Los Angeles Dodgers

One Swing From Will Smith Keeps Dodgers Alive, LA Beats Braves 7-3 to Force Game 6

Will Smith hit a go-ahead, three-run homer off Atlanta's Will Smith, and the Los Angeles Dodgers rallied to beat the Braves, 7-3, forcing another game in the best-of-seven NLCS.

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The sign read: "HIT IT HERE."

Will Smith obliged.

With his bat in hand and his teammates jumping over the dugout railing and pouring onto the field, Smith ran halfway down the first base line before he finally threw his bat and turned to them in exultation. He had just hit the biggest home run of his young career, and with it, ensured the National League Championship Series would last another day.

He had just given them life.

"I was pumped up," said Smith. "It got the team fired up and that energy bounces off of each other. I let my emotions go and was just enjoying the moment."

The historic home run came in the matchup fans had been clamoring for all series long: Will Smith vs. Will Smith.

After falling behind in the count 0-2, Smith sent a 95 MPH fastball from Smith 404-feet off the sign in left field to force a Game 6 on Saturday afternoon.

The sign in left field where Dodgers' catcher Will Smith's homer against Atlanta's Will Smith landed in the 6th inning in Game 5 of the NLCS at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas on Friday, October 16, 2020.

The Braves still lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, and are one win away from an NL pennant, but a Dodgers win tomorrow can usher in the two greatest words in sports: Game 7.

That's how powerful one swing can be.

Facing elimination for the first time this postseason, and the grueling schedule of no off-days beginning to rear its ugly head, the Dodgers turned to Dustin May in Game 5 against Braves' reliever A.J. Minter.

Atlanta manufactured the first run of the game after Freddie Freeman hit a double off the glove of first baseman Max Muncy. A passed ball moved him to third, and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Travis d'Arnaud.

Minter had never started an MLB game in his four-year career, and had never thrown more than 36 pitches. Nonetheless, with a trip to the World Series on the line, Minter was magnificent, striking out seven of the ten batters he faced. Minter became the first pitcher in MLB postseason history to strike out seven batters in three innings or less.

The Dodgers have relied on the consistency of Mookie Betts and Corey Seager all season long. With their backs to the wall, that was the case again in Game 5, as the MVP candidates were the catalysts for the Dodgers comeback.

With runners on the corners and one out in the third inning, Dansby Swanson hit a sinking fly ball to right field that Betts caught at his shoestrings on the run. Marcell Ozuna tagged from third in what appeared to give the Braves a 3-0 lead.

"It's definitely a tough play," said Betts. "A lot of it is instinctual, but I knew I needed to stay on my feet in order to get a throw off and have a chance at home. I was just doing whatever I could to stay on my feet."

However, the Dodgers challenged the play, and replay review showed that Ozuna left the bag early on the Betts catch. Instead of a run, it was a double-play, and Los Angeles finally found some luck on their side.

That play would prove to be a game-changer.

"Mookie is the straw that stirs us," said Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts. "If you're talking about momentum shifts, that's the play of the year. To get that double play right there, for me, that was the play of the game."

The rally began when Seager put the Dodgers on the board with a leadoff homer off Tyler Matzek to start the next inning. The Dodgers were beginning to get up off the mat.

"I just went up there to try and get a good pitch," said Seager of facing Matzek. "I'm just putting good swings on good pitches right now and everything is clicking."

Before the NLCS began, the Dodgers supposedly had the starting pitching depth to be able to beat the Braves the longer the series went. On paper, Games 3-5 should have been a significant advantage for the Dodgers against an Atlanta team that was forced to start unproven rookies and a bullpen game.

May was supposed to go deep in the game and provide the Dodgers with much-needed length, instead his start was shorter than Minter's forcing the Dodgers to go to their bullpen early and often.

"We've talked about it all year, the strength of the bullpen, and those guys stepped up," said Roberts. "Dustin stepped up for us many times over and it was good to see everyone hold their own tonight."

However, the bullpen was up for the challenge as six relievers combined to throw seven innings allowing just one run. Dodgers' beleaguered closer Kenley Jansen showed flashes of his former All-Star self, striking out the side in the ninth on just 12 pitches.

"That was one of the highlights for us tonight," said Roberts of Jansen. "He closed the game out and that was really good to see."

Seager made lightning strike twice for the Dodgers when he homered for the second time in the game in the top of the seventh inning.

The two-run blast extended the Dodgers lead to 7-2, and provided much-needed insurance runs. It also was a history-making homer, as Seager became the first shortstop in MLB postseason history to have four home runs in a series.

Seager's team-leading 13 RBI are also the most in a postseason series in Dodgers franchise history.

"That's a pretty special accomplishment," said Seager when first told of the records by Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal. "There's been a lot of great players to wear this uniform. To be able to do that is pretty special. It's something you'll think about later. Right now, I need to worry about tomorrow."

There are a handful of plays you can pinpoint in any game that can shift the momentum of a series. The Dodgers had a few of them on Friday, but more importantly they survived.

Game 6 of the best-of-seven NLCS is scheduled for 1:38PM PT.

"It's win or go home. It's that simple," said Seager.

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