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The Sports Report: Dodgers’ comeback falls just short in Game 2

Corey Seager rounds the bases after a three-run home run during the seventh inning.
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: After 16 innings, after a listless loss and after another one was rounding into shape, the Dodgers offense finally swung to life in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday.

The Dodgers had compiled just two hits in the first six innings. The offense they were so confident would not fail them entering the series was failing them again. Then, with Los Angeles trailing 7-0, Corey Seager cracked a three-run home run into the Braves’ bullpen beyond the wall in left-center field in the seventh inning.

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Two innings later, Seager lined an RBI double. Two batters after, with the Dodgers down to their last out, Max Muncy smashed a two-run home run. Next, Will Smith reached on an error against Braves closer Mark Melancon. Then Cody Bellinger lined an RBI triple to cut the deficit to one. Suddenly, the Braves, riding a high just moments earlier, were reeling. The Dodgers, late-game offensive specialists, were poised to overcome their bullpen’s second collapse in 24 hours.

“This team’s got a lot of fight,” Seager said. “We’ve done it all year.”

It was up to AJ Pollock, with the tying run 90 feet away, to keep the game alive – or, wondrously, win it. But he grounded out to conclude the defeat in front of a limited crowd of 10,624 people at Globe Life Park.

The rally was the silver lining to a grim cloud hanging over the team that posted the best regular season record in the majors. The Dodgers face a daunting 0-2 series hole. They’ve lost consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 5 and 6. They’re the only team in baseball that hasn’t endured a three-game losing streak in 2020. That distinction will be put to the test in Game 3 on Wednesday against a club that has opened the postseason on a seven-game winning streak.

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“Just one game at a time,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I know it sounds cliche but that’s the only way to do it and to approach it.”

Tuesday began with the Dodgers announcing Clayton Kershaw, their most reliable pitcher this season, was scratched from his scheduled start because of back spasms.

Roberts said Kershaw first experienced the problem while throwing a bullpen session Saturday. He said the spasms were unrelated to the injury that forced Kershaw to land on the injured list hours before he was slated to start on opening day.

That day, the Dodgers gave the ball to rookie Dustin May. On Tuesday, they turned to another rookie: Tony Gonsolin.

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It was Gonsolin’s first career playoff start and his first appearance of the 2020 postseason. He had last pitched in a game against the Angels on Sept. 26. Roberts said Gonsolin threw four innings in a simulated game last week in addition to occasional bullpen sessions. But Tuesday was his first real action in 17 days.

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Photos from Dodgers’ 8-7 loss to the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of NLCS

Watching the Dodgers from Chavez Ravine parking lot sparked camaraderie among fans

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Dodgers’ pitchers have a need for speed, and Braves hitters feast on fastballs

Dodgers tab left-hander Julio Urías to start Game 3

Did MLB cheat its ticket-buying fans? Nope, judge rules

Braves-Dodgers schedule
The Dodgers will be the home team for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7. All times are Pacific. All game at Arlington, Texas.

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Game 1: Atlanta 5, Dodgers 1

Game 2: Atlanta 8, Dodgers 7

Game 3: Today, 3 p.m., Dodgers (Julio Urías**) vs. Atlanta (Kyle Wright), FS1, AM 570

Game 4: Thursday, 5 p.m., Dodgers (TBD) vs. Atlanta (TBD), Fox and FS1, AM 570

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Game 5*: Friday, 5 p.m. (if ALCS still playing) or 6 p.m. (if ALCS not playing), Dodgers (TBD) vs. Atlanta (TBD), FS1, AM 570

Game 6*: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. (if ALCS still playing) or 4 p.m. (if ALCS not playing), Atlanta (TBD) vs. Dodgers (TBD), FS1, AM 570

Game 7*: Sunday, 5:15 p.m., Atlanta (TBD) vs. Dodgers (TBD), Fox and FS1, AM 570

*-If necessary

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LAKERS

Bill Plaschke on the Lakers: It was a sight more glittering than the gold ball.

It spoke much louder than the droning commissioner.

The true meaning of the Lakers’ 17th NBA championship could be found moments before the trophy ceremony Sunday night, away from the microphones, absent of the pomp.

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As Lakers owner Jeanie Buss was awaiting the presentation from commissioner Adam Silver, she was approached by LeBron James, and they hugged. And hugged. And hugged.

For the longest time, they clutched each other in a whispered celebration symbolizing the entirety of the history that had just been made, two new truths encapsulated in that embrace.

With the title, Buss’ Lakers became the greatest basketball franchise ever.

With the title, James became the greatest basketball player ever.

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It was GOAT embracing GOAT, best connecting with best, a portrait of two pinnacles, a hug for the ages.

“It was just a special moment and I know how special it was for her,” James said. “It was just in the words of, ‘I’m proud to be a Laker.’”

It was a connection of two pieces of newly minted NBA history, and while fans of the Boston Celtics and Michael Jordan will reasonably argue both assertions, they’re not going to win that debate, at least not today. There is no disputing that the Lakers and James triumphed in a season unmatched for its continual wave of adversities, a season that, yes, deserves an asterisk — because it was so damn hard.

As for the arguments, they both deserve periods.

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The Lakers are the greatest, period.

LeBron James is the greatest, period.

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Complete Lakers coverage: Lakers win NBA title

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MLS

Kevin Baxter on MLS: Tori Penso concedes she made one concession to her gender before taking the field to officiate an MLS match in Nashville, Tenn., last month. She took her long blond hair and tucked it into a bun atop her head.

“I don’t want to do anything to stick out,” she said. “When I’m running around right next to the guys on the field, you’re not seeing a ponytail. It’s one less thing that’s a distraction.”

Other than that, the game with D.C. United unfolded much like the hundreds of other soccer games she has refereed since she first hung a whistle around her neck at 14 for her brothers’ youth-league games in Florida. But the fact she made history that day as the first woman to serve as the center referee in an MLS match in more than two decades was a distraction she couldn’t avoid.

“My phone was blowing up,” Penso recalled from Portland, Ore., where she was preparing for Wednesday’s LAFC-Vancouver Whitecaps game, her second MLS game in the center. “I received hundreds of messages, emails, texts. I ended up turning my phone off because it was overwhelming. After the game, when I came into the locker room, tears came down my cheeks.

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“The crew just gave me a big hug. I think everyone realized how important and significant it was.”

Not to mention overdue. Although women have worked MLS games as assistant referees or video-replay officials the last six seasons, a woman hasn’t served as a center referee since Sandra Hunt in 2000. In the meantime, having a woman as the center referee – the official who basically controls the game and enforces the rules – in men’s top-tier games has become commonplace in countries such as Germany, Ukraine, France, Australia and Brazil.

“Twenty years is too long for the USA not to have a woman referee in our top men’s league,” said Kari Seitz, FIFA’s head of refereeing for women and a highly decorated official who worked one MLS game in the center in 1999. “It seems unbelievable that we have fallen so far behind.”

LAFC coach Bob Bradley agrees. He was coaching the Chicago Fire in August 1998 when Hunt became the first female MLS referee and he believes Penso, who has worked men’s games at two levels in the USL, should be recognized for her skills as an official and not by her gender.

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“It should not be news. Talented people in any field deserve opportunities,” he said. “The ability to develop good referees is important to our game. So we welcome new referees when they are given opportunities just like we would with players getting opportunities.”

CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: In the month since the Clippers bowed out of the playoffs, players went silent on social media after coach Doc Rivers’ departure and discussions about the direction of the team’s coaching search have remained mum. Then, before the Lakers and Miami Heat met in Game 5 of the NBA Finals last week, a window into their world emerged on Instagram.

Patrick Beverley, the fiery guard, shared a quote: “Sometimes you gotta watch the confetti fall on somebody else.” The statement’s truth “hit different now,” Beverley added — a nod, presumably, to the sting felt watching L.A.'s other team on the verge of a championship, weeks after the Clippers’ own chances crashed.

As the NBA enters its most uncertain offseason, with the salary cap and start dates for free agency, training camp and the season yet to be set, the Clippers are wrestling with their own questions. Their championship window is not closed. Realizing that lofty ambition, however, will hinge heavily on key decisions taking place over the next several months.

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The first is who will succeed Rivers as coach. The Clippers intended to run a broad search that would consider veteran coaches and up-and-coming assistants and that has been the case so far, with would-be first-time coaches such as Wes Unseld Jr., a Denver Nuggets assistant, and more experienced candidates including Mike Brown and Tyronn Lue, a Clippers assistant who coached Cleveland to the 2016 championship, among those who have spoken with the team, people with knowledge of the situation confirmed. The Clippers are also known to hold interest in speaking with Jeff Van Gundy, the television analyst and former coach in New York and Houston who is close with Lawrence Frank, the team’s president of basketball operations.

From the outset, the Clippers also intended to run their search at their own pace even though the top jobs in Houston, New Orleans and Indiana had opened earlier and could affect the Clippers’ pool of candidates if filled soon. Lue, who is still considered a prime candidate to succeed Rivers, his mentor and close friend, interviewed Monday in Houston, according to reports, and remains a candidate in New Orleans as well.

MLB PLAYOFFS

All times Pacific
AL Championship Series
Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays
all games at San Diego
Tampa Bay is home team in Games 1, 2, 6 and 7

Game 1: Tampa Bay 2, Houston 1
Game 2: Tampa Bay 4, Houston 2
Game 3: Tampa Bay 5, Houston 2
Game 4: Wednesday, 5:30 p.m., TBS
Game 5*: Thursday, 2 p.m., TBS
Game 6*: Friday, 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., TBS
Game 7*: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. or 4 p.m., TBS

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*-if necessary

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

Dodgers vs. Atlanta, 3 p.m., FS1, AM 570

LAFC at Vancouver, 7 p.m., Youtube TV, 710 ESPN

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San Jose at Galaxy, 7:30 p.m.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1945 — The Chicago Cardinals snap the longest losing streak in NFL history at 29 games with a 16-7 victory over the Chicago Bears.

1951 — Detroit’s Jack Christiansen returns two punts for touchdowns, but the Lions still lose, 27-21, to the Los Angeles Rams.

1962 — Houston’s George Blanda throws six touchdown passes to lead the Oilers to a 56-17 rout of the New York Titans.

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1967 — The Los Angeles Kings, led by Brain Kilrea, beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 in their NHL debut. The game is held at Long Beach (Calif.) Arena. Kilrea scores two goals, including the first one in Kings history.

1978 — Darryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets seven assists in a 10-7 victory over the New York Islanders.

1979 — Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky scores his first NHL goal in a 4-4 tie with the Vancouver Canucks. Gretzky beats goaltender Glen Hanlon with the game-tying power-play goal with 1:09 remaining in the third period.

1990 — Joe Montana passes for career highs of 476 yards and six touchdowns and Jerry Rice ties an NFL record with five scoring receptions as the San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons 45-35.

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1991 — New York Rangers right wing Mike Gartner scores his 500th career goal in the first period of a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals.

2005 — Ryan Newman sets a NASCAR record by winning his fifth consecutive Busch Series race, the Charlotte 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

2006 — Mats Sundin scores his 500th career goal, completing a hat trick with a short-handed overtime game-winner and giving Toronto a 5-4 victory over Calgary. The third goal is Sundin’s 15th in overtime — the most in NHL history.

2007 — Tom Brady of New England passes for 388 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in a 48-27 win over previously unbeaten Dallas. The five TDs gives Brady the NFL mark with at least three in each of the first six games of the season.

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2011 — Japan’s Kohei Uchimura becomes the first man to win three titles at the world gymnastics championships in Tokyo. Uchimura finishes with 93.631 points in the men’s all-around, more than three points ahead of Germany’s Philipp Boy.

2012 — Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers sets a career high and ties a franchise record with six touchdown passes, three to Jordy Nelson, and the Packers rout the Houston Texans 42-24. Rodgers completes 24 of 37 passes for 338 yards and ties Matt Flynn’s single-game record for TD passes, set in last year’s regular-season finale against Detroit.

2015 — Sylvia Fowles has 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Minnesota Lynx capture their third WNBA title in five years with a 69-52 victory over the Indiana Fever in Game 5.

2018 — Stephen Gostkowski hit a 28-yard field goal as time expires, and the New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs 43-40 after blowing a big halftime lead. Tom Brady passes for 340 yards and a touchdown and runs for another score in his 200th victory as a starting quarterback, tops in NFL history. With New England leading 24-9 at halftime, Patrick Mahomes directs an impressive rally by Kansas City in the second half. He finishes 23 of 36 for 352 yards in his first loss as a starting quarterback, with three of his four TD passes going to Tyreek Hill.

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And finally

Dodgers stun Phillies with three-run ninth in 1977 NLCS Game 3. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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