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The Sports Report: Miracle comeback lifts Dodgers over the Padres, 11-9

The crowd cheers as Corey Seager rounds the bases.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers’ pursuit of a ninth straight National League West title appeared to have effectively ended shortly after 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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While Brusdar Graterol imploded on the mound against the dispirited San Diego Padres in the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium, the San Francisco Giants applied the finishing touches on a 1-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks up north.

Graterol faced four batters, surrendered three runs and didn’t record an out before he was yanked to boos. The Dodgers, at that point, trailed by four runs. Fans streamed for the exits. A loss and they would fall to three games behind the first-place Giants with four games left in the regular season — all but sealing their spot in Wednesday’s NL wild-card game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

But the Dodgers didn’t lose Wednesday. They mashed their way back, one booming swat at a time, leaving Dodger Stadium shaking with a thunderous 11-9 comeback victory.

The unlikely rally began with Mookie Betts breathing some life back into his team, launching a solo home run off Daniel Hudson in the seventh inning to trim the deficit to three.

Max Muncy and AJ Pollock then began the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back homers. Two batters later, Cody Bellinger, playing with fractured ribs during his historically dismal season, smashed his first home run since Aug. 11 in his second plate appearance since coming off the injured list Tuesday to tie the score at 9-9.

Corey Seager completed the eighth inning slugfest with a go-ahead line-drive two-run home run over the right-field wall. The shortstop sprinted around the bases in excitement, topping off the Dodgers’ first inning with four home runs since Sept. 5, 2016. Dodger Stadium, silent minutes earlier, was deafening.

“We were just trying to take care of our own business,” Seager said. “That’s a huge morale win for us. We’re still trying to accomplish a goal. We’re still fighting for that and showing that grit and that drive and that will. To come back and win that game is huge for us moving forward.”

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ANGELS

Jack Harris on the Angels: Shohei Ohtani has thrown his last pitch of the 2021 season.

The Angels two-way star will not make another pitching start this year, manager Joe Maddon announced Wednesday before the Angels’ 7-2 win against the Texas Rangers.

Maddon said the decision was mutual between the team and Ohtani, who will continue to serve as the club’s designated hitter over the final four games.

“Just talking with him, he just felt as though it’s the right time to shut it down right now,” Maddon said, adding: “He finished with two really strong outings, and there’s really nothing to gain right now. It’s probably the best thing to have him not pitch. But again, this was a conversation with him.”

LAKERS

Dan Woike on the Lakers: Anthony Davis groaned. Russell Westbrook sighed. The two had just sat down Wednesday, the first practice for the new Lakers team in the books after two-plus hours.

Unlike a season ago, the Lakers are fresh and enthusiastic about the season ahead. They are no longer dragging the weight from an absurdly condensed offseason with the burdens of trying to repeat as NBA champions. They’ve added stars, believe they’ve fixed their shortcomings and enter the preseason with as much firepower as they’ve had during the LeBron James era.

But there might be one problem — they’re going to need to defend people too.

For all of their star power in Frank Vogel’s two-year tenure as the Lakers’ coach, it’s been their defense that’s most directly impacted winning. With the perimeter defense of Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Dennis Schroder scattered around the Eastern Conference, the Lakers are going to need to figure things out.

CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Assane Drame, an employee of the Clippers’ digital content group who was remembered by the team and friends as a creative mind and loyal friend, died Monday in a traffic accident in Los Angeles, according to the team.

Drame was 26. He had lived in Los Angeles since 2019, when he was hired by the Clippers as a video intern. He later became a video assistant within the department, and was known for his work creating video vignettes published on social media.

In a statement, the team said it was mourning a dedicated employee known as more than a videographer.

“He was a hard worker and a gentle soul, passionate about his craft and kind to his colleagues, earning the respect and admiration of players, coaches and staff,” the team said.

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Clippers are fully vaccinated, coach Tyronn Lue says

UCLA FOOTBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: Traveling from his Wisconsin home to watch the son who bears his name play football requires a dreaded pregame routine. On the day before he eases into his Rose Bowl seat, Jon Gaines must endure four restless hours in what he’s dubbed “the chair.”

Two needles are inserted into his left arm, roughly three inches apart. One needle goes into a vein to extract blood and the other into an artery to return it after it’s been cleansed of toxins and excess fluids.

Every time he feels the needle pricks, the father of UCLA center Jon Gaines II falls into an immediate funk.

“It’s like a mini-five-minute depression,” he said, “like, I still can’t believe this is happening.”

The strain can be felt some 2,000 miles away from the family’s suburban Milwaukee home. Jon Gaines II, an emerging force on one of the Pac-12 Conference’s sturdiest offensive lines, constantly thinks about his “Pops.” They speak nearly every other day, the son checking in on the father who sparked his love of Star Wars movies and bestowed more than a name, giving him “my nerdy side.”

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Follow our live blog for all the news leading up to the UCLA-Arizona State game.

SOCCER

Kevin Baxter on soccer: Forwards Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna were left off the 27-man U.S. roster for October’s three CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, but midfielder Weston McKennie made the cut after missing the last two games to suspension.

The U.S., unbeaten at 1-0-2 three games into the 14-game tournament, will play winless Jamaica on Oct. 7 in Austin, Texas., before traveling to Central America to face unbeaten Panama on Oct. 10. The U.S. will close the second round of qualifiers in Columbus, Ohio, against once-beaten Costa Rica on Oct. 13.

Pulisic and Reyna were both injured in this month’s qualifiers, Pulisic twisting an ankle in Honduras and Reyna tweaking a hamstring in El Salvador. Coach Gregg Berhalter said it’s possible, if unlikely, they could join the team for the Costa Rica match.

“I wouldn’t rule them completely out,” Berhalter said. “I’d describe the situation as day to day.

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LAFC misses opportunity to jockey for playoff spot in loss to Timbers

Galaxy lose to Real Salt Lake on Anderson Julio’s goal in stoppage time

SPARKS

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Sparks: Derek Fisher constructed the Sparks’ roster with a vision of versatility and athleticism at the wings. The coach and general manager wanted multiple ballhandlers to create a dynamic offense that could play with pace, attack the rim and stretch the floor with shooters.

He had that roster, he believed, but injuries kept it confined to paper.

Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver, the Sparks’ three most experienced players, missed 52 of 96 games as the Sparks (12-20) missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Rookie Jasmine Walker, who the Sparks traded up to pick at No. 7 overall, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the second game of the season.

When Fisher saw his stars reduced to coaching roles on the sideline and his promising rookie wearing a knee brace, he sometimes thought there was no way his plan could have gone this bad. But more than a week after the Sparks were eliminated from postseason contention on the last shot of the season, Fisher found the silver linings of a disappointing and at times painful season.

“When we look back on it, we’re going to see that it forced us to grow maybe more than it would have had we been healthy,” Fisher said Wednesday. “No matter who it is, no matter who we sign, draft, trade for, bring in, there’s a standard that you just automatically know when you play for the Los Angeles Sparks. If you’re not interested in getting there, don’t come. That’s what we’re trying to build and I think this year, despite not being in postseason play, we were able to establish a lot of those standards and expectations for how things need to be done here.”

JURISPRUDENCE

Nathan Fenno on Klete Keller: Klete Keller, the five-time Olympic swimming medalist from USC, agreed to a plea bargain Wednesday after facing seven federal charges for participating in the U.S. Capitol riot.

During a hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, Keller pleaded guilty to a felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding and will cooperate with prosecutors.

Keller, 39, stood out amid the chaos in the Capitol rotunda on Jan. 6, thanks to his 6-foot-6 height, beard and distinctive U.S. Olympic team jacket with “USA” written in large letters on the back.

In a statement of offense signed earlier this month, Keller admitted to “trying to obstruct, influence, and impede” Congress certifying the electoral college votes and, afterward, discarding the Team USA jacket.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1916 — The Boston Braves snap the 26-game winning streak of the New York Giants with an 8-3 victory in the second game of a doubleheader.

1927 — Babe Ruth hits his 60th home run of the season in the eighth inning off Tom Zachary to lead the New York Yankees to a 4-2 victory over the Washington Senators.

1939 — Fordham participates in the world’s first televised American football game. In front of the sport’s first live TV audience, the Rams defeats Waynesburg College, 34-7.

1972 — Roberto Clemente hits a double against New York Mets left-hander Jon Matlack during Pittsburgh’s 5-0 victory at Three Rivers Stadium. The hit is the 3,000th and last for the Pirates’ star, who dies in a plane crash during the offseason.

1984 — The Los Angeles Rams set an NFL record with three safeties in a 33-12 victory over the New York Giants. Two of the safeties are on blocked punts in the end zone.

1992 — George Brett becomes the 18th player to get 3,000 hits in the Kansas City Royals’ 4-0 win over the California Angels.

1995 — Prairie View A&M sets the college football record for consecutive losses with a 64-0 loss to Grambling State. It is the team’s 51st straight defeat, an NCAA record for any level.

2007 — Osi Umenyiora has six of the New York Giants’ NFL record-tying 12 sacks in a 16-3 victory over Philadelphia.

2007 — Detroit scores an NFL-record, 34 points in the fourth quarter of a 37-27 victory over Chicago. The Lions combine with Bears for 48 points — also a league record.

2007 — Brett Favre passes Dan Marino to become the NFL leader in career touchdown passes, throwing Nos. 421 and 422 in Green Bay’s 23-16 victory over Minnesota.

2007 — Germany defeats Brazil 2-0 in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup held in Shanghai, China.

2012 — New England beats Buffalo 52-28 to become the first team since the 1950 New York Giants (48 points) to score at least 45 second-half points in a game in which it trailed at halftime (14-7). The Patriots become the second team in NFL history with a 300-yard passer (Tom Brady, 340 Yards), two 100-yard rushers (Brandon Bolden, 137 and Steven Ridley, 106) and two 100-yard receivers (Wes Welker, 129 and Rob Gronkowski, 104). The only other team to accomplish the feat was the 2008 Packers on December 28.

2015 — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agrees that the NCAA’s use of college athletes’ names, images and likenesses in video games and TV broadcasts violate antitrust laws but strikes down a plan to allow schools to pay players up to $5,000.

2017 — Troy’s defense forces four turnovers and the surging Trojans upset No. 25 LSU 24-21. Troy is the first team from outside the Southeastern Conference to win in LSU’s Death Valley since UAB in 2000.

2017 — Detroit’s Andrew Romine becomes the fifth player in baseball history to play all nine positions in one game, helping the Tigers to a 3-2 win over Minnesota.

2018 — The Ryder Cup is won by Europe 17½-10½ at Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-En-Yvelines, France. The home team secures the victory when Phil Mickelson knocks one in the water at the par-3 16th hole, conceding his match to Francesco Molinari right on the tee box. Molinari becomes the first European player to go 5-0 in the competition since the current format was adapted in 1979. Tiger Woods loses all four of his matches, capped by a 2-and-1 loss to 23-year-old Jon Rahm of Spain, the youngest player in the event.

2018 — Brittney Griner scores 15 points to help the United States beat Australia 73-56 and win the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Roberto Clemente gets his 3,000th hit. Watch and listen 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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