LOS ANGELES – Just as the fading Los Angeles Dodgers barely appeared over the horizon in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, Cody Bellinger pulled them back into view. Three-run homers atone for many sins, and when Bellinger’s blast fell into a sea of fans in right field, eight innings were covered in Dodgers flaws.
Kenley Jansen came to round off the 6-5 win after the Dodgers’ stunning eighth inning with four runs, and that put Los Angeles back on the series.
Forgotten by this point was Gavin Lux’s midfield miss that opened the door to Atlanta’s fourth inning of four runs. What was forgotten was that the Dodgers scored 2 for 20 with runners in the points position in that series before Bellinger’s at-bat. And forgotten was the fact that the weak Dodgers’ offense, by falling 5-2, had failed to advance a base runner to second base from third through seventh innings.
On a 1-2 count, Bellinger drove a letter-high 95-mile-per-hour fastball into the stands of Dodger Stadium and linked the game. Then Chris Taylor followed with a base hit and stole second base, the Dodgers’ second theft of the game.
The theft would prove crucial as the next batsman, pinch hitter Matt Beaty, pulled a bouncer to the second base. It would have been a double game with an inning ending. Instead, Taylor hopped from third to third, starting from second base. Mookie Betts followed with a sharp double into the gap in the right center, which put the Dodgers 6-5 ahead.
Atlanta had removed five outs from promotion to a three-game lead on none, which allowed the team to envision reaching their first World Series since beating the Yankees in 1999. Dodger Stadium had been two since Corey Seagers ran home in the first inning.
And so it stayed until it suddenly got really loud – both the Dodgers’ offensive and the 51,307 stunned customers as dusk enveloped Chavez Gorge – in the eighth inning.
With the series now two-game-one in favor of Atlanta, Game 4 will be a long-planned bullpen game for the Braves, while Los Angeles will counter with starter Julio Urias, who was hit hard on an appearance in Game 2. Instead of facing the Dodgers about to be eliminated, the Dodgers’ thoughts can return to last year’s NLCS when Atlanta won the first two games before the Dodgers stormed back from a three-game-to-one deficit for the World Series to ascend.
Will history repeat itself? Bellinger and the Dodgers started in Game 3.