What a game. What a comeback. The Dodgers now trail the series 2-1 with a chance to even it up on Wednesday.
Here are my three takeaways from the thrilling come-from-behind victory.
Bullpen keeping them alive
Everyone will remember the Cody Bellinger home run. I know I sure will. But lost in the comeback was the Dodgers’ ability to stay alive in the game, largely thanks to their bullpen.
When Walker Buehler exited the game in the fourth inning, the Dodgers trailed 4-2. With two outs in the inning, manager Dave Roberts took out Buehler and brought in Alex Vesia to face Freddie Freeman. Atlanta had arguably their best hitter at the plate with the bases loaded. A hit likely scores two runs, making it a four run game.
Vesia needed only one pitch, as he got Freeman to fly out, allowing the Dodgers to escape the inning down only two runs. Seriously, looking back at it, that was insanely clutch from Vesia.
In the fifth inning, Phil Bickford was on the mound with runners on first and third and one out. He relieved Corey Knebel and allowed a runner from second to score, making it a 5-2 game. Still, three runs is manageable and luckily Bickford kept it at that. He got an inning-ending double play to escape the inning.
The rest of the bullpen was fantastic, as multiple arms combined to allow zero runs. Justin Bruihl, Joe Kelly, Evan Phillips and Tony Gonsolin all came up clutch. Phillips especially, who made his postseason debut for the Dodgers. He was able to give the team five outs, potentially saving an extra arm.
Gonsolin followed him with two outs and two runners on in the eighth. With the Dodgers trailing by three runs, Gonsolin got Ozzie Albies to fly out, sending things to the bottom of the eighth with the Dodgers still trailing three runs. If Gonsolin were to allow a hit there, who knows what happens.
Kenley Jansen then shut things down in the ninth, striking out the side. My closer has been lights out this postseason as he now has 12 strikeouts in five innings.
The little things that matter
As I mentioned earlier, everyone will remember the Bellinger home run. But what happened prior to that home run is just as big, if not bigger.
Will Smith led off the inning with a single down the right field line, starting the rally. After a Justin Turner out, AJ Pollock was up and found himself behind in the count 1-2. He battled and connected on a slider, singling up the middle to bring the tying run to the plate.
We all know what happens next, as Bellinger crushed the game-tying homer. None of that would have been possible without Smith and Pollock passing the baton and reaching base.
While we were all losing our minds, Chris Taylor then followed with a single, putting the go-ahead run on base. This is where we get to the part of baseball I truly love.
With Matt Beaty at the plate, Taylor stole second base. The Dodgers have been stealing like crazy all postseason, and it’s been paying off big time. Beaty grounded out, but was able to advance Taylor to third base. Had it not been for the steal, it likely would have been an inning-ending double play. Fantastic all around effort from Taylor putting the go-ahead run 90 feet away.
Mookie Betts then stepped up to the plate. Betts has been by far the best player for the Dodgers this postseason, as he’s delivered hit after hit, walk after walk and stolen base after stolen base. On the first pitch he saw, he doubled in the game-winning run.
A collective team effort all around, from the singles, the home run, the stolen base and the go-ahead hit. Truly beautiful baseball.
Never lose faith
Dave Roberts said it best following the game. “We were dead in the water.”
The Dodgers just looked finished. The offense was quiet, there was no oomf in the dugout and Dodger Stadium was silent. It was just one of those games where the life felt sucked out of everyone.
But that’s the beauty of baseball. That’s what makes it so much better than every other sport. In other sports, you can wind the clock down until the end. Not in baseball. You need every out. Luckily for the Dodgers, they had just enough left.
They showed that no matter what, this team is capable of fighting back, even when facing adversity. This was a game that many thought was over. It was looking like the Braves were going to take a 3-0 series lead with the chance of them winning the series on Wednesday.
The Dodgers had other plans.
All season, this team has surprised us. They surprised us in the Wild Card game, they surprised us facing elimination in Game 5 of the NLDS, and they surprised us tonight.
What a momentum-shifter. Just like that, the Dodgers are right back in this series.
Never lose faith.