LOS ANGELES — Just when this NLCS was on the verge of becoming a runaway, the Dodgers awoke Tuesday and forced the Braves to pay for a myriad of missed opportunities.
A majestic Cody Bellinger clout and Mookie Betts go-ahead double later, this series is alive and well — and very much still up for grabs. With their eighth-inning thunder, the Dodgers won 6-5 in Game 3 of the NLCS at Chavez Ravine, stealing one after they were walked-off in successive games in Atlanta.
The defending World Series champions were down to their final five outs, about to fall into the abyss known as a 3-0 series deficit when Bellinger breathed new life into the Dodgers’ season with a three-run homer against Luke Jackson that tied it 5-5, awakening a sellout crowd that had been dormant for several innings. Behind 1-2 in the count, Bellinger crushed a high fastball into the seats in right-center for his first homer this postseason. Then, after Chris Taylor singled and stole second against Jesse Chavez, Betts delivered the knockout punch with a shot into the right-center gap.
The Braves left 10 runners on base in failing to capitalize on opportunities after building a 5-2 lead in the fifth. That was as much as anything was a testament to the Dodgers bullpen — eight relievers were used behind starter Walker Buehler — which surrendered only one run over 5 ²/₃ innings. Kenley Jansen, who allowed walk-off hits in Games 1 and 2, struck out the side in the ninth for the save.
The Dodgers betrayed Buehler defensively during a fourth inning in which the Braves sent 10 batters to the plate and scored four times to take a 4-2 lead. Austin Riley hit a shot to deep center that Gavin Lux should have caught, but the ball hit off his glove for a double, giving the Braves runners on second and third.
Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall followed with an RBI single apiece before Travis d’Arnaud walked to extend the rally. Dansby Swanson followed with a grounder off Seager’s glove for an RBI single. Buehler’s horror show concluded with a four-pitch walk of Eddie Rosario that forced in the fourth run. Lefty reliever Alex Vesia needed only one pitch to escape the inning, retiring Freddie Freeman.
Charlie Morton recovered from an ugly first inning in which he walked four batters and allowed a two-run homer to Corey Seager. The veteran right-hander lasted five innings and surrendered only those two runs, with three hits allowed and six walks.
Duvall’s RBI single in the fifth extended the Braves’ lead to 5-2. Ozzie Albies singled and stole second to begin the rally against Corey Knebel, who recorded only one out in the inning before Phil Bickford was summoned.
Seager’s two-run homer in the first inning gave the Dodgers an early lead, but a huge missed opportunity followed. After Trea Turner and Will Smith were retired, Morton loaded the bases with three straight walks (giving him four in the inning). But Morton retired the eighth batter he faced, Chris Taylor, to complete the 34-pitch inning.
Betts walked leading off the game for the Dodgers and Seager homered on a hanging curve. The blast was Seager’s 13th all time in the postseason, tying him with Justin Turner for the franchise record.