LA storms back to win the pennant

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cody Bellinger (right) is congratulated after hitting the game-winning home run to send the Dodgers to the World Series. AFP

Cody Bellinger belted a 400-foot go-ahead home run and Mookie Betts made another eye-popping catch as the Los Angeles Dodgers advanced to their third World Series in the last four years with a 4-3 game-seven win over the Atlanta Braves.

Bellinger blasted the eventual game-winning homer in the seventh inning and Enrique Hernandez smacked a pinch-hit home run in the sixth on Sunday night as the Dodgers clawed their way back to win the final three games after being down 3-1 in the series to the Braves.

“I tried to stay within myself and I got a pitch I could get to,” said Bellinger of his home run.

The Dodgers will take on the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays, who won their own game seven on Saturday in San Diego, beating the Houston Astros 4-2.

The first game of the 2020 World Series is on Tuesday in Arlington, Texas.

Los Angeles lost in the 2017 World Series to the Houston Astros and in 2018 to the Boston Red Sox.

Just a few thousand fans were allowed into the 40,000 seat Arlington stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic, but what they witnessed was a back-and-forth classic end to the best-of-seven series between two of the premier teams in the National League.

The Braves jumped out to 2-0 and 3-2 leads but each time the Dodgers were able to counterpunch and level the score, including a rare pinch-hit home run in the sixth by Hernandez that made it 3-3.

Hernandez is just the second player ever to hit a pinch hit homer in a game seven, joining Chicago Cubs Troy O’Leary in the 2003 playoffs.

‘We got superstars’

The Dodgers are in the playoffs for the eighth straight season and almost every batter in their lineup has World Series experience.

That’s why it was a huge surprise when their power game went missing early in the postseason. But they rediscovered it in the NLCS by hitting more than a dozen home runs.

“There are not many holes, if any, in our team,” said Hernandez. “At the top of the [batting] order we got superstars, and then we got the hyenas at the bottom waiting for the leftovers.

“We got a hell of a rotation, a great bullpen, and we got a great leader.

“I am just really happy to be going back to the World Series. I didn’t think it would be this hard to get there, but we are.”

In the fifth inning, Betts made a leaping catch at the wall to steal a home run away from the Braves batter Freddie Freeman. It was the third straight game outfielder Betts made a clutch defensive play against the Braves.

Outfielder Bellinger not only hit the home run that gave Los Angeles the lead for the first time in game seven, but he snagged the final out when Dodgers reliever Julio Urias got Braves batter Austin Riley to fly out to center field.

Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May lasted just one inning, allowing one hit, walking two and giving up a run. He had plenty of support as the Urias and three other relievers allowed just two runs.

Braves rookie sensation Ian Anderson started and pitched three solid innings, surrendering five hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out two batters.

Anderson gave up a two-run single to Will Smith in the third inning that scored Justin Turner and Max Muncy. It was the first run the Braves young pitcher had given up in the 2020 postseason.