Dodgers top Cubs on Tyler Anderson’s home plate block and Will Smith’s walk-off knock

The Dodgers celebrate after beating the Cubs 4-3 on a 10th-inning, walk-off single by Will Smith, right, on July 8, 2022.
The Dodgers storm the field after beating the Chicago Cubs 4-3 on a 10th-inning, walk-off single by Will Smith, right, on Friday night. L.A. has won five consecutive games.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Most comebacks begin when a runner crosses the plate.

On Friday night, the Dodgers’ late-game rally against the Chicago Cubs was sparked after their pitcher blocked it.

Once down by three runs, the Dodgers completed a 4-3 victory in walk-off fashion in front of 44,158 at Chavez Ravine, winning their fifth consecutive game on Will Smith’s RBI single in the bottom of the 10th.

And if not for Tyler Anderson’s block of home plate roughly an hour earlier, when he absorbed a lowered shoulder from Cubs baserunner Ian Happ in the sixth inning, it might never have happened.


Legendary Dodgers scout Mike Brito, who died Thursday at 87, turned scouting into performance art, standing behind home plate and charting pitches.

July 8, 2022

The Cubs were already leading 1-0 when Happ bounced a two-run double up the left-field line earlier in the sixth, extending the visitors’ lead on a night when the Dodgers’ offense started slowly against right-hander Keegan Thompson.

Two batters later, Happ was standing at third base when Seiya Suzuki hit a chopper back to the mound.

Happ broke for home on contact, but Anderson fielded the ball cleanly to get him caught in a rundown.

After several throws in the pickle drew Smith up the third base line, Anderson found himself covering home plate, receiving a throw from third baseman Justin Turner that left Happ all but certain to be tagged out.

Dodgers pitcher Tyler Anderson tags out the Cubs' Ian Happ at home plate in the sixth inning July 8, 2022.
Dodgers pitcher Tyler Anderson tags out the Cubs’ Ian Happ in a home plate collision during the sixth inning.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Nonetheless, Happ lowered his shoulder and bulldozed into Anderson’s midsection. The pitcher held on for the tag, then angrily shoved Happ away as the Cubs runner tumbled to the ground.

“It seemed like he kind of thought he was out, and I don’t know if it was intentional or not but he just went head and shoulder down as I caught it,” Anderson said. “It was not what I was expecting.”

Tempers briefly flared in both dugouts, but the benches didn’t clear. After the game, neither Anderson nor Dodgers manager Dave Roberts took issue with the play — though both were surprised that Happ decided to initiate contact on what should have been a routine tag.

“I understand it,” Anderson said. “I respect guys that play hard. You want to play hard and get a run there.”

Added Roberts: “I thought he was a little too aggressive, where he knew he was already out. But he was focused on scoring. He plays hard.”

From that point on, however, it was the Dodgers (54-29) who responded.

In the next half-inning, Freddie Freeman doubled and scored on a dropped fly ball from Suzuki in right field to put the Dodgers on the board.

After Anderson completed his three-run, seven-inning start, giving him a 3.15 ERA in a team-high 91 1/3 innings this year, the Dodgers chipped away further on Jake Lamb’s first home run with the club in the seventh.

“You always feel like you’re in it [with this team],” Lamb said. “You always feel like we can win the game.”

The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts and Trea Turner and the Angels’ Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani will start in the MLB All-Star Game on July 19 at Dodger Stadium.

July 8, 2022

In the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers finally got it tied up at 3-3 thanks to a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts that nearly left the ballpark.

Then, in the bottom of the 10th, Smith ended the game with his fifth career walk-off hit.

“I just feel like that was a really good, scrappy team win,” Anderson said.

Dodgers pitcher Tyler Anderson throws during the second inning July 8, 2022.
Dodgers pitcher Tyler Anderson gave up three runs in seven innings. He surrendered five hits, struck out four and walked none.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Just how much Anderson’s collision with Happ motivated the team was up for debate.

Anderson said he felt some adrenaline, evidenced when he threw his hardest pitch of the season, a 94.9-mph fastball, in the next at-bat.

Smith appreciated how the left-hander “stood his ground” in front of the plate.

“You don’t like to see that,” Lamb added. “Sometimes things like that happen. But that’s our teammate, so we obviously have his back.”

Roberts was less willing to draw a connection, acknowledging “it might have fired Tyler up a little bit, but I don’t think there was any bad intent behind it.”

The Dodgers' Jake Lamb rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the seventh inning July 8, 2022.
Jake Lamb rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning — his first homer with the Dodgers.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Purposeful or not, however, a game the Cubs (34-50) had once controlled suddenly shifted.

“It’s one of those that we stole,” Roberts said.

And fittingly, the comeback was completed by Anderson’s battery mate.

After helping guide Evan Phillips through a scoreless top of the 10th, in which the final out came on a crucial picked ball by Freeman at first base, Smith came to the plate with two aboard and no outs after the Cubs walked Freeman to lead off the inning.

Smith fell behind on two quick strikes from Cubs right-hander Rowan Wick but then evened the count at 2-and-2 and fouled off an elevated fastball.

When Wick tried climbing the ladder again, Smith was all over it, shooting the heater into left field as Trea Turner raced home for the winning run.

“There’s been many, many situations where we need a baserunner, need a big hit, and Will comes through,” said Roberts, who doubled down on his recent advocacy for Smith to make the All-Star Game. “Just really love watching him grow into an All-Star player. Hopefully that’s validated this year.”