The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated as Cody Bellinger’s drive deep into the Texas night. Bellinger tossed his bat to the side and raised the first-base line.
All the way to the World Series.
Bellinger hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the seventh inning, and the Dodgers topped Atlanta 4-3 in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night to reach the Fall Classic for the third time in four years.
“This year is our year,” manager Dave Roberts said.
Bellinger connected an innings after Kike Hernandez became the first pinch hitter with game-tying or go-forward Homer in a winner-take-all game. His homer tied it at 3 and landed on the eighth pitch of the at-bat like the Bellingers.
The Dodgers, who matched the LCS record with 16 homers, overcame a 3-1 series deficit by winning three games in a row while facing elimination for only the second time in team history.
“Defensively, pitching, game-calling, planning, everything. We grinded the series all the way through,” said shortstop Corey Caesar, who was named NLCS MVP after hitting a record five homers in the series.
“We’re glad to be on top.”
After winning both their NL Division Series and the NLCS at the new $ 1.2 billion US Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, the Dodgers will earn a place in the World Series. Game 1 Tuesday night with the American League Champion Tampa Bay Race.
CODY. Bellinger. Crushed.
Julio Urias finished with three accurate innings as the Dodgers won their 24th NL penalty after moving to Los Angeles. They are coming off their eighth consecutive NL West title.
This is the 16th consecutive playoff appearance in which NL East champion Atlanta has not won the World Series, more than any other team.
But Atlanta has won three NL East titles in a row and has young players around NL MVP candidate Freddie Freeman, who has never been to the NLCS in his previous 10 seasons in Atlanta.
“We are stepping in the right direction and we did it with our young players and the experience they gained,” said manager Brian Snitker. “A lot of our young players have grown in these last three months.”
The Dodgers are set to win their first World Series title since 1988. They lost Game 7 at home to the Houston Astros three years ago, and then lost in five games at the hands of the Boston Red Sox in 2018, playing with the Mookie Betts AL MVP and the Los Angeles.
The Tampa Bay victory in Game 7 of the ALCS on Saturday night wiped out the possibility of an October remake with the Astros, and the 2017 World Series victory over the Dodgers was severely damaged by the revelation of Houston’s sign-stealing tactics that season.
Betts, the first year Dodger signed for another 12 years and made another excellent defensive play, robbed Solo Homer’s NL MVP candidate Freddie Freeman in fifth place. He had run-saving plays in all three of their elimination games.
“This is the first time we have had our backs against the wall,” Betts said. “We seemed to be being managed a little earlier. We were able to hold ourselves back and fight back. We would never give up.”
Fifth Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias has retired the last nine batsmen for a fourth win in four appearances this post-season. The 24-year-old right-hander, already in his fourth post season, has a 0.57 ERA in these playoffs.
“It’s his moment there. It’s his game to win and he’s got to go there,” Caesar said.
The heavy shot on the right came on the 94-mph sinker, ruling the NL MVP and the 2018 NLCS MVP Bellingers, starting the seventh with the strikeouts of Chris Martin, fifth Atlanta pitcher Chris Martin, Max Munsey and Will Smith after fouling three pitches in a row.
Hernandez led AJ Minter from sixth to left-center with a 424-foot drive.
“Winning NLCS’s Game 7, or going home, I’m ready from the first pitch of the game. Mentally prepared, physically ready, with a vision of AB conditions,” Hernandez said.
Danceby Swanson is a homemaker for Atlanta, which has not been in the World Series since 1999.
Rookie Starters Square Off
Prior to the final play, it was the first winner-take-all game to match Rookie Starters in post-season history.
The Dodgers scored 2 runs twice in third place, the first runs Ian Anderson started at the start of his four post-season – the 22-year-old right-hander started just six games for Atlanta in the regular season. His scoreless streak of 17 2/3 innings was the third longest to start a post-season career.
Justin Turner doubled out, Munsey doubled and Will Smith bounced a two-run single through the open gap near the second created by the defensive shift.
Dodgers Dustin May became the first pitcher to walk the first two batters in a winner-take-all-game – and did so without throwing a strike at 23-year-old Ronald Acuna or Freeman from Justin, nearby Texas. Marcel Ozuna’s sharp single from the left side of the field on the 0-1 curveball for a 1-0 lead did not even swing at the Atlanta pitch.
“We believe we should be in the World Series,” Freeman said. “It’s got the Dodgers, and they have won three games in a row. I think you can hang your head high. We gave everything we had.”
Atlanta took a 3-2 lead over the Austin Riley RBI single as the Dodgers turned into an exceptional double play in fourth place. Runners-up in second and third, and with Infield playing back, Nick Markakis hit a tough grinder to third baseman Justin Turner. Swanson was caught in the middle between the third and home. He was tagged when Turner dived at him before getting up and threw him to Caesar in third place to get the relay.
When asked about the moment-to-moment changes in the game, Roberts said the game “started the game, to keep the game where it is”.
Swanson became Homer’s 14th different player in the series, the highest in the NLCS. He was the sixth Atlanta player to go deep, with eight Dodgers. The two teams together hit 25 homers, finishing second in any LCS.
The Dodgers and Rays last played in 2019, when they split two games at Lord Angels and two at Tampa Bay. The same thing happened earlier when they played in 2016.