LOS ANGELES — Just when the fading Los Angeles Dodgers were barely visible above the horizon in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, Cody Bellinger pulled them back into view. Three-run homers atone for many sins, and by the time Bellinger’s blast dropped into a sea of fans in right field, eight innings of Dodgers shortcomings were papered over.
Kenley Jansen came in to close out the 6-5 win following the Dodgers’ stunning four-run eighth inning, and with that Los Angeles was back in the series.
Forgotten at that point was Gavin Lux’s misplay in center field that opened the door for Atlanta’s four-run fourth inning. Forgotten was the Dodgers hitting 2 for 20 with runners in scoring position in this series ahead of Bellinger’s at-bat. And forgotten was the fact that the feeble Dodgers’ offense, in falling behind 5-2, had failed to advance a base runner as far as second base from the third through the seventh innings.
On a 1-2 count, Bellinger drove a letter-high 95 mile-per-hour fastball into the Dodger Stadium stands, tying the game. Then Chris Taylor followed with a base hit and stole second base, the Dodgers’ second theft of the game.
The steal would prove crucial, as the next batter, pinch-hitter Matt Beaty, pulled a bouncer to second base. It surely would have been an inning-ending double play. Instead, Taylor, starting from second base, scampered from to third. Mookie Betts followed with a sharp double into the right-center gap that put the Dodgers ahead by 6-5.
Atlanta had been five outs from moving to a three-games-to-none advantage, allowing the team to envision reaching its first World Series since its sweep at the hands of the Yankees in 1999. Dodger Stadium had progressively quieted since Corey Seager’s two-run home run in the first inning.
And that’s how it stayed until suddenly things got real loud — both the Dodgers’ offense and the 51,307 stunned customers as dusk enveloped Chavez Ravine — in the eighth inning.
With the series now at two-games-to-one in Atlanta’s favor, Game 4 will be a long-planned bullpen game for the Braves, while Los Angeles will counter with starter Julio Urias, who was hit hard in a Game 2 relief appearance. Instead of the Dodgers facing elimination, the Dodgers’ thoughts can return to last year’s N.L.C.S. when Atlanta won the first two games before the Dodgers stormed back from a three-games-to-one deficit to advance to the World Series.
Will history repeat itself? Bellinger and the Dodgers got things started in Game 3.