LOS ANGELES — Cody Bellinger hit a tying, three-run homer and Mookie Betts then lined an RBI double as the Los Angeles Dodgers rallied in the eighth inning, beating Atlanta 6-5 Tuesday and cutting the Braves’ lead in the NL Championship Series to 2-1.
The Dodgers were down to their final five outs when Bellinger drove a two-strike pitch from Luke Jackson into the right-field pavilion, igniting the blue towel-waving crowd, some of whom had already left with LA trailing 5-2.
Chris Taylor singled, stole second and moved to third on pinch-hitter Matt Beaty‘s groundout. Betts followed with the double off Jesse Chavez to right-center.
Game 4 is Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers had lost all 83 previous postseason games — in both Los Angeles and Brooklyn — in which they trailed by three or more runs in the eighth inning or later.
But that’s history now. And with another key swing in October, Bellinger kept erasing the sting of an awful regular season.
The 2019 NL MVP, Bellinger batted a miserable .165 this year with a paltry .240 on-base percentage and 94 strikeouts in 315 at-bats. He helped redeem himself last week with a tiebreaking single in the ninth inning of the decisive Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the rival Giants at San Francisco.
“Fresh start,” Bellinger said of the postseason. “At least for me this year it’s a fresh start. You know, a tough regular season but you know, I felt good towards the end of the season, and just try to continue that feel all the way through.”
“Just you know, staying simple,” he said. “Crazy things are happening.”
With the cheering, chanting crowd on its feet in the ninth, Kenley Jansen struck out the side to earn the save, the ninth pitcher used by the Dodgers. They ran through a combined 15 in the first two games.
After getting staggered with back-to-back walk-off losses in Atlanta, the Dodgers returned home, where they’ve dominated the Braves in recent years and were an MLB-best 58-23 during the regular season.
The Braves haven’t won at Dodger Stadium since June 8, 2018. It sure looked like they’d end that skid after leading 5-2 in the fifth.
But the 106-win Dodgers staged another improbable comeback late, just like they’ve done so often this postseason.
They beat St. Louis in the NL wild-card game, then edged 107-win San Francisco in the NLDS.
Despite trailing the best-of-seven series, the Dodgers have grabbed the momentum. They’re at home for the next two games, knowing they overcame a 3-1 deficit against the Braves in last year’s NLCS at a neutral site.
The Braves built their lead with a bunch of singles, pounding out 12 hits, and a dropped flyball by novice center fielder Gavin Lux.
Freddie Freeman broke out of his slump, going 3 for 4 with a walk and a run scored after he struck out seven times in eight at-bats in the first two games.
Adam Duvall went 2 for 5, driving in two runs and scoring another for the Braves. Every Atlanta batter got on base at least once.
Tony Gonsolin got the victory, recording one out in relief.
Jackson took the loss after getting hammered in the eighth.
Eddie Rosario and Freeman jump-started the Braves with back-to-back singles off Walker Buehler to open the game.
The Braves quieted the crowd of 51,307 while knocking around Buehler and taking a 4-2 lead in the fourth.
Atlanta got RBI singles from Joc Pederson, Duvall and Dansby Swanson, and Buehler walked Rosario on four pitches with the bases loaded to force in another run.
Swanson’s hit off his former Vanderbilt teammate went off the glove of shortstop Corey Seager and rolled into left, allowing Pederson to score the go-ahead run as the Braves batted around.
Seager’s wasn’t the only miscue in the fourth. Lux chased Austin Riley‘s double to the warning track in right-center only to have the ball go off his glove to keep the inning going.
Buehler got yanked after walking Rosario. Working on two extra days’ rest, Buehler allowed four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander struck out three and walked three on 76 pitches.
Buehler pitched on short rest for the first time in his career in Game 4 of the NLDS. He didn’t win, but the Dodgers tied the series and forced a deciding fifth game.
Atlanta extended its lead to 5-2 in the fifth on Duvall’s RBI single that scored Ozzie Albies, who walked and stole second.
The Dodgers had Charlie Morton on the ropes in the first, when he tied a postseason record with four walks on 34 pitches. The right-hander walked leadoff hitter Betts and Seager followed with a homer to center for a 2-0 lead.
Morton then loaded the bases on consecutive two-out walks to Justin Turner, Lux and Bellinger before Taylor lined out to short to end the inning.
Morton allowed two runs and three hits in five innings. The right-hander struck out five and walked six.
SOUND FROM SCULLY
Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully gave the traditional pregame call of “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” via video from his Los Angeles-area home. He then tapped his fist on his heart, drawing cheers from the crowd. Scully, who turns 94 next month, retired in 2016 after 67 years calling games for the franchise in Brooklyn and LA.
Pederson has his pearl necklace. Teammate Guillermo Heredia is into sword play.
Heredia brandished plastic swords in celebrating the Braves’ walk-off wins in Games 1 and 2.
He got the inspiration from someone he follows on Instagram.
The first time his teammates saw the swords, they laughed.
“I just told them, `Hey, this is part of our celebration now, so kind of get used to it,”‘ he said.
Heredia went shopping for swords in person and couldn’t find any, so Braves clubhouse director Calvin Minasian went online and ordered some.
“I think you always need some type of celebration and something to just kind of keep the morale up and keep the motivation going,” Heredia said.
LHP Julio Urias starts for the Dodgers in Game 4 on Wednesday. The Braves were planning a bullpen game.