Column: Scream, dance and shout, Dodgers fans, for the two sweetest words in all of sports
Mookie Betts screamed it as he danced away from another miracle catch.
Corey Seager bellowed it as he rounded the bases after another bludgeoned homer.
Walker Buehler hissed it as he pumped obscene fastballs across the black.
The two words the Dodgers have been chasing for two desperate days finally came into their grasp on a rollicking Saturday afternoon filled with the sounds of resilience and relief.
“That’s what you live for,” manager Dave Roberts said.
The best two words in sports became the sweetest two words in Los Angeles as the Dodgers completed their climb back from a three-games-to-one deficit by defeating the Atlanta Braves, 3-1, to even the National League Championship Series at three games apiece.
Welcome, Game 7, amazed you’re here. Of course you’re here.
The winner-take-all duel for a spot in the World Series will take place Sunday night and prominently feature rookie Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin, a spent Dodgers bullpen, a second-guessed Roberts, and an organization that has been haunted by October failure throughout the last 31 years.
Still, do you really want to bet against them?
As they showed for a second straight game at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, this relentless crew is weary of ghosts and determined to rewrite history.
They began the day fully charged, Kiké Hernández saying, “I can tell you this is probably my first day game in six years as a Dodger that I’ve seen this much energy before a day game in the clubhouse.”
They ended the day fully connected, hugging and howling and hustling together out of the dugout and into Sunday night.
“We’re not done,” Justin Turner said. “We’ve got a big one Sunday. We’re going to get prepared to come in and fight for every pitch and find a way to win a ballgame.”
The Dodgers never have come back from a three-games-to-one deficit to force a Game 7, much less won such a series, but this team seems different.
Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts makes spectacular leaping catch in the fifth inning of NLCS Game 6 on Saturday.
During the Dodgers’ run of eight division championships, they are just 2-3 in winner-take-all games, including ending last season with a Game 5 loss to the Washington Nationals in the division series, but this team is better.
“Whether that’s swinging the bat or on the mound or defensively . . . you just see it inning after inning, guys taking pride in contributing and helping the team win games in all facets of the game,” Turner said.
Unlike past teams, these Dodgers have Betts. For the second straight game he made a momentum-changing catch, leaping against the wall to rob Marcell Ozuna and stop a fifth-inning rally. Did you see Mookie’s shivering celebratory dance as he ran off the field? Were you doing the same thing in front of your television?
“That’s an unbelievable play by an unbelievable player in a big moment,” Seager said.
Corey Seager and Justin Turner homered, and Dodgers starter Walker Buehler and three relievers shut down the Atlanta Braves in a 3-1 win in Game 6.
This team also has a fully healthy Seager, who fueled the Dodgers’ three-run first inning with another home run. Roar. Yawn. It seems like every time he’s come to the plate in this series, he’s gone deep. He is officially swinging the bat better than any Dodger in postseason history, with a franchise record six playoff homers. Seager’s five home runs and 11 RBIs in the NLCS are league records.
The Dodgers have been waiting for this outburst since injuries derailed him after his rookie of the year season in 2016. They have refused to trade for another shortstop while waiting for him to rediscover himself. Their patience has been rewarded.
“At the end of the day, the personal stats don’t matter if you lose the last game,” Seager said. “Tomorrow is all about coming out and winning a baseball game.”
This team also has a mature Buehler, who clearly has surpassed Clayton Kershaw as the ace, shutting out the Braves over six innings with 98-mph stuff while working out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the second.
In five career crunch-time starts, from Game 163 in 2018 to the World Series, Buehler has an earned-run average of 0.58 with 30 strikeouts and six walks.
And you’re not going to believe what he claimed about staring at the bases loaded before recording two strikeouts and a grounder. Or maybe you will.
“To be honest with you, this sounds very odd, I’ve never felt that calm in a baseball game maybe in my career, especially in a spot like that,” he said.
Calm would not describe Dodgers fans when Roberts pulled Buehler after six innings and 89 pitches, especially as Blake Treinen allowed a run after facing just three hitters. But for once, the bullpen rescued the embattled dugout boss, and you’ll never guess who finished it.
Kenley Jansen, is that really you?
The previous night ended with the sort-of-demoted closer completing a 7-3 Game 5 victory with three outs and a steely stare into the dugout.
“It was, ‘Let’s go,’’’ Jansen said of the look. “That’s the feeling. ‘Let’s go. This series is not over.”’
He finished with three more outs Saturday, saving both the game and perhaps his closer spot for now, and this time his teammates were staring at him.
“That’s the Kenley Jansen I, and all of us in there, we know and love,” Turner said.
Turns out, Jansen got it right. The series is not over. Two more words required.
Plaschke reported from Los Angeles.
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