Dodgers Rally Twice to Defeat Braves for the Pennant

Dodgers Braves

Dodgers 4, Braves 3
NLCS Game Seven

On Wednesday morning, the Atlanta Braves led the NLCS, two games to none. Two days later, they held a three-to-one series lead. They have not won since. Defensive plays by right fielder Mookie Betts saved games for the Los Angeles Dodgers and gave them momentum. Clutch hitting by shortstop and eventual-NLCS MVP Corey Seager powered the Dodgers to the comeback. And after rallying from early 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in Game Seven Sunday night, the Dodgers defeated the Braves, 4-3, to win their third pennant in four seasons. The game was at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Braves Take Early Lead, Dodgers Tie It Up

The Braves jumped out to an early lead off starter Dustin May, who lasted only one inning. It began with a leadoff walk by second baseman Ronald Acuña, Jr., who stole second as first baseman Freddie Freeman, up next, batted. Freeman also walked, bringing up DH Marcell Ozuna, whose single to left scored Acuña. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud came up next and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Freeman advanced to third, but the two huge outs seemed to settle May down. Second baseman Ozzie Albies then struck out, retiring the side.

Tony Gonsolin took the mound for the Dodgers in the second inning, and the first hitter he faced – shortstop Dansby Swanson – homered to the second deck in left-center, giving the Braves a 2-0 lead. Gonsolin settled down for the rest of the second, as a two-out walk was the only baserunner he allowed. Meanwhile, Braves starter Ian Anderson gave up three singles – one in the first and two in the second – but stranded all three runners in scoring position.

After Gonsolin pitched a 1-2-3 third, the Dodgers struck back in the bottom of the inning. The entire rally came with two outs. Third baseman Justin Turner drew a bases-empty walk, and first baseman Max Muncy moved him to third with a double. That brought up catcher Will Smith, who brought them both in with a single to center.

Dodgers Make Braves Pay for Baserunning Blunder

Gonsolin took the mound in the fourth, hoping to get in a third inning of relief. Two straight walks to Albies and Swanson and an RBI single by third baseman Austin Riley made the score 3-2 and ended Gonsolin’s day. Blake Treinen came in to pitch to left fielder Nick Markakis, and a baserunning blunder made his job a lot easier.

Markakis hit a one-hopper to Turner, who was playing in the shortstop’s position due to an overshift. Swanson broke for home on contact. Turner threw home, and Swanson was in a rundown. Smith chased Swanson back to third and threw to Turner, who ran Swanson down from behind. After slapping a diving tag on Swanson, Turner wheeled around on his knees and fired to third, where shortstop Corey Seager tagged the sliding Riley for a rally-killing double play. Instead of second and third, one out, the Braves had a runner on first with two outs, making for a huge difference in run-scoring probability. A grounder to short by the next hitter, Pache, ended the inning with the Braves only having scored a run.

A single and two walks loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fourth against Tyler Matzek, but a strikeout by Muncy ended the fruitless inning. This added three more runners left on base, bringing the Dodgers total to eight after four innings. To make matters more frustrating for the Dodgers, six of those were in scoring position.

Betts Sparks Dodgers with Another Defensive Gem

With one out in the fifth, Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts made his third highlight-reel defensive play in as many days. Freeman hit a deep fly to right. Betts sprinted to the warning track and leapt, reaching above the fence to make the catch and rob Freeman of a home run.

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Yet despite Betts’ heroics, the Dodgers still trailed, 3-2, after a scoreless bottom of the fifth. Brusdar Graterol came out of the pen and pitched a scoreless top of the sixth to keep the score the same. Lefty AJ Minter took the mound for the Braves in the bottom of the inning to pitch to the left-handed-hitting DH Joc Pederson. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts countered by sending up the right-handed Kiké Hernández to pinch-hit. After fouling off three straight 2-2 pitches, Hernandez launched a deep drive to left-center that hit the façade of the second deck for a game-tying home run.

Second baseman Chris Taylor followed with a double to the left-field corner and advanced to third on a fly to center by Betts. With one out and the game tied, the Braves brought the infield in as Seager dug in. He hit a grounder toward second. When it hit the mound and took a high hop, Taylor broke for home. Albies quickly gloved it and fired home in time to retire the diving Taylor for the second out. Turner, up next, flied to shallow right to end the inning.

Bellinger Comes Through, Dodgers Shut Braves Down

Lefty Julio Urías pitched a perfect seventh to keep the score tied. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Bellinger fouled off three straight pitches on a 2-2 count. He smoked the eighth pitch for a no-doubt home run to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead. “That’s why they’re so good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said in reference to Hernandez and Bellinger each homering after eight-pitch at-bats. “Both of those guys grinded those at-bats out. You have to tip your hat. (Those) were two really good at-bats. We made good pitches on them. They fouled them off, and that’s key to it.”

Urías pitched another perfect inning in the top of the eighth, while a two-out double by Betts in the bottom of the eighth went for naught when Seager followed with an inning-ending grounder to short.

With Kenley Jansen warming up just in case, Urías took the mound in the ninth for his third inning of relief. Two consecutive grounders to short by Albies and Swanson brought up Riley as the last hope for the Braves. On the first pitch, he lofted a fly to center field that Bellinger squeezed for the pennant-clinching out.

Looking Ahead

Urias earned the win in relief, while Minter received a blown save and Martin took the loss. The Dodgers advance to the World Series for the 21st time in franchise history (nine in Brooklyn, 12 in Los Angeles). They will face the American League-champion Tampa Bay Rays, who are in their second Fall Classic. The Dodgers have won six World Series and lost 14, while the Rays lost in their previous appearance (2008 to the Philadelphia Phillies). Game One is Tuesday night at 8:09 Eastern/5:09 Pacific in Arlington, Texas.

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