MILWAUKEE -- Corey Seager's elbow blew out, and the Dodgers found a way. The entire starting rotation went on the disabled list, and they found a way. Kenley Jansen's heart raced, and they found a way. They even found a way to overcome a nine-game deficit in the National League West. And on Saturday, the Dodgers found their way back to the World Series.
• Dress for Fall Classic: Get Dodgers NL champs gear
:: NLCS schedule and results ::
With rookie starter Walker Buehler poised under pressure, NLCS MVP Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig launching crowd-silencing homers at Miller Park and Chris Taylor pulling off a miracle catch in left field, the Dodgers eliminated the Brewers in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series, 5-1, and will play the Red Sox in the World Series starting Tuesday night in Boston.
"Every single person in this room has their fingerprints on this season," said Dave Roberts, who will be managing against his former Dodgers teammate, Boston's Alex Cora. "We haven't accomplished our goal yet. Four more wins. Let's go."
The Dodgers are going to back-to-back World Series for the first time since 1977-78, when they lost both times to the Yankees. They'll be trying for their first World Series win since 1988, which was clinched 30 years ago to the day, the same year they last won a Game 7 in the NLCS against the Mets. This one secured their 20th appearance in the Fall Classic, tying the Giants for the most in the NL.
"We found a way to get it done again," said Justin Turner. "You saw big swings from two guys [Bellinger and Puig] that didn't have the success this year they wanted. Walker Buehler gave us almost five innings, Ryan Madson is the unsung hero of the entire postseason and our bullpen was outstanding in a series when their bullpen got a lot of the press, a lot of attention. Our guys stepped up and got it done."
The Dodgers' bullpen, outpitching a more celebrated Brewers bullpen, finished it off with 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Jansen struck out three of the four batters he faced, then handed the baton to Game 5 winner Clayton Kershaw, who struck out Mike Moustakas and was in the middle of the dogpile.
"Where we came from this year, it's a testament to these guys," said Kershaw. "It's a great group, we're excited, we're going to celebrate but we don't want to lose again, so we'll be ready to go."
Los Angeles' bullpen had a 1.45 ERA in the series.
• Bullpen of the Week: Dodgers
"All the heavy punches we took all season about the bullpen, including myself, and here we are celebrating," said Jansen. "We win another National League championship and we're going to the World Series. It was harder from the start and feels so much sweeter than last year."
General manager Farhan Zaidi echoed Jansen's analysis.
"We really had our backs to the wall in this game," he said. "Easy wasn't really in our playbook, so it was fitting it took us until Game 7. It was more of a joyride last year."
Like everything else this season, though, the Game 7 victory was tougher than it looked. Milwaukee scored first on Christian Yelich's homer, his second extra-base hit and first RBI of the series, on a 98 mph Buehler fastball in the first inning. Teams scoring first in a winner-take-all Game 7 had been 36-19 and 11-5 in Game 7 of the LCS.
But Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin couldn't hold the lead for even a half-inning. Manny Machado, with boos echoing through Miller Park, shocked everybody by perfectly bunting a 3-2 hanging slider for a leadoff infield single in the second. Bellinger, batting .190 at the time, followed by crushing a two-run homer projected by Statcast™ at 425 feet for a 2-1 lead. Add that to the dazzling catch and walk-off hit to win the 13-inning Game 4 and Bellinger was named MVP.
Before the top of the second ended, Milwaukee started warming up its most lethal weapon, Josh Hader, and after the inning ended, Kershaw walked from the dugout to the Dodgers' bullpen. And the plot thickened. Hader entered to start the third inning. He put up three zeros for the second time in the series.
But it was Taylor -- co-MVP of last year's NLCS -- who at least matched Bellinger's catch in Game 4 with a spectacularly circuitous, lunging, sliding, over-the-shoulder catch of what would have been a game-tying double by Yelich with two outs in the fifth inning, saving L.A. reliever Julio Urias, brought in specifically to retire Yelich.
"At that point in time, I thought the game was tied," said Roberts. "But C.T. gets a great break on the ball, and really a game-saving play."
"That was the catch of the year," said Bellinger, who held the title for three games.
Urias, pitching back to back for the first time in his life, also was pitching the day after the death of his grandmother, revealed to the team in the clubhouse by Enrique Hernandez before the champagne celebration began.
The catch should put Taylor right there with Bellinger and Brooklyn's Al Gionfriddo and Sandy Amoros for the most crucial defensive plays in Dodgers postseason history. Usually soft-spoken and mild-mannered, Taylor made, for him, a scene celebrating.
"You could feel the tension in the stands," he explained. "The stadium was going crazy, Julio facing the MVP and the tying run on second."
That set up the key blow in the sixth after Player Page for Max Muncy and Turner singled and Bellinger beat out a double-play grounder, as Puig hit a three-run blast off Jeremy Jeffress, who called Turner "lucky" after his Game 2-winning homer off Jeffress. Puig was 3-for-4.
"I think [World Series] Game 7 last year prepared us for Game 7 tonight," said catcher Austin Barnes. "If you make it bigger than it is, it works against you. I think we learned that last year. We executed."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Machado, who felt Chacin was quick-pitching him, effortlessly dropped a ridiculously perfect bunt single on a 3-2 pitch, which hadn't been done by anybody in any big league game since 2014. It silenced a crowd that had been raucously booing Machado and maybe it rattled Chacin, who served up the go-ahead home run to the next batter, Bellinger.
• Machado has last laugh at Miller with 1st WS
Puig is the third Cuban player to homer in a Game 7, joining Tony Perez (1975 World Series) and Bert Campaneris ('73 World Series).
• Puig celebrated his HR with a crazy celebration
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
If Bellinger doesn't beat out the double-play grounder with one out in the sixth inning, Puig doesn't come up to slug the three-run homer. Statcast™ timed Bellinger's sprint speed from home to first at 30.5 feet per second (30.0 is considered elite).
HE SAID IT
"Puig was right." -- Barnes, on his teammate's prediction on a World Series return