Wednesday, October 20, 2021

2021 NLCS Post-Game 3 Thread: Bellinger, Betts AGAIN Come Up Clutch


In the eighth inning of 2021 NLCS Game 3, the Dodgers' season looked to be over. But battling back from a 6% chance of winning to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat was absolutely amazing, and one of the most incredible Dodger games I have ever attended.

The reports are right on target: I have never heard the Stadium so loud, which was probably more stunning because the Stadium wasn't full. But what made the noise so astonishing was that the deafening roar arose from a quiet (albeit largely still packed) audience with such ferocity, it was like the din of the fighter jets doing the flyover during the pre-game ceremony. ShakaBOOOOOOOM!

The Dodgers started NLCS Game 3 with another two-run Corey Seager HR in the first before an out was registered, just like we did in NLCS Game 2. And once again, the Dodgers gave up the lead later on in the game, despite having a Braves starting pitcher on the ropes and struggling, letting him off the hook with poor ABs and LOBs. When Walker Buehler faltered in the fourth, the Dodgers' offense looked exhausted, striking out and grounding out like old men (including the high-leverage Albert Pujols PH that resulted in a weak strikeout).

But then came the bottom of the eighth, and although Cody Bellinger's three-run HR made the stadium absolutely erupt, and Mookie Betts' double gave the Dodgers the lead--it was a full inning of unlikely events. And it happened SO FAST, like a tsunami. And with ABs that belied how poorly we attacked the Braves pitchers earlier in the game. Will Smith didn't muscle a ball, instead poking it up the right field line for a single. Justin Turner weakly popped out to second, which is a continued concern. But AJ Pollock worked a two-strike single up the middle, setting the stage for Bellinger's heroics.

Bellinger was down 1-2 in that AB, and the first strike was awful (brought to his knees, as the corkscrew was way off) and the second strike wasn't much better (totally mis-timed). So for him to get that home run ball, on a fastball so high up in the strike zone that there was no logical explanation of how this could have possibly been hit for a home run, was insanity. Any normal batter would have whiffed; not to mention, a guy batting .165 all year, who couldn't catch up to fastballs in the entire month of September.

The Braves were stunned. The place was going crazy. Frankly, I was just shocked that we had tied the score at all. But the fun wasn't over just yet. Chris Taylor singled over a leaping Dansby Swanson at short, and then stole second base while Matt Beaty was in his pinch-hitting AB. Beaty grounded to second in what many reports are calling a "sure double-play ball had Taylor been on first"--which is true--but I think Beaty deliberately poked it there to advance the runner in case it was fielded (which it was). I looked at that one as a smart Beaty AB.

And then, Mookie. Mookie, Mookie, Mookie. Mr. Clutch, a two-out double to right fielder Joc Pederson, to take the lead. Talk about ice in the veins.

The Dodgers then loaded the bases to bat all the way around in the order, but Will Smith popped to second to end the threat and fail to add on any insurance runs. Kenley Jansen then came in for the ninth (the inning he is supposed to be able to pitch, by the way), and struck out the 4, 5, and 6 batters in the Braves lineup, including the dangerous Austin Riley and Pederson (batting .364), to win the game.

And as much debated as Dave Roberts' pitching choices were in NLCS Game 2 (even I couldn't understand the use of Urias for the eighth inning, which doomed us), let's take stock that Dave Roberts' crazy pitching choices in NLCS Game 3 kept us in the game. Taking out Buehler when he was losing his cool, and command, in the fourth. Alex Vesia to close ou tthat inning. Pulling Corey Knebel when he got into trouble, allowing only one run to score. Introducing Justin Bruihl to the series at the right time. Calling on Mariachi Joe Kelly to strike out the dangerous Ozzie Albies with two on and two out. Bringing in Evan Phillips for five key outs in the seventh and eight. And then switching to Tony Gonsolin to again thwart Albies (who ended up 1-for-5 but is still batting .308 for the postseason).

My only worry is that we've let Freddie Freeman (3-for-4 with a walk) find his stroke again. But having Austin Riley go 0-for-4 with a walk is an amazing feat for this series.

I will try and post more about the at-game experience later. There was so much more: the mariachi band in the right field bleachers, complete with a cardboard cutout of Joe Kelly (and a hilarious cut to him in the bullpen, mid-game) was hysterical; and it was so fun to have them liven up the crowd during the game. Watching the game while still avoiding alcohol (given my vow to the baseball gods after NLDS Game 3). But for now, all I can say is, I am so glad to have been there. And to have stuck it out to the end (even with the hour-long wait to get out of the parking lot!).

UPDATE: I also found this animation to be hilarious.


QuadSevens said...

Great recap! I've watched the video of Bellinger's HR quite a few times now. This one really lets you hear the crowd erupt, just like you mentioned.