Bellinger delivers walk-off in 13th to tie NLCS
LOS ANGELES -- Who knew Cody Bellinger would turn into Justin Turner late Tuesday night?
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Three innings after his spectacular outfield catch saved Game 4 for the Dodgers, Bellinger won it with the clutch hit of a lifetime. His two-out RBI single in the bottom of the 13th inning scored a hustling Manny Machado from second base as the Dodgers outlasted the Brewers, 2-1, in a thrilling and bullpen-exhausting walk-off to even the National League Championship Series at two games each.
"I think it's seeing our guys persevere through that game," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, explaining why he joined the Bellinger party mob scene in left field. "But I just -- understanding and seeing what Cody has been going through and really just wearing it and the weight of the world on him."
Bellinger had turned into a strikeout machine in the World Series last year and was lugging around an .048 average in this postseason. Few Dodgers needed a big hit more.
A series momentum changer?
"Definitely," said Bellinger. "We've got [Clayton] Kershaw on the mound tomorrow, we like our chances."
The Dodgers are 4-8 in a best-of-seven series when tied 2-2, while the Brewers are 0-2. Teams in the position of the Dodgers in a best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format -- tied 2-2, home for Game 5, on the road for Games 6 and 7 -- have gone on to win the series 23 of 54 times (43 percent).
The win had added strategic importance for the Dodgers, because the Brewers used wipeout reliever Josh Hader in a loss. It was his second consecutive appearance and his fastball was two miles an hour slower than Monday night, leaving his availability to pitch in Game 5 uncertain.
"You lose that game, extra innings, at home, go down 3-1, it's not a very good feeling with the quick turnaround tomorrow," said Turner, the Dodgers' Mr. October, who turned in a handful of defensive gems at third base. "It's something we had to get done. Belly, what an incredible at-bat he had, laying off tough pitches and finding a hole."
After causing a furor with his explanation for not hustling earlier in the series -- and nearly mixing it up with Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar on a play at first base in the 10th inning -- Machado was 0-for-5 with one out in the 13th when he reached first base on a broken-bat single to left off Junior Guerra, who was in his fourth inning of relief.
With two outs, Machado was heads-up on the first breaking ball to Bellinger in the dirt and aggressively advanced to second on what turned out to be a pivotal wild pitch blocked by catcher Erik Kratz. Trying to extend his lead off second base with Bellinger up, Machado was nearly picked off. Bellinger worked the count to 3-2 and rifled a slider past a diving Aguilar at first and into right field. Machado raced home and slid his hand under the tag after a strong throw from Christian Yelich.
The Dodgers mobbed Bellinger, chasing him into left field. Only two players have had a walk-off hit in the postseason at a younger age than Bellinger's 23 years and 95 days: Edgar Renteria with the 1997 Marlins (twice) and Carlos Correa with the 2017 Astros.
"It's probably a feeling you won't forget, seeing your guys chase after you," said Bellinger. "Honestly, I was surprised that they were throwing to me, I thought they would pitch around me and get me to swing. Once I saw they were attacking me, it was just kind of grind mode and do what you can to put the ball in play and try to end the game.
"I've been seeing [back-foot sliders] so much now that if you keep seeing it you're going to get used to it. And I'm a different hitter than I was last year. I've learned a lot."
With Yasmani Grandal and the pitcher's spot following Bellinger, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said intentionally walking Bellinger wasn't a strong consideration.
"I thought it was worth the risk of trying to expand to Bellinger, and if the at-bat goes to Grandal, we walk Grandal," he said.
For most of the 13 innings, both offenses went nowhere, with the Dodgers striking out 17 times (a franchise postseason record) and going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position until Bellinger's hit. The Brewers went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Despite the missed scoring opportunities, the Dodgers got big-time efforts from all over the place, among them: Starting pitcher Rich Hill allowed one run in five innings; James Dozier delivered a clutch RBI single in the first inning, Bellinger's ridiculous layout dive-and-slide catch in right field, where he never started this year; postseason veteran reliever Ryan Madson put down another brushfire; and closer Kenley Jansen pitched two scoreless innings, his longest appearance since last year's World Series.
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Jansen was one of eight Dodgers relievers who combined to throw eight scoreless innings as Roberts emptied his bullpen. Julio Urias, the 22-year-old coming off shoulder surgery who was added to the roster for this series, pitched around a one-out single by Ryan Braun in the 13th inning and was credited with the victory.
Roberts said scheduled Game 6 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu was headed to the bullpen when the game ended.
"So, I guess the poker reference -- we were all in," he said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Plenty to choose from, but not to be overlooked was the one out Madson got, inheriting a runner on third base and two outs in the seventh inning and retiring Lorenzo Cain on a groundout on one pitch. Madson was virtually a non-factor after the Dodgers acquired him Aug. 31, but he's allowed one hit in 3 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason while stranding six of nine inherited runners.
At 13 innings it was the longest NLCS game by innings since the Dodgers and Cardinals went 13 innings in 2013. At five hours and 15 minutes, it was the second-longest NLCS game by time, surpassed only by Game 5 in 1999 between the Mets and Braves at 5:46.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bellinger's diving catch in the 10th was spectacular and critical. He had a 17 percent catch probability on the play, according to Statcast™, and he almost certainly saved extra bases by catching it. Two batters later, Ryan Braun singled, a ball that might well have scored Cain and potentially delivered a Brewers win.
HE SAID IT
"I knew I had a shot at it. I played right field in the Minor Leagues a lot before I started playing center field. I haven't been there much lately. But it's kind of like riding a bike. I saw it hanging up there and ran as fast as I could and dove for it." -- Bellinger, on his catch
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Brewers used both of their challenges during a single Brian Dozier at-bat in the decisive eighth inning, first asking the umpires to look for fan interference on a foul ball down the right-field line, where Yelich attempted a sliding catch. The original non-call stood.
Then, after Dozier grounded into a fielder's choice and narrowly got to first base to avoid an inning-ending double play, the Brewers challenged again. A challenge covers the totality of the play, so replay officials examined whether Muncy had violated the slide rule at second base, and whether Dozier reached first in time. In both cases, the original calls were confirmed.