LOS ANGELES — In what may have been the most improbable, implausible, incredible home run hit at Dodger Stadium since Kirk Gibson’s World Series famous shot, Cody Bellinger saved the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season.
The Dodgers, five outs away from being down 3 games to 0 in the National League Championship Series, pulled off a miraculous 6-5 victory Tuesday afternoon after Bellinger’s dramatic eighth-inning homer tied the game, with Mookie Betts driving in the game-winner.
Just like that, the Dodgers are not only alive, but thriving with Atlanta wondering if they can ever win a game at Dodger Stadium.
Atlanta, which has not won a game at Dodger Stadium since June 6, 2018, were cruising with a 5-2 lead when Bellinger stepped to the plate with Luke Jackson on the mound.
The Dodgers, which had not had a runner in scoring position since the second inning, opened the eighth inning with a single by Will Smith. Justin Turner popped to second base for the first out, and A.J. Pollock followed with a single to center.
That brought up Bellinger, who hit a career-low .165 during the regular season. He was down 1-and-2 in the count when Jackson tried to fire a high 96-mph fastball past Bellinger. It was the same pitch that gave Bellinger fits all season.
This time, he swung, connected, and it flew 399 feet into the air, landing in the right-field pavilion just like Gibson’s homer in the 1988 World Series.
Bellinger jumped, spun, did a pirouette, and danced around the bases as the crowd of 51,307 had the stadium shaking.
Jackson never recovered, giving up a single to Chris Taylor, and one batter later, Betts delivered an RBI double, giving the Dodgers a stunning 6-5 lead.
The Dodgers are alive.
Atlanta is shaken.
Atlanta still leads the best-of-seven series 2 games to 1, but it sure didn’t feel that way after the dramatic turn of events.
Atlanta, of course, is used to adversity and perseverance. This is a team that was eight games out of first place in June. They didn’t climb above .500 until early August. They lost their best player, Ronald Acuna, in June. Their best starter, Mike Siroka, never pitched. Their big bat, Marcell Ozuna, was out with a broken hand, and then a domestic violence charge. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud missed two months.
They won just 88 games to capture the NL East, the fewest by any playoff team. They lost their leadoff hitter, Jorge Soler, to COVID-19 at the start of the postseason.
“For a second, you’re like what else can happen to the Atlanta Braves this year,” Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “Seemed like everything that could go wrong had gone wrong, but we kept coming back.’’
Now, they’ll have to come back from the most devastating loss of their season, blowing a 5-2 lead which had the Dodgers on the brink of elimination.
The Dodgers, which led 2-0 in the first inning, looked like they were melting down in the fourth inning. It began with Freeman’s second hit of the game after opening the series by striking out seven consecutive games. Ozzie Albies flied out for the first out when Austin Riley hit a long fly ball to center field. Gavin Lux, a converted infielder, went back to the wall, put his glove up, and watched it carom off for a generously scored double.
Atlanta took full advantage of the blunder. There was a run-scoring single to right fielder by Joc Pederson, the former Dodger. Another run-scoring single to left field by Adam Duvall. A walk by d’Arnaud to load the bases.
It was then shortstop Corey Seager’s turn to boot the ball, with the ball bouncing off his glove as he tried to backhand Dansby Swanson’s single for another run. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker stuck with starter Charlie Morton, who struck out for the second out. And Dodger starter Walker Buehler provided another gift by walking Eddie Rosario, forcing in the fourth and final run of the inning.
Now, all that anyone will ever remember is Atlanta’s meltdown if they don’t reach the World Series.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dodgers, Cody Bellinger rally late to beat Braves in Game 3 of NLCS