Cody Bellinger’s dramatic home run catapulted the Los Angeles Dodgers one step closer to their dream Hollywood ending.
The World Series was set Sunday after the Dodgers 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 created 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. Los Angeles 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.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts reflected on the strange summer marked by the coronavirus pandemic, protests against systemic racism and now a National League 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 Rays were the American League’s best regular season team, 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.
Most of the playoff games have been played at neutral sites, as Major League Baseball hopes “bubbles” will keep players and staffs safe from the coronavirus, which forced teams into a truncated 60-game schedule, far fewer than the normal season of 162 games.
For long-suffering Dodgers 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, championship series MVP Corey Seager and Bellinger, the 2019 National League MVP — can finally script a world title.
The glamorous Dodgers have baseball’s 10th-longest title-less string, a remarkable streak of October failure given their run of eight straight National League West titles.
The Dodgers last hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy in 1988 after a World Series 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 Los Angeles bridesmaids have been close — and unlucky — before, losing the 2017 and 2018 World Series to the Astros and the Boston Red Sox, both later implicated in sign-stealing scandals.