expectations. I think this is what we expected from ourselves to get to this point. We came up short, but everybody on this team, I think, can lay their head on their pillow tonight and know they gave it everything they absolutely had left in the tank.”
The Dodgers, who lost to the Houston Astros in the 2017 World Series before falling to the Boston Red Sox in the 2018 Series, now will take on the Tampa Bay Rays for the title in a best-of-seven series starting Tuesday at Arlington.
It was the first Game 7 of a postseason series with a pair of rookies starting, but neither lasted long. Dodgers right-hander Dustin May walked the first two batters of the game on eight pitches and gave up an RBI single to Marcell Ozuna in the opening frame, his only inning of the game.
Anderson gave up two runs on five hits, going the first 18 1/3 playoff innings of his career before giving up a run.
The Braves made it 2-0 in the second inning when Swanson hit a home run to left field off another Dodgers rookie, right-hander Tony Gonsolin.
The Dodgers got even 2-2 in the third inning on a two-run single from Will Smith, but the Braves went back on top after an RBI single from Austin Riley against Gonsolin. The Braves had runners on second and third in the fourth with nobody out, but Swanson and Riley both were thrown out in the same rundown to kill the threat.
“We made some mistakes. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and it really hurt,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “In games like these when runs are so hard to come by, you pretty much have to play flawless baseball.”
After a pair of sparkling defensive plays earlier in the series, Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts made another in the fifth when he leaped up against the right-field wall and appeared to rob Freeman of a home run.
Hernandez’s pinch-hit homer against left-hander A.J. Minter tied it in the sixth.
“We didn’t really go through any adversity (this season) until we fell down 3-1 in this series,” Hernandez said. “We battled, we tied our shoes and said that there is one goal, and the objective is still the same. We finally started playing like there was nothing to lose.” — Reuters