The Los Angeles Dodgers will live to fight another day.
Behind a dramatic three-run home run by catcher Will Smith — which appropriately came against Atlanta Braves reliever Will Smith — and seven strong innings from their beleaguered bullpen, the Dodgers avoided elimination with a 7-3 win in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.
Closing out the 2020 LCS has proven to be quite a task. Earlier on Friday, the Houston Astros forced a Game 7 in the ALCS after falling behind the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0. The Dodgers — now down 3-2 in the NLCS — will look to do the same in Game 6 on Saturday.
Atlanta knocked out Dodgers starter Dustin May after plating single runs in the first and second innings. Travis d’Arnaud opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly that scored Freddie Freeman. Rookie Cristian Pache singled home Dansby Swanson for Atlanta’s second run.
From there, a parade of Dodgers’ relievers — six in total — held Atlanta’s high-powered offense in check. Of note, struggling closer Kenley Jansen struck out the side in a perfect ninth inning.
The Dodgers offense got off to a slower start against Braves “starter” A.J. Minter. The 27-year-old had never started before in 139 MLB appearances, but looked comfortable throwing three scoreless innings. Once Minter exited, the Dodgers scored seven unanswered runs, beginning with Corey Seager’s fourth-inning solo home run.
That set the stage for Will Smith’s game-changing swing against Will Smith.
WILL SMITH!!! Huge 3-run shot!!— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 17, 2020
Dodgers lead! pic.twitter.com/ARVuCRs6cf
Los Angeles scored three more in a somewhat controversial seventh inning.
Chris Taylor attempted to steal first base by acting like he’d been hit by Jacob Webb’s pitch. The call was overturned by replay. Taylor then doubled, setting the table for Mookie Betts’ run-scoring single and Corey Seager’s second home run — a two-run shot.
Mookie Betts isn’t just an MVP-caliber hitter. He’s an MVP-caliber defender, as evidenced by this shoestring catch to start a critical double play.
Shoestring catch by Mookie & a double play‼️ pic.twitter.com/5rE1H7G2CV— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 17, 2020
After replay review, Braves runner Marcell Ozuna was ruled out for leaving the base too soon. Clearly, he didn’t think Mookie was making that play.
The moment would loom large as Atlanta missed a chance to extend its lead.
It's on to Game 6 Saturday (4:38 p.m. ET, FS1) as the Dodgers face another must-win to save their season.
Pitching-wise, there isn't much of a decision for Braves manager Brian Snitker. He will go right back to Game 1 starter Max Fried. The 26-year-old left-hander has set the tone for Atlanta during the postseason, posting a 2.64 ERA through three starts while striking out 18 batters in 17 innings. In Game 1, Fried struck out nine while limiting the Dodgers to one run in six innings.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is expected to start Walker Buehler, who walked five batters over five innings in the series opener. Worth noting, Buehler has been dealing with a blister issue for the last several weeks and it has definitely impacted his effectiveness. Overall, Buehler has walked 11 in three postseason starts.
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