The Los Angeles Dodgers will attempt to even the National League Championship Series at two games apiece Wednesday at Dodger Stadium after rallying for a 6-5 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3.
Cody Bellinger hit a game-tying three-run homer in the eighth inning and Mookie Betts doubled in the game-winning run three batters later.
Tuesday’s victory averted the Dodgers falling behind in the best-of-seven series 3-0, a deficit which only one team in baseball has overcome, the 2004 Boston Red Sox, spurred on by a ninth-inning steal of second base in Game 4 by Dave Roberts, now the Dodgers manager.
“For us to go down 3-0 and hope for a 2004 miracle run is a tall ask,” Roberts said. “And so we were dead in the water, you could see it. Luke’s coming in and throwing 97 miles an hour and you get a squibber, you get AJ (Pollock) riding a base hit up the middle, to get behind in the count and to hit a homer, it just flipped everything.
“We got a very good ball club, but we just needed that kind of shot in the arm and I’m expecting it to carry over to tomorrow. This is a freaking big hit, big hit.”
Bellinger hit Luke Jackson’s 1-2 four-seam fastball over the fence in right-center field for a three-run homer. The next batter, Chris Taylor singled and stole second, reducing the chance of an inning-ending double play.
Taylor took third when pinch-hitter Matt Beaty grounded out. Betts hit the first pitch from Jesse Chavez, who had relieved Jackson after Taylor’s single, into right field for a double.
After Justin Turner popped out for the first out of the eighth inning, the Dodgers’ chances of winning dropped to 8.1%, according to ESPN.
Roberts said the Dodgers “fed off that energy” from the crowd at Dodger Stadium announced at 51,307.
“It was as loud as I’ve heard Dodger Stadium after that homer and they were loud and energetic all day long,” Roberts said.
The home run continued Bellinger’s postseason success after he hit .165 during a regular season in which he was placed on the injured list three times and missed 61 games because of a left calf contusion, left hamstring tightness and a left rib fracture. Bellinger had the game-winning hits in Games 2 and 5 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants.
Jackson said he “was trying to throw a fastball up and away” on the pitch Bellinger homered on.
“I actually threw it better than I thought I threw it,” Jackson said. “Out of my hand, I was like, `Oh, that’s a ball. It’s too high.’ And no it wasn’t too high. It was, you know, good player put a good swing on it and pretty remarkable.”
When asked what he would have liked to have done differently with that pitch, Jackson responded, “Sad thing is I would do the same thing again.”
The Braves combined four singles, Austin Riley’s double on a ball that went off the glove of center fielder Gavin Lux and two walks, including a bases-loaded walk to Edwin Rosario that forced in Adam Duvall, who had singled, for four runs in the fourth inning to take a 4-2 lead.
Atlanta added a run in the fifth. Ozzie Albies led off with a single, stole second, moved to third on Joc Pederson’s fly out and scored on Duvall’s single.
Following Duvall’s fifth-inning single, six Dodger relievers shut out the Braves over the final 4 2/3 innings, limiting them to three hits.
Tony Gonsolin, the eighth of nine Dodger pitchers, was credited with the victory, inducing Albies, the only batter he faced, to line out to Taylor in center field on the second pitch he threw to end the eighth inning.
Kenley Jansen struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth inning for his first save of the 2021 postseason. Jansen was the winning pitcher in the NL wild-card game against the St. Louis Cardinals Oct. 6 and Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants on Thursday.
Dodger starter Walker Buehler was relieved with two outs in the fourth inning, with the bases loaded and the Dodgers trailing 4-2. Reliever Alex Vesia retired Freddie Freeman on a line drive to Taylor to end the inning. It was the only pitch Vesia threw as he was pinch hit for in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Buehler allowed four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out three.
“There’s days where nothing seems to be working, kind of is what it is,” Buehler said. “At some point you have to be better the next one. I don’t really have an explanation at this point.”
Jackson, the fourth of five Braves’ pitchers was charged with the loss, after allowing hits to four of the five batters he faced, including Bellinger, to begin the eighth inning.
Jackson called the loss “a speed bump in the road.”
“I wish it didn’t happen and I wish we were up 3-0 going into Game 4 and having a chance to sweep, but I have no doubt at all in just our team coming back and just stronger tomorrow and ready to recollect and roll.”
The Dodgers opened the scoring in the first inning on a two-run homer by their second batter, Corey Seager. However, they were held scoreless over the next 7 1/3 innings until Bellinger’s home run with one out in the eighth inning.
Atlanta starter Charlie Morton was lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning after allowing two runs and three hits. He issued a postseason career-high six walks, including four in the first inning, tying Hall of Famer Tom Glavine for the most walks by a Braves pitcher in one postseason inning.
The victory made the Dodgers the seventh team to extend a league championship series to a least five games after falling behind 2-0. Of the 15 previous championship series that included a team trailing 2-0, nine ended in sweeps.
The victory was the Dodgers’ 18th in their last 19 games at Dodger Stadium. The run began with a three-game sweep of Atlanta, Aug. 30-Sept. 1, the start of a franchise-record 15-game home winning streak.
The Braves have lost their last 10 games at Dodger Stadium, including two postseason contests in 2018.
Lefthander Julio Urías will pitch for the Dodgers Wednesday, while Atlanta will have a bullpen game. Manager Brian Snitker said at Tuesday’s postgame news conference a decision had not been made about who his team’s starting pitcher would be.
Urías was MLB’s winningest pitcher in the regular season with 20 victories. He is 1-0 with one save and a 3.60 ERA in the 2021 postseason. Urias allowed two runs in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the NLCS Sunday as the Braves tied the score en route to a 5-4 victory.