Multiple big moments add up to another World Series appearance
The best part of a stressful postseason series are the big moments that you hope will ultimately lead to moving on and while the Dodgers had plenty of big moments against the Braves, it still came down to getting the last out with the tying run at the plate every every single at-bat in the 9th inning.
To get to that moment the Dodgers did something no LAD had ever done, come back from a 3 – 1 deficit and they did it in style. Hitting key home runs and making four definitive defensive plays.
Down 2- -0 with runners on 2nd and 3rd with only one out the Braves looked ready to unload on Joe Kelly and put the game out of reach. Swanson hit a sinking line drive to RF that had all the earmarks of trouble, but Mookie Betts charged in and made a stunning shoestring catch which turned into a double play because of a baserunning snafu from Marcell Ozuna who left 3rd to soon giving the Dodgers an inning ending double play thus snuffing out the rally.
Corey Seager would blast a home run cutting the lead to 2 – 1.
Still down 2 – 1 in the top of the 6th Mookie Betts led off with a single but two outs later he was still out there with cleanup hitter Max Muncy coming up. Max took six pitches without swinging and got on base. Will Smith following his lead took five pitches without swinging. At this point Will Smith the pitcher had thrown 11 pitches without the Dodgers swinging once. On the 12 pitch Will Smith hit one of the most important home runs in postseason Dodger history and the Dodgers never trailed again in the game.
By the 9th inning the Dodgers had a 7 – 3 lead and Dave Roberts gave the ball to Kenley Jansen. The last time Kenley had pitched in the 9th inning it was game two against the Padres in which he was hammered and left Dodger fans with zero confidence he could be their postseason closer. With bated breath they watched Kenley strike out the side and close out the game. That Kenley Jansen inning more than any other performance in game five gave Dodger fans some confidence that they could win this series because Jansen was back.
Corey Seager and Justin Turner went back to back in the first inning, and Cody Bellinger rocketed a single into RF to give the Dodgers an early 3 – 0 lead. Walker Buehler who hadn’t gotten more than twelve outs in any 2020 postseason start threw six brilliant innings and after six, the Dodgers still lead 3 – 0.
Blake Treinen came in for Buehler in the 7th and immediately put the Dodgers lead and series in jepoardy giving up a triple and double before striking out Freddie Freeman. With two out and a runner on 2nd with one run already in, Marcell Ozuna trying to atone for his running miscue lofted a deep fly ball that appeared headed for either a game tying home run or extra bases, but Mookie Betts making his 2nd great play in two games leaped at the last moment, bounced into the fence but had the ball and the fate of the Braves in his glove.
With a 3 – 1 lead, Dave Roberts went once again to Kenley Jansen and once again Kenley put the Braves down in order, and the series was now tied at three games.
The Dodgers went with the rookies Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, and it didn’t turn out very well. They combined for only nine outs, giving up three runs and Blake Treinen entered the game with the score 3 – 1, runners on 1st and 2nd and only one out. A wild pitch put runners on 2nd and 3rd, things looked dire indeed. Markakis slapped a ground ball to Justin Turner who went home and they had Swanson in a run down. Trying to get the out as soon as possible to keep the runner from advancing Justin Turner made super man dive at Swanson and just nicked his him for the out. Without wasting a moment, Turner was able to throw to 3rd where Seager waited to tag out Austin Riley who ill advisiely had tried to advance at the last second. It was another inning ending double play started by a great defensive play by a Dodger and finished with a base running blunder by the Braves. That play may have saved the Dodger season if not for…..
Mookie Betts had already made two game changing plays in games five and six but maybe nothing was as important or as beautiful as the play in made in game seven. With the Braves still in front 3 – 2 in the top of the 5th the nicest guy in baseball Freddie Freeman lofted a soaring fly ball to RF. Watching this on TV, it was simply one of the most beautiful plays you will ever see. Mookie drifted back appearing to track it the whole while but he kept going back and back until he jumped at the perfect moment and with the glove clearly above the fence took the home run away from Freeman. Blake Treinen was pitching, and once again Mookie Betts had saved him. The Dodgers were still behind 3 – 2 but you didn’t get the sense they were going to lose this game, the only question was how would they win this game.
In the bottom of the sixth Kiké Hernández answered part of the question. On the 9th pitch of an epic at-bat, Kiké added another NLCS home run to his resume crushing the ball to left field and giving the Dodgers the tie at 3 – 3.
Julio Urias entered the game in the 7th and was faced with shutting down the Braves until the Dodgers could score one more run. Julio Urias didn’t blink in his big moment getting all nine outs when each batter either represented the tying or winning runs. It was a performance not seen by a Dodger relief pitcher since Steve Howe in the 1981 World Series. His job changed from keeping the score tied to pitching for the win when 2019 MVP Cody Bellinger hit a massive home run in the bottom of the 7th to give the Dodgers the 4 – 3 that Urias would never surrender.
And that is how the Dodgers got into the 2020 World Series.