Where there is a Will, there is a Smith.
The Dodgers remain alive in this National League Championship Series in part because their catcher Will Smith staged a huge at-bat against a reliever by the same name Friday night.
The battle of Wills ended with Smith the catcher circling the bases after a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning that helped the Dodgers continue their season with a 7-3 victory over the Braves in Game 5 of the NLCS at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
Smith’s blast, with two outs, gave the Dodgers their first lead of the night before they added on against the Braves’ bullpen.
Saturday’s Game 6 will feature a pitching rematch from the series opener, with Braves ace Max Fried set to face Walker Buehler. The Braves can clinch their first World Series berth since 1999 with a victory. The Dodgers will try to force a Game 7 in their attempt to become the 14th team in MLB postseason history, out of 88, to rebound from a series deficit of at least 3-1.
The Braves led 2-1 in the sixth inning when Max Muncy took six straight pitches and drew a two-out walk against the lefty reliever Smith to put runners on first and second. The catcher Smith then fell behind 1-2 before working the count full and attacking a low fastball, his homer clearing the fence in left center.
Corey Seager blasted two home runs for the Dodgers, setting a franchise postseason series record with four. His 10 RBIs in the series also established a franchise postseason record. Seager’s two-run homer in the seventh extended the Dodgers’ lead to 7-2.
The Dodgers received a huge bullpen effort, with Joe Kelly, Blake Treinen, Pedro Baez, Victor Gonzalez, Brusdar Graterol and Kenley Jansen (who struck out the side in the ninth) combining for seven strong innings after starter Dustin May struggled early.
It was a rebound victory for the Dodgers, who watched ace Clayton Kershaw get jumped in the sixth inning a night earlier in a 10-2 Atlanta victory.
A.J. Minter was extracted from the Braves’ bullpen for his first major league start and couldn’t have fared much better. The left-hander struck out seven over three shutout innings, allowing one hit. It came a day after rookie Bryse Wilson gave Atlanta a pleasant surprise by allowing one run over six innings.
A momentum swing occurred in the span of two batters in the third and fourth innings. Marcell Ozuna appeared to score the Braves’ third run on Dansby Swanson’s fly to right, which Mookie Betts snagged just inches above the grass. But Ozuna’s run was overturned by a replay challenge that determined he had left third base early, hopping off the bag before the ball reached Betts’ glove.
Moments later, Seager led off the top of the fourth with a shot that cleared the center field fence against Tyler Matzek, pulling the Dodgers within 2-1. The homer was the third in the series for Seager, whose fly to center was tracked by Cristian Pache. The rookie leaped at the fence and just missed a circus catch.
May lasted only two innings, in which he allowed two earned runs on three hits with three strikeouts and two walks. The right-hander threw 31 pitches in his final inning, including an 0-2 curveball that Pache slapped for an RBI single to put the Dodgers in a two-run hole.
Freddie Freeman’s double in the first inning led to the Braves taking a 1-0 lead on Travis d’Arnaud’s sacrifice fly. A key play in the inning was catcher Will Smith’s passed ball that allowed Freeman to reach third with one out, before Ozuna walked.