The Dodgers came into Game 4 trailing in the best of seven series, two games to one, but were probably feeling like they were down by much more than that. Their starting pitchers had left much to be desired, and the offense gone missing in action. Despite being at home, that hasn’t helped much, as following the Dodgers’ Game 3 loss, Enrique Hernandez took to calling out the fans for not cheering energetically enough, and Yasmani Grandal was subject to what he probably felt was too-energetic jeering from the home crowd.
Manager Dave Roberts shook up his lineup (slightly), giving Brian Dozier his first start of the NLCS, and substituting Austin Barnes for butter-fingered Grandal. Cody Bellinger also received a benching. With his 1 for 21 record at the plate, he forced Roberts’ hand.
Rich Hill took the mound with the Dodgers’ hopes placed in his hippity-hop motion. He did not disappoint. Hill gave up one run over a solid five innings. He allowed three hits with three walks, and struck out five. When he was pulled with the game tied in the fifth, he was not a happy camper. Hill raged in the dugout, slamming a bucket of snacks on the benchback.
The Dodgers both helped and shot themselves in the foot early in the game. They’d been preaching the necessity of scoring early, and finally made it happen in the bottom of the first when Dozier brought lead off hitter, Chris Taylor, home with a single. Alas, that was the only run they would plate, leaving David Freese out to dry, and he was just the first of the usual parade of baserunners the Dodgers would leave on the base paths as the game wore on.
The Dodgers received a gift from Blue Heaven in the second, finding themselves with the bases loaded, but Dave Roberts decided to play matchups, and it came back to bite the team hard. Brewers starter Gio Gonzalez was surrounded by crocodiles with David Freese due up. Roberts then made the idiotic move of removing postseason clutch hitter (and Brewer killer) Freese, and inserting Max Muncy as a pinch hitter. Muncy struck out, leaving all three runners on base, Gio escaped the threat, the potential of David Freese was wasted (yet again), and the die was cast for the Dodgers to leave runners on base throughout the night.
The game remained tied as both managers opened the doors to their bullpens and ran their horses out one after another. Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth, and when the Dodgers couldn’t score, trotted out again for the top of the tenth. Now in the game, and now in right field, Cody Bellinger made a spectacular sprawling, sliding catch in right CF. It was a beautiful sight, and Cody ended it by sliding across the outfield grass with outstretched arms like a long and lean Dodger airplane. Statcast said Cody covered 63 feet on his sprint to catch up to the ball. Jansen went on to finish the inning without giving up a run.
A spark of controversy arose in the Dodgers’ half of the tenth when Manny Machado finally ran out an infield single. Trouble was, he dragged his foot and seemed to chop at Brewers’ first baseman, Jesus Aguilar‘s ankle. They got into a barking match and both benches emptied. Added to his funky slides at second base in Game 3, Machado may have cemented himself as a Dodgers villain in the Brewers’ eyes. How that will play out over the rest of the series will be something to watch for.
Julio Urias pitched a brilliant, scoreless 13th inning. In fact, as much as the national TV folks want to tout the Brewers pitching staff, the Dodgers’ staff was more than up to the task tonight. They delivered 13 innings of one-run ball, and combined for 8 scoreless innings after the Brewers only run.
The stage was set for a nail-biting, but ultimately amazing bottom of the 13th.
Max Muncy led off and flied out, finishing his night 1 for 5. Up stepped Machado, and he stroked a sharp single. Brian Dozier popped up for the second out, and Cody Bellinger came to the plate. Junior Guerra uncorked a wild pitch, which stayed dangerously close to his catcher, but Machado, with newly found hustle, took second.
During Bellinger’s at bat, Machado was almost caught off the bag by the second baseman. He snuck up from behind and Machado barely dove back to the base in time to avoid the tag. Then it happened – Bellinger ripped a screamer inside first base, but just past the diving Aguilar! Machado broke for home and all of the remaining Dodgers faithful in the stadium jumped to their seats. We were screaming in my living room for Machado to “Go! Go! Gooooo!” As he rounded third, Dodgers began spilling out of the dugout in anticipation of the play at the plate. Machado arrived at home just ahead of the throw and slid in, slapping his open palm square in the middle of the plate with the winning run!
Dodger Stadium erupted in jumping, screaming fans and players, as Bellinger was chased into left field by his teammates. The man who started the game sitting on the bench as someone who couldn’t produce, was smiling and surrounded by happy teammates, now the Dodger hero at the end.
Man, I love baseball – and this team. The series is now tied at two apiece, and they’ll go at it again tomorrow afternoon, 1pm LA time. Whew! What a game.