2020 National League Championship Series
|2020 National League Championship Series|
|Los Angeles Dodgers
43 - 17 in the NL
|4 - 3
35 - 25 in the NL
- Pat Hoberg, Jim Reynolds, Cory Blaser, Dan Iassogna, Alan Porter, James Hoye and Will Little. Six of the seven umpires worked each of the games, with the umpire sitting out the game working home plate in the following one.
|1||Atlanta Braves 5 Los Angeles Dodgers 1||October 12||Max Fried (0-0) Walker Buehler (0-0)||8:00 pm|
|2||Atlanta Braves 8 Los Angeles Dodgers 7||October 13||Ian Anderson (0-0) Tony Gonsolin (0-1)||6:00 pm|
|3||Los Angeles Dodgers 15 Atlanta Braves 3||October 14||Julio Urias (1-0) Kyle Wright (0-1)||6:00 pm|
|4||Los Angeles Dodgers 2 Atlanta Braves 10||October 15||Clayton Kershaw (0-1) Bryse Wilson (1-0)||8:00 pm|
|5||Los Angeles Dodgers 7 Atlanta Braves 3||October 16||Dustin May (0-0) A.J. Minter (0-0)||6:00 pm|
|6||Atlanta Braves 1 Los Angeles Dodgers 3||October 17||Max Fried (0-1) Walker Buehler (1-0)||4:30 pm|
|7||Atlanta Braves 3 Los Angeles Dodgers 4||October 18||Ian Anderson (0-0) Dustin May (0-0)||8:15 pm|
Game 1 @ Globe Life Field
|WP: Will Smith (1-0); LP: Blake Treinen (0-1)|
|Home Runs: ATL - Freddie Freeman (1), Austin Riley (1), Ozzie Albies (1); LA - Kiké Hernandez (1)|
- Attendance: 10,700
Game 1 was the first major league baseball game played in 2020 with spectators present: a total of 11,500 persons were allowed into Globe Life Field for the event, so in addition to players and coaches, technical staff, stadium workers and family members, there was room for 10,700 fans dispersed throughout the stands, with appropriate distance maintained between small groups. They were also the first fans allowed to attend any game in the brand new facility, serving as one of two neutral sites for the League Championship Series: there were no fans at Petco Park, in San Diego, CA, site of the ALCS, due to public health rules in California, and there had not been fans present at any of the Division Series games, including those played here. On the field, the game was close until the 9th inning, when the Braves exploded for 4 runs to break the contest open and take a 5-1 win. It was a game typical of modern baseball with the "Three True Outcomes" well represented: 23 strikeouts, 8 walks, and 4 homers, but just 8 hits that did not leave the ballpark. The match-up on the mound featured the two pitchers who had started their respective team's opening games in the first two series, Max Fried for Atlanta and Walker Buehler for Los Angeles; both pitched well but were long gone by the time the game was decided. Both teams also came into this game undefeated so far in the postseason, something which obviously would have to give.
The Braves got on the board first and very quickly, as after Ronald Acuna popped out on the game's first pitch by Buehler, Freddie Freeman hit a ball to deep right-center for a homer. That would be the only scoring through the first four innings, as both pitchers were strong apart from the occasional walk. One incident occurred in the top of the 2nd when the Braves' second batter, Adam Duvall, pulled a muscle in his side while fouling off a pitch. It was obviously very painful, and he had to be replaced by young Cristian Pache, who completed the at-bat and managed to work a walk from Buehler. Pache got to second on a wild pitch, but the other three Braves who came to bat that inning all struck out. Leading off the 5th, Kiké Hernandez homered to left field against Fried, tying the score, but otherwise the two offenses remained quiet. The Braves did manage to put the first two men on against Buehler in the 6th, with back-to-back singles by Travis d'Arnaud and Ozzie Albies, which marked the end of Buehler's evening of work. Brusdar Graterol replaced him and made quick work, needing just 6 pitches to retire the next three batters in order to end the inning.
Fried left the game after 6 strong innings, and the 1-1 tie continued, with relievers Dustin May retiring the side in order in the top of the 7th, and Chris Martin doing the same for the Braves in the bottom half. In the 8th, Marcell Ozuna hit a lead-off double against May, but the next two batters made outs. May issued an intentional walk to Dansby Swanson in order to face the rookie Pache, but Brian Snitker replied by calling on veteran Pablo Sandoval as a pinch-hitter. He was hit by a pitch, loading the bases, and Victor Gonzalez replaced May while Charlie Culberson pinch-hit for Nick Markakis. However, Culberson struck out swinging to end the threat. There was no such drama for Will Smith, the third Braves pitcher who was assigned the bottom of the 8th, as he retired the Braves in order. Dave Roberts next called on Blake Treinen for the 9th, but the veteran reliever fell apart. The first batter he faced, Austin Riley, took him deep to center field to break the tie with a solo homer. Acuna followed with a double and advanced to third on a fly out by Freeman. Ozuna then singled to right to score Acuna, making the lead 3-1. Jake McGee replaced Treinen on the mound and he got d'Arnaud to pop up for the second out but then coughed up a homer to Ozzie Albies and it was now 5-1, the game completely out of reach. Closer Mark Melancon came out for the bottom of the 9th and retired the Dodgers on three ground balls to end the game.
Game 2 @ Globe Life Field
|WP: Tyler Matzek (1-0); LP: Tony Gonsolin (0-1); SV: Mark Melancon (1)|
|Home Runs: ATL - Freddie Freeman (2), Ozzie Albies (2); LA - Corey Seager (1), Max Muncy (1)|
- Attendance: 10,624
A couple of hours before the start of Game 2, the Dodgers got some bad news as their scheduled starter, Clayton Kershaw, had to be scratched due to back spasms. That forced Dave Roberts to delegate rookie Tony Gonsolin to start in his stead, and it completely upended the Dodgers' plans. Gonsolin was facing another rookie, that one by design, as former top draft choice Ian Anderson, who had yet to give up a run this postseason, was the Braves' choice. The Braves also inserted another youngster in their line-up, with Cristian Pache starting in center field after Adam Duvall's pulled muscle in yesterday's game. The two pitchers did well at first, as there was no scoring through the first three innings, and in fact Gonsolin retired all nine Braves hitters he faced in order. Anderson for his part gave up a pair of walks in the 1st, but was helped by a great play by 1B Freddie Freeman, who stretched to his full extension while parallel to the ground but managed to keep his foot on the bag as he caught an off-target throw from 3B Austin Riley to end the inning. In the bottom of the 3rd, Anderson gave up two more walks around the first hit of the game, a single by Justin Turner, but Will Smith ended the threat by grounding into a force play.
Gonsolin made his first mistake when he walked Ronald Acuna to lead off the 4th, and the Braves made him pay for it big time when Freeman followed with a homer to right. Anderson issued another walk in the 4th - his 5th - but gave up no runs. However, he was done, having needed 85 pitches to get through the four innings. Tyler Matzek replaced him in the 5th, but before that, the Braves had built a comfortable lead. Gonsolin walked Nick Markakis with one out and young Pache followed with a double to drive him in. Gonsolin then walked Acuna and gave way to Pedro Baez, who, working with the extreme slowness that is his trade in life, turned the inning into a debacle. He first gave up a single to Freeman that drove in another run, making it 4-0, then walked Marcell Ozuna to load the bases and Travis d'Arnaud to force in a fifth run. Ozzie Albies followed by hitting a line drive to deep center that could have cleared the bases, but CF Cody Bellinger made a tremendous catch, snagging the ball while running towards the fence at full speed, and in full extension. Freeman scored uncontested on the sacrifice fly, but that made it 6-0 and not 8-0 as it could easily have been. Dylan Floro was then summoned to record the last out, which he did by striking out Dansby Swanson, but the Braves now had a very comfortable lead. Matzek proceeded to pitch two scoreless innings, and in the top of the 7th the Braves added an insurance run as Alex Wood lost it after two quick outs, walking d'Arnaud, allowing a single to Albies and then an automatic double to Swanson that made the score 7-0.
At that point the Braves were in full control, and the Dodgers seemed nothing like the team that had put up the best record in the majors in the regular season, but they still had some fight left in them. Darren O'Day came out to pitch the 7th, and for the first time all evening, the Dodgers were able to put together a bit of a rally. Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor opened the inning with singles, bringing up the top of the order, and while O'Day managed to strike out Mookie Betts, he gave way to A.J. Minter, who was ambushed by Corey Seager who hit a three-run homer to center field. There was no scoring in the 8th, then against Adam Kolarek in the 9th, Albies hit a homer into the Braves' bullpen, that, like his identical shot the night before, was caught by Mark Melancon who was warming up in case he was needed. It seemed like a meaningless run at the time, as it made the score, 8-3, but it turned out to be anything but. With a five-run lead, Brian Snitker told Melancon to sit down and had veteran junkballer Josh Tomlin come out to close out the win instead, but his slow stuff did not fool the Dodgers' batters. He struck out Taylor but then gave up in succession a single to Betts, a run-scoring double to Seager and after a strikeout of Turner, a homer to Max Muncy that made the score 8-6. This was getting too close for comfort, so Melancon came in to record the final out. He got two quick strikes on Smith, and then forced him to hit a routine grounder up the middle that should have ended the game then and there, but Albies bobbled it and Smith was safe on an error. Up came Bellinger and he hit a drive to the right field corner. Not only did Smith score, but Bellinger ran at full speed all the way and made it to third base. The Dodgers were now just 90 feet away from tying the game. However, Melancon kept his cool. All seven of his pitches in this appearance were strikes, and on the final one, Pederson hit a sharp grounder to third base, but Riley fielded it cleanly and made a good throw to Freeman this time to end the game. The Braves had dodged a bullet, as they had almost let a game they had controlled almost from the start get away from them.
Game 3 @ Globe Life Field
|WP: Julio Urias (1-0); LP: Kyle Wright (0-1)|
|Home Runs: LA - Joc Pederson (1), Edwin Rios (1), Max Muncy (2), Cody Bellinger (1), Corey Seager (2); ATL - Cristian Pache (1)|
- Attendance: 10,664
Nobody knows if Braves starter Kyle Wright was visited by an mysterious hitman named Harry F. before Game 3 and if gamblers were assured that "It'll be the biggest inning you ever saw", but the 1st inning was indeed the biggest inning anyone ever saw - at least in a postseason game. The Dodgers set a slew of postseason records as they slugged three homers and scored 11 runs, chasing Wright after he faced 9 batters but recorded just two outs. His successor, Grant Dayton, was arguably even worse, as he let the inning fester for another five batters before ending in, and would end up being charged with 8 runs in his brief mound stint, one more than Wright. In any case, the game was over even before the Braves came to bat, and all Julio Urias, the Dodgers' starter, had to do, was not give up a slew of runs while lasting at least five innings. In the end, he wasn't especially sharp but gave up just one run on five innings to receive credit for the win.
Following their almost successful comeback in the late innings of Game 2, the Dodgers' hitters came out with all guns blazing against Wright, determined to swing at the first good pitch that came their way. Wright did not have a problem with deep counts - in fact he probably wished he had, as it would have been better than what actually happened. On his first pitch, Mookie Betts hits a hard grounder down the third base line, but Johan Camargo's off-balance throw was off-target, forcing 1B Freddie Freeman to catch it from behind the first base bag while trying to keep his foot on the base. Betts was originally called out, but a video review reversed the call, which, had it held, would likely have changed the complexion of the entire game. On the next pitch, Corey Seager hit a double to left which Austin Riley did not play cleanly, allowing Betts to race home, Usain Bolt-style, without a throw. Two pitches in and the Braves' line-up changes - resting Nick Markakis against a lefty by inserting Camargo at third base and moving Riley to left field - had already shown their limits. But Wright could still have escaped at this point, and he almost did as he forced the next two batters, Justin Turner and Max Muncy, to hit ground balls for outs. Had Camargo made a slightly better throw on the first play of the game, he would have been out of the inning unscarred, but it wasn't to be. The floodgates opened when Will Smith hit a double to center, Cody Bellinger drew a walk and Joc Pederson parked a ball in the Braves' bullpen in center field for a three-run homer. It continued like a pinball game: Edwin Rios, getting his first start of the postseason at third base, hit another homer on Wright's next pitch, and Chris Taylor drew a walk. Brian Snitker had no choice but to remove the badly shaken Wright at this point, even though he had thrown just 28 pitches. In came Dayton in his first appearance of the postseason, but he completely failed in his mission to keep the score - which was 6-0 at this point - at least manageable. He walked Betts and served up a single to Seager that scored another run. He apparently threw a wild pitch for another run, but upon review it was ruled the ball had deflected off Turner's foot, so instead it loaded the bases, and Muncy cleared them with a long grand slam. The score was now 11-0, the most runs ever scored in one postseason inning by any team. Smith mercifully struck out to end the inning.
The game was a write-off for the Braves at this point, and their main concern was not to burn too many pitchers with eight innings left to play, as teams did not have the luxury afforded them in the regular season to call up a couple of fresh arms after such a blow-out. This is why Dayton would need to keep pitching, even though he had shown nothing after coming in in relief. They still put a couple of men on base in the bottom of the 1st, and Ozzie Albies hit a fly ball to deep center, but Bellinger made a nice catch with his back to the fence to end the small threat. In the 2nd, the Dodgers immediately went back to work against Dayton, as Bellinger led off with a homer. Then in the 3rd, Seager homered with one out - already the Dodgers' fifth long ball of the game, a team record in the postseason - and the bleeding continued: Turner singled, Muncy doubled, Smith drove in another run on a ground out, and Bellinger singled for a 15-0 lead. After Pederson singled as well, Brian Snitker had to bit the bullet and remove Dayton, who obviously was completely unable to fool the opposing hitters. In came youngster Huascar Ynoa, and he at least managed to give his manager some length, eventually pitching four innings while giving up no runs on just one hit.
There were few highlights after that. Cristian Pache did manage to hit his first career homer when he took Urias deep in the bottom of the 3rd, making it clear that he would soon be a starter in the Braves' outfield by right, and not just because of an injury. Closer Kenley Jansen, who had not pitched in a long time for L.A., took the 6th inning, after which three other low-rank relievers finished the job, with only Adam Kolarek giving up anything, as he was touched for two meaningless runs in the 9th. For the Braves, thanks to Ynoa's good work, the damage on the pitching staff was limited, as Jacob Webb pitched an inning and Shane Greene one and a third, recording all four of his outs on strikeouts. Greene was the only one of the group who was counted on for meaningful innings down the road, but like Jansen, he had seen no action of late, so it was fine to give him some work in a game that had been decided long before he entered it. All of both teams' position player substitutes also saw some action, as everyone involved was already looking forward to the next game before the 2nd inning had even started.
Game 4 @ Globe Life Field
|WP: Bryse Wilson (1-0); LP: Clayton Kershaw (0-1)|
|Home Runs: LA - Edwin Rios (2); ATL - Marcell Ozuna 2 (2)|
- Attendance: 11,044
It was as big a contrast in fame as possible when the pitchers for Game 4 were announced, with the great Clayton Kershaw, now over his back issues, facing off against the unheralded Bryse Wilson, a name that only the most devout of baseball fans would have recognized. Yet, it was the youngster who came out on top, pitching a tremendous six innings by constantly attacking the strike zone and never letting the Dodgers' batters get comfortable. In contrast, Kershaw was far from his best, but he limited the Braves to just one run through the first five innings, and finally looked strong in the 5th, before falling apart in the 6th, after which the bullpen did him no favors by letting the Braves run up the score. Thus, the 15-3 beating of Game 3 was quickly forgotten by the Braves, who administered a beating of their own, 10-2, to move within one game of the World Series.
Wilson got things started with a 1-2-3 inning in the 1st, in marked contrast with what Kyle Wright had done the night before. Meanwhile, Ronald Acuna led off the bottom of the 1st with a single off Kershaw, but he was erased on a double play ball by Marcell Ozuna. There was no scoring in the 2nd either, but in the 3rd, Edwin Rios led off the inning for the Dodgers with his second long ball in two days. It would be the only blemish on Wilson's record on the night, as the only hit he allowed, and it could not even be qualified as a mistake as Rios hit what was a good pitch. Wilson was not otherwise rattled as he retired the next three batters in order. In the bottom of the inning, Johan Camargo led off with a single, the third straight inning in which the Braves had had a hit off Kershaw, but he too was erased in a double play, this one hit into by Acuna. In the 4th, Wilson allowed his only other baserunner when he gave up a two-out walk to Max Muncy, but he was otherwise untouchable. Which was not the case for Kershaw, who gave up a game-tying homer to Ozuna. He then walked Travis d'Arnaud, but retired the next two men, before retiring the Braves in order for the first time in the 5th. He seemed to have finally found his groove, but so had Wilson, who had struck out the side in the top of that inning and was doing so well that Brian Snitker did not hesitate to send him back for the 6th, doubtless something he had expected only in his wildest dreams. Wilson reeled off another 1-2-3 inning to complete his night's remarkable work.
If Kershaw had looked better in the bottom of the 5th, he completely fell apart in the 6th. He had apparently walked Acuna to start the frame, but a generous strike two call from home plate umpire Cory Blaser forced Acuna back to the dish, and he hit a bouncer above Kershaw's head. 2B Kiké Hernandez fielded it barehanded but threw the ball out of play. Acuna tumbled to the ground after hitting the first base bag and appeared to have injured his left wrist, but he was able to remain in the game as he was waived to second base by the umpires. The next batter, Freddie Freeman, hit a ground ball that evaded the defensive shift used against him and ended up as a double to right field, scoring Acuna with the go-ahead run. The merry-go-round now started in earnest. Ozuna doubled as well, chasing Kershaw from the mound. In came Brusdar Graterol and d'Arnaud crushed a line drive to right field, but Mookie Betts was able to make a leaping grab for the first out. Graterol wasn't so lucky with his next three batters, as the results were a single by Ozzie Albies, a double by Dansby Swanson and a single by Austin Riley. The score was now 6-1 and Victor Gonzalez replaced Graterol. The parade continued with a walk to Camargo and a single by Cristian Pache that scored the 6th run of what had turned into a nightmarish inning for the Dodgers. Gonzalez finally managed to strike out Acuna and to get Freeman to ground out, but the Dodgers had taken a knock-down blow. To their credit, they almost managed to get back in the game in the top of the 7th, against the usually excellent Will Smith. It started with a single by Justin Turner and a walk to Muncy. A.J. Pollock flied out as a pinch-hitter, with Turner advancing to third, then Cody Bellinger walked as well to load the bases. The Dodgers were about to announce into the game the other Will Smith as a pinch-hitter for Rios, but Brian Snitker moved so fast to replace the pitching Will Smith (not the actor) by Chris Martin (not the singer) that Rios could take the at-bat, the platoon advantage now back in his favor. He hit a fly ball to center on which Turner scored, but the Braves were glad to have a second out. The inning continued with Matt Beaty pinch-hitting for Hernandez, and he walked - the third this inning - after Bellinger had stolen second base. The bases were loaded again and now the catcher Will Smith came into the game, pinch-hitting for Austin Barnes who had started the game behind the plate. It was clearly the key at-bat of the game, as a hit would have put the Dodgers right back in it, but Smith lined out to 2B Albies to end the inning, and in spite of all the action and throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, the Dodgers had only managed to claw back one run.
The Braves then let out what little air remained in the Dodgers' balloon by getting that hard-earned run right back in the bottom of the 7th as Ozuna, the first hitter to face new pitcher Dylan Floro, hit his second homer of the game, celebrating as only he could while rounding the bases. The final two innings were just for the record, but the Braves did not let down after a scoreless inning by Tyler Matzek in the top of the 8th, adding two more runs after two outs when Beaty, now playing 1B dropped a relay from SS Corey Seager, putting Pache on base, and in a flashback to the 6th inning, the next three batters all reached base on a walk and two singles. Now with a very comfortable 10-2 lead, Shane Greene came out for the 9th and retired the demoralized Dodgers in order.
Game 5 @ Globe Life Field
|WP: Blake Treinen (1-1); LP: Will Smith (1-1)|
|Home Runs: LA - Corey Seager 2 (4), Will Smith (1)|
- Attendance: 11,119
Ever since the series' match-up of teams had been announced, baseball geeks had been anticipating one match-up, Dodgers catcher Will Smith against Braves reliever Will Smith. And of course, when it finally happened, it was at a critical moment with two outs and two on in the 6th, and its outcome changed the tide of the game. "They just don't write 'em like that anymore", as Greg Kihn would say. But before reaching that point, there was plenty of interesting baseball played. On the mound, the Dodgers' putative next great pitching star, Dustin May and his flowing mass of red hair, was facing career reliever A.J. Minter, whose last starting assignment had come back in college with Texas A&M University. But of course, it would be Minter who got the best of that match-up. Taking a page from Bryse Wilson the night before, he attacked the strike zone relentlessly and gave Brian Snitker three excellent scoreless innings, probably two more than his manager had been expecting. It was not the same story for May, as he was constantly in trouble, trailing in the count and taking ages between each pitch. The Braves scored twice against him, once the 1st on a double by Freddie Freeman, a passed ball and a sacrifice fly by Travis d'Arnaud that RF Mookie Betts caught maybe three feet in front of the wall, and once in the 2nd on a walk to Dansby Swanson and singles by Nick Markakis and Cristian Pache.
After Minter completed his third inning of work, Joe Kelly relieved the struggling May to start the bottom of the 3rd, but he gave up lead-off singles to Marcell Ozuna and d'Arnaud as the Braves threatened to run away with the game - and the series. Both runners advanced on a ground out by Ozzie Albies, after which Swanson hit a sinking liner to right. Betts made a beautiful shoestring catch, and Ozuna appeared to score easily, but there was a problem, as thinking the ball was going to drop, he had failed to tag up properly and was called out on appeal, ending the inning. This was a momentum changer if there ever was one, and the first batter to face reliever Tyler Matzek in the top of the 4th, Corey Seager, homered to center field to cut the Braves' lead to 2-1. Blake Treinen, whose outings so far this postseason had been mediocre, made quick work of the Braves in the bottom of the 4th. In the 5th, Matzek and Shane Greene took care of the Dodgers, while Treinen reeled off another domininating inning, setting up the highly dramatic 6th inning.
The inning began with a lead-off single by Betts off Greene. He got Seager to fly out, but Betts then stole second. Justin Turner followed with a grounder to 2B Albies, who caught Betts in no man's land between second and third base. Betts was eventually tagged out, but he managed to extend the rundown long enough for Turner to replace him on second base. Still, there were two outs and in came Smith the pitcher to face fellow lefty Max Muncy. Smith walked him on a full count, setting up the confrontation everyone had been waiting for, Smith vs. Smith. The chyron on the television screen helpfully explained that it was the first time in postseason history that two players with the same name faced one another. The pitcher took the early advantage, by getting two quick strikes, but his next three pitches missed the strike zone to make the count full, and on the sixth, Smith the hitter drove the ball to deep left-center field for a three-run homer. The game had been turned on its head as the Dodgers now held a 4-2 lead. Pedro Baez then took a cue from Treinen as he did not diddle around, retiring the Braves in order in the bottom of the inning. Jacob Webb came out for the 7th, as the Braves' pitching options were narrowing, and he struck out the first two men he faced before Chris Taylor touched him for a double. Once again, the Dodgers would not lie down after two outs. Betts followed with a single and Seager with his second homer of the game, and it was now 7-2. The Braves finally got someone on base in the bottom of the inning, after 10 straight outs, with a single by Austin Riley off Baez and a walk to pinch-hitter Johan Camargo against Victor Gonzalez, but Pache grounded into a double play and Ronald Acuna flied out to end that threat. The Braves did score another run in the 8th, on a double by Freeman and a grounder by d'Arnaud, but it was too little, too late. Kenley Jansen came out for the 9th and struck out the side to end the game in a non-save situation.
Game 6 @ Globe Life Field
|WP: Walker Buehler (1-0); LP: Max Fried (0-1); SV: Kenley Jansen (1)|
|Home Runs: LA - Corey Seager (5), Justin Turner (1)|
- Attendance: 10,772
The Dodgers forced a seventh game with a 3-1 win in Game 6, with almost all of the action taking place in the first two innings. The two Game 1 starters, Max Fried and Walker Buehler, were facing each other again, and this time both would pitch well and go deep into the game - six innings by Buehler, and 6 2/3 by Fried, long after the key plays of the game had occurred. Buehler made quick work of the Braves in the top of the 1st, needing just 8 pitches to retire the side in order, but it was not the case for Fried. He retired Mookie Betts on a fly ball to center, but Corey Seager followed by hitting a ball a mile high, but deep enough to land into the right field stands for a solo homer. The crowd was still buzzing when two pitches later, Justin Turner hit a long ball as well, this one out of Cristian Pache's leaping reach in centerfield, for a 2-0 lead. Max Muncy then worked a full count, as had become a habit of his in this series, and drew a walk, which was followed by Will Smith's single to center that placed runners on the corners. Cody Bellinger singled as well to make it 3-0, with still only one out. The game was threatening to turn into a repeat of the Game 3 debacle for the Braves, but Fried pulled himself together and forced A.J. Pollock to fly out to shallow center and Kiké Hernandez to pop up to end the inning. It was all the runs the Dodgers would score, but they would prove to be enough, as Buehler was on a good day.
It did not look that way at the start of the 2nd inning as Buehler dug a deep hole for himself by allowing singles to the first three hitters, Travis d'Arnaud, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson. However, the Braves went strictly station-to-station on the three hits, so there were no runs scored even if the bases were loaded with nobody out. Buehler then went to work by striking out Austin Riley and Nick Markakis in succession and then got Pache to ground out to shortstop. The inning was over without a run, and the Braves knew they had wasted the sort of opportunity that does not come along often. Fried settled down after his early troubles, and would end up pitching into the 7th, the longest outing by a Braves starter thus far this postseason, but the Braves could not really get back into the game, in spite of some opportunities. They put a couple of runners on with one out in the 4th, but stranded both, then in the 5th Freddie Freeman singled with two outs and Marcell Ozuna followed by crushing a pitch to deep right field. But Betts, who had not contributed much with his bat in this series, made his second game-turning defensive play in two days, when he raced back to the fence and in full extension jumped against the wall to snag Ozuna's hit, which would normally have been a run-scoring double. Betts was overjoyed as he ran back to the dugout, and the Dodgers brimming with confidence. In the 6th, Swanson singled with two outs, then stole second base and made it to third when Smith's throw ended up in centerfield, but he was stranded too, the Braves' tally of runners left on base climbing steadily.
Buehler had needed only 89 pitches to go through the first six innings and was showing no particular sign of fatigue, but in a decision typical of the team's mound management in the Dave Roberts era, he gave way to a reliever in the 7th. The Braves were happy to face anyone other than him, and got to work on Blake Treinen, who had completely shut them down over two innings the night before. Markakis led off with a stand-up triple to the right-field corner and one out later Ronald Acuna hit a double to drive him in, cutting the lead to 3-1. But Acuna would advance no further as Freeman struck out and Ozuna flied out. This turned out to be the Braves' last gasp. Pedro Baez pitched the 8th and Kenley Jansen the 9th, and both were highly efficient, as all six batters who came up against them made outs. The last was by veteran Pablo Sandoval, pinch-hitting for the youngster Pache. Pedro lined out to LF Joc Pederson, who had just made a very nice catch to rob the first batter of the inning, Riley, of a base hit, and the game was over.
Game 7 @ Globe Life Field
|WP: Julio Urias (2-0); LP: Chris Martin (0-1)|
|Home Runs: ATL - Dansby Swanson (1); LA - Kiké Hernandez (2), Cody Bellinger (2)|
- Attendance: 10,920
Game 7 may not have been a crisply played affair, but it was quite an entertaining game, close from start to finish, and in the end the Dodgers won thanks to a couple late-game homers, another great defensive play in the outfield, excellent work out of the bullpen, and one egregious baserunning mistake by the Braves. In doing so they advanced to the World Series for the third time in four years. On the mound, the Braves had logically sent Ian Anderson, their #2 starter throughout the postseason, while the Dodgers hesitated among a number of less-than-ideal options before deciding on bringing back Dustin May, who had started Game 5, although it was clear that his stint would be short and many other pitchers would be called on to contribute.
May started the game terribly, as his first four pitches to Ronald Acuna missed the plate. On the fifth, also a ball to Freddie Freeman, Acuna stole second base, although it did not really matter as the next three pitches also missed, putting Freeman on base as well. Pitching coach Mark Prior quickly made a mound visit to calm down May, but after a first-pitch strike, Marcell Ozuna singled to left and Acuna scored the game's first run. There was still no one out and two runners on base, but May got Travis d'Arnaud to ground into a double play and struck out Ozzie Albies, so he managed to escape with only minimal damage. That was his only inning of work, as Tony Gonsolin came on in relief in the 2nd. He also found trouble by means of a homer from the first batter he faced, Dansby Swanson, making the score 2-0. But Gonsolin settled down after that, only giving up a walk the rest of the inning. Meanwhile, Anderson found some trouble in the bottom of the inning as after two outs he gave up singles to A.J. Pollock and Joc Pederson, with Pollock advancing to third base. Pederson joined him in scoring position when d'Arnaud allowed a passed ball. However, Anderson rallied to strike out Chris Taylor, ending the inning without any scoring, but he was laboring, having needed 40 pitches to complete a first turn through the batting order.
Gonsolin had a very quick inning in the top of the third, all three out coming on fly balls on a grand total of five pitches, but Anderson found trouble again after two outs, and this time he couldn't escape. Justin Turner worked a two-out walk by fouling off a couple of tough pitches, and Max Muncy followed with a double to right, placing two more men in scoring position. Next up was Game 5 hero Will Smith who tied up the game with a single to center. Anderson then walked Cody Bellinger before ending the inning by getting Pollock to fly out to center. It was clear that Anderson would not pitch deep in this game. But first, the Braves had a tremendous opportunity in the 4th, and their failure to capitalize fully was a huge turning point for them. The inning started like the 1st, with a walk to Albies, who promptly stole second base, followed by a walk to Swanson. Austin Riley followed with a single, scoring Albies to give Atlanta the lead again, 3-2. Gonsolin gave way to Blake Treinen, appearing his third straight game and facing a huge jam, which only got worse when he threw a wild pitch advancing both runners. Baserunning mistakes had been a running theme for the Braves in this series, with Ozuna failing to tag up properly a third base costing them a huge run in Game 5, and the previous night Albies failing to notice 1B Muncy had dropped the ball in attempting to tag him on a ground ball, and as a result giving up first base when he should have been safe, but tonight's blunder was of the sort one sees in Little League. Nick Markakis hit a sharp grounder to third base, and Swanson attempted to score. He had of course no chance of making it and was caught in a rundown. Meanwhile, Riley hesitated between second and third base, only attempting to reach third once Swanson had been tagged out; he did not make it safely, for a highly unusual 5-2-5-6 double play. Suddenly, the Braves had gone from having two runners in scoring position with no one out, to a runner on first base with two outs. They never really recovered. Cristian Pache ended the inning by grounding out, and they would not collect a single other hit the rest of the game.
This windfall really pumped up the Dodgers, even if they were trailing again, and they went to work on Tyler Matzek who came out for the bottom of the 4th. Deliberately working the count, they put two men on after one out, courtesy of a single by Taylor and a walk to Betts. Corey Seager then ripped Matzek's next pitch into right field on a line drive - but right at Acuna for the second out. But Matzek threw a wild pitch that advanced both runners, walked Turner to load the bases, and finally escaped by striking out Muncy. The lead still stood, but it was anything but comfortable. The next game-turning play occurred in the top of the 5th, with one out, when Freeman drove one of Treinen's pitches deep to right field. It should have been a home run, but Betts made his third amazing catch in three days, leaping above the fence to retrieve the ball from home run territory and record the second out. The energy was now all on the Dodgers' side. The Braves failed to do anything against Brusdar Graterol in the 6th, but in the bottom of the inning, Brian Snitker sent in A.J. Minter as his fourth pitcher - Shane Greene had pitched a scoreless 5th - and Dave Roberts sent in Kiké Hernandez as a pinch-hitter for Pederson. Minter got two strikes on him, but Hernandez managed to foul off three straight pitches before crushing a ball to left field for a game-tying homer. His feet barely touched the ground as he rounded the bases at full speed and Taylor followed immediately with a double. He made it to third base on a fly out by Betts, and, with the infield playing in, Seager hit a grounder that bounced off the mound and straight into 2B Albies's glove. He made a perfect throw to C d'Arnaud to cut down Taylor, keeping the game tied for now. In the 7th, Julio Urias, the beneficiary of the Dodgers' huge outburst in Game 3, came to the mound, and he had some absolutely filthy stiff. He would face a total of nine batters the rest of the game and retire all nine of them in order, doing so well in fact that Roberts did not need to call on closer Kenley Jansen to close out the game. The game was still tied in the middle of the 7th, but the momentum was clearly on the Dodgers' side now, and they got the run they needed with two outs when Bellinger homered off Chris Martin, who had recorded the final out in the 6th. He flipped his bat, knowing this was likely the run that would put his team in the World Series. Urias made sure of that as he did not allow the Braves a flicker of a hope the rest of the game. Corey Seager was named the NLCS MVP as, even though he had not done much in this game, going 0 for 5 and stranding five teammates on base, he had been outstanding in the first six, bringing the Dodgers to this point after they trailed 2-0 and 3-1 and things had looked very bleak.
- Jessica Camerato:`"Seager wins MVP after record-setting NLCS", mlb.com, October 19, 2020. 
- Michael Clair: "A very serious Dodgers-Braves comparison: All the information you REALLY need before the NLCS", mlb.com, October 12, 2020. 
- Ken Gurnick: "'This is our year!' LA rallies to win NL pennant", mlb.com, October 19, 2020. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Dodgers vs. Braves NLCS preview, schedule, predictions: Baseball's top two offenses collide in best-of-seven series", USA Today, October 12, 2020. 
- Gabe Lacques: "'The job's not done': Dodgers beat Braves in Game 7 thriller to complete comeback, reach World Series", USA Today, October 18, 2020. 
- Bob Nightengale: "'It hurt worse last year': Braves fought Dodgers hard in NLCS, ready to knock door down next year", USA Today, October 19, 2020. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, with five NLCS homers, wins MVP award", USA Today, October 19, 2020. 
|Major League Baseball National League Championship Series