Cody Bellinger’s dramatic home run catapulted his Los Angeles Dodgers one step closer to their dream Hollywood ending.
The World Series field was set Sunday after L.A. captured the National League pennant by beating the upstart Atlanta Braves, 4-3, in Arlington, Texas, in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.
Bellinger’s seventh-inning blast broke a 3-3 tie made by Kiké Hernández’s solo home run the previous inning. Their heroics were made possible by teammate Mookie Betts, who made a wall-climbing, homer-robbing catch off a blast hit by Braves slugger Freddie Freeman in the fifth inning.
The Dodgers trailed in the series 2-0 and 3-1 before rallying to keep their dominant 2020 campaign alive. L.A. was baseball’s best team in the regular season, winning 43 of 60 games, an incredible 71.7 percent winning rate, while scoring 136 more runs than their opponents.
“Man, we’re resilient,” Bellinger said. “The Atlanta Braves are an amazing team. It was not an easy series and that was fun right there.”
L.A. manager Dave Roberts reflected on the strange summer marked by the pandemic, protests against systemic racism and now a Dodgers NL pennant.
“I’m just so proud of these guys. It’s been a crazy year, guys away from their families, social injustices,” the emotional manager said. “This year is our year, this is our year!”
The Boys in Blue will meet the analytics-driven Tampa Bay Rays, who won the American League pennant on Saturday by beating the scandal-plagued Houston Astros.
The Rays were the best regular season team of the AL, winning 40 of their 60 games.
Moments after the Dodgers victory, oddsmakers pegged them as 1-2 favorites in the World Series, while the Rays were listed as 9-5 underdogs, international bookmaker William Hill said.
The Dodgers get to stay put in Texas, where the Fall Classic will be played on neutral ground starting Tuesday at Globe Life Field, new home of the Texas Rangers.
Most of the playoff games have been played at neutral sites, as MLB hopes bubbles will keep players and staff safe from the coronavirus pandemic, which forced teams into a truncated 60-game schedule, far less than the normal season of 162 games.
For long-suffering L.A. fans, Sunday night’s victory fueled hope that this Dodgers cast – loaded with bankable leading men like Betts and Clayton Kershaw and young supporting stars like Game 6 winning pitcher Walker Buehler, NLCS MVP Corey Seager and 2019 NL MVP Bellinger – can finally script a world title.
The glamorous Dodgers have baseball’s 10th-longest title-less string, a remarkable streak of October failure given L.A.’s run of eight straight NL West titles.
The Dodgers last hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy in 1988, in a Fall Classic best known for Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in Game 1 against the Oakland A’s and their lights-out closer Dennis Eckersley.
The L.A. bridesmaids have been close – and unlucky – before, losing the 2017 and 2018 World Series to the Astros and Boston Red Sox, both later implicated in sign-stealing scandals.