The Dodgers never led the NLCS, and never led in Game 7, until the seventh inning on Sunday night, when Cody Bellinger launched a tie-breaking home run that helped beat the Braves, 4-3.
Bellinger’s home run gave the win to Julio Urías, the third Dodgers starting pitcher of night, who pitched three perfect innings to close out the game for his fourth win in four appearances this postseason.
Urías allowed one run in eight innings in the NLCS, and has a 0.56 ERA in 16 innings this postseason.
The Dodgers are in the World Series for the third time in four years, and they will host the Rays beginning Tuesday night at this very same field.
Down a run in the sixth inning, Kike Hernandez pinch hit for Joc Pederson against lefty A.J. Minter, who shut down the Dodgers over three innings in Game 5. But this time, Hernández took him deep to tie the game at 3-3.
“You always dream about Game 7 of the World Series. This isn’t the World Series, but it’s a Game 7,” Hernández said. “You try to do whatever you can to help the team win, and I was able to do that tonight. I don’t know how to explain it, I don’t know. But I appreciate it.”
That set up Bellinger, who crushed a 2-2 pitch to right field off Chris Martin to give the Dodgers their first lead of the night.
CODY. BELLINGER. CRUSHED.— MLB (@MLB) October 19, 2020
The @Dodgers take a Game 7 lead. #NLCS pic.twitter.com/Nd5WQFtypu
The home runs are the fourth and fifth hit by a Dodger in a Game 7 in their history. Bellinger, with his home run in Game 7 of the 2018 NLCS, is the only player to do so twice.
Bellinger is hitting .250/.365/.545 with three homers and 10 RBI in 12 games this postseason. And he’s walked eight times in 52 plate appearances.
“Cody is as talented as any player in baseball, but I think this postseason has really shown the value of controlling the strike zone and taking what they give you.”
Pitching & defense
On the seventh straight day with a game in this series, it was basically all hands on deck with each pitching staff. The winner would need pitchers ready to start the World Series on Tuesday, but they had to get there first.
“Right now there’s really no balancing,” Roberts said before Sunday’s game. “It’s kind of all in.”
The Dodgers, after having to claw back from down 3-1 to force a Game 7, tiptoed through the minefield of pitcher usage, trying to avoid the tax of six days’ worth of decisions coming back to haunt them too much.
Dustin May was brought in for his short role before presumptive starter Tony Gonsolin rather than after, and both were ineffective. Both walked two to open an inning, then allowed a single with no outs to plate a run, but escaped further damage thanks in large part to double plays.
Gonsolin also allowed a home run, to Dansby Swanson in the second inning.
The double play that rescued Gonsolin’s bequeathed runners was one of the most bizarre you’ll ever see. With runners on second and third and nobody out, Nick Markakis grounded to Justin Turner at third base. With the contact play on, Turner threw home, starting a rundown to get Swanson. Turner applied the tag with a Superman dive, then turned and from his knees threw to third base to get Austin Riley for an unexpected two outs.
Not your typical double play, but one the @Dodgers needed. #NLCS pic.twitter.com/0mgrqRF9Xa— MLB (@MLB) October 19, 2020
“JT is just a baseball-savvy guy, man. He just sees the field so well,” said Corey Seager, who was named NLCS MVP. “What he did right there in that moment, it was just a lot of fun. It was really cool to be a part of.”
Blake Treinen was on the mound for that gift, working on his third straight day for the second time in two weeks. Then, he added a scoreless fifth inning as well, with some help from Mookie Betts, making an exceptional, run-saving catch for a third game in a row.
This one robbed Freddie Freeman of a home run:
MOOKIE AGAIN. pic.twitter.com/SlSttMLcVj— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 19, 2020
“When I was a kid, you do think, 3-2, bottom of the ninth in Game 7. But when you’re in the yard you get retries,” Betts said before Sunday’s game. “This time, you don’t get a retry. It’s just one game, and you’ve got to put everything on the line.”
After the game, Betts was asked to pick his favorite of his three catches. “Today is probably my favorite because it was actually a home run,” he said.
Game 7 particulars
Home runs: Kiké Hernández (2), Cody Bellinger (3); Dansby Swanson (3)
WP — Julio Urías (4-0): 3 IP, zeroes
LP — Chris Martin (0-1): 1⅓ IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 3 strikeouts
The Dodgers’ residency at Globe Life Field continues for a third week, with the World Series starting Tuesday (5:09 p.m. PT, Fox) against the Rays.