MLB playoff updates: Cody Bellinger's game-saving catch has Dodgers on brink of NLCS

Mike Oz

During MLB’s busy league division series, we’ll keep you updated on results, must-see moments and what’s next in each matchup.

NLDS Game 2: Los Angeles Dodgers 6, San Diego Padres 5

What happened? This one had it all. A catch for the ages. A bat throw. A blown kiss. A tense ninth inning. And yet, no matter what the postseason seems to throw at the Los Angeles Dodgers, they remain very hard to beat.

The Dodgers won Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night by the score of 6-5. But it won’t be the score we remember, it will be this catch by Cody Bellinger and the comeback it thwarted.

Even if you’ve already seen it, you probably won’t mind seeing it again.

The Dodgers took an early 4-1 lead in this one, but the Padres chipped away with two homers in the sixth inning off Clayton Kershaw by Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer. Machado’s came with epic bat throw as he tried to pump up his dugout. It worked briefly — until all that energy went into Bellinger’s glove.

Down 4-3 in the seventh, the Padres had a runner on with Fernando Tatis Jr. at the plate. He hit a deep drive to centerfield that Bellinger gave chase to and made the game-changing grab. Perhaps even a series-changing grab.

A two-run homer there puts the Padres ahead and in position to tie the series. Instead, the Padres now have their backs against the wall against this dangerous Dodgers team.

It also gave us a fun interlude in which Dodgers pitcher Brusdar Graterol, after being bailed out by Bellinger, threw his glove and blew a kiss at Machado. It led to some jawing back and forth between a couple teams that clearly don’t like each other. After the catch, the Dodgers pushed across two insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning.

The Padres had some fight left in the ninth, scoring two off Kenley Jansen and sending Dave Roberts to his bullpen again. Joe Kelly came in and walked Tatis. Then with the drama cranked up to the 10, Machado came to the plate against Kelly and worked an eight-pitch walk to load the bases.

Hosmer was next, with the bases loaded and the go-ahead run on second base. But Kelly got him to ground out and preserve the win.

What’s next? This series goes to Game 3 with the Padres needing a win to keep their season alive. They’ll go with 21-year-old lefty Adrián Morejón (2-2, 4.66 ERA), opting to save Chris Paddack for a potential Game 4. The Dodgers haven’t announced a Game 3 starter yet either. Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin or even Dustin May could get the nod.

First pitch is scheduled for 9:08 p.m. ET Thursday with TV coverage on MLB Network.

You see this? The Bellinger catch is the big highlight from this one, but we’ll give a second-place vote down here to Manny Machado’s emphatic bat throw after his sixth-inning homer.

ALDS Game 3: Tampa Bay Rays 8, New York Yankees 4

What happened? Randy Arozarena happened.

The Tampa Bay Rays rookie outfielder continued his breakout postseason, collecting three hits and launching another home run to pace an 8-4 victory against the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

With the win, Tampa Bay now leads the series 2-1. A win in Game 4 on Thursday would secure the Rays’ second trip to the ALCS in franchise history.

Arozarena, 25, has been the best story of the postseason so far. He entered the playoffs with just 99 career plate appearances, but has quickly become the centerpiece of the Rays lineup thanks to his production. He’s homered in all three games of the ALDS against New York and is hitting .667 overall during the postseason.

He wasn’t alone though in Game 3. Kevin Kiermaier launched a three-run home run against Yankees’ starter Masahiro Tanaka to give Tampa Bay the lead in the fourth inning. In the sixth, Michael Perez provided insurance with a two-run blast.

On the hill, Charlie Morton did his part to silence New York’s bats. The veteran right-hander allowed one run on four hits over five innings. He struck out six.

Yankees’ designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton connected for a two-run home run in the eighth — his fifth home run of the postseason. He’s three homers away from tying the single season record for postseason home runs.

What’s next? After winning just two of 10 games against the Rays during the regular season, the Yankees will have to win two straight to advance to their second straight ALCS.

Manager Aaron Boone has already announced that Jordan Montgomery will draw the start. The 27-year-old left-hander has not yet appeared during the 2020 postseason. During the regular season, he posted a 5.11 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 44 innings. Game 2 opener Deivi Garcia will also be available for long relief duties.

The Rays have not yet announced a starting pitcher.

First pitch on Thursday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET. The game will be shown on TBS.

You see this? Not only is Randy Arozarena hitting home runs…

… he’s making Rays’ history.

ALDS Game 3: Oakland A’s 9, Houston Astros 7

What happened? The resilient Oakland A's lived to fight another day, defeating the Houston Astros 9-7 in Game 3 of the American League Division Series to force a Game 4 on Thursday.

In a game that quickly developed into a slugfest, the A's used some small ball to gain the final edge. Sean Murphy and Ramon Laureano came through with consecutive sacrifice flies in the eighth inning to break the tie. Closer Liam Hendriks made sure the lead held up, pitching three scoreless innings to secure the season-saving win.

Overall, the teams combined for seven home runs. Five of those were hit by Oakland. The most important of which was Chad Pinder's game-tying three-run blast in the seventh inning.

Oakland was forced to rally late after the Astros took the lead with a five-run fifth inning. Designated hitter Aledmys Diaz ignited the rally with a game-tying two-run home run against A's starter Jesus Luzardo. Houston would send another eight batters to the plate, producing three runs on RBI hits by Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.

Houston also got a first-inning solo home run from Jose Altuve. After going hitless in the wild-card series, Altuve is 5-for-13 in the ALDS.

On the hill, manager Dusty Baker turned to Jose Urquidy with Zack Greinke unavailable due to injury. The 25-year-old right-hander couldn't recapture the magic of his 2019 postseason heroics, allowing solo home runs to Tommy La Stella, Matt Olson. Marcus Semien and Mark Canha in 4 1/3 innings of work.

What's next? The Astros will have another chance to clinch their fourth straight ALCS appearance in Game 4 on Thursday afternoon.

As we learned going into Game 3, pitching matchups this deep into the postseason can change quickly. As of now, the A’s are planning to start Frankie Montas in Game 4. The 27-year-old right-hander following a breakout season in 2019 with a rough 2020 campaign, posting a 5.60 ERA over 53 innings. Meanwhile, the Astros are still scrambling with Zack Greinke suddenly unavailable.

First pitch on Thursday is scheduled for 3:35 p.m. ET. The game will be shown on TBS.

You see this? If the A's rally to win the ALDS, this Chad Pinder home run will be viewed as the turning point.

Through three ALDS games, Pinder is 4-for-9 with two homers, a double and five RBIs.

Travis d'Arnaud hit one of two Braves homers to take a 2-0 series lead over the Marlins. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Travis d'Arnaud hit one of two Braves homers to take a 2-0 series lead over the Marlins. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

NLDS Game 2: Atlanta Braves 2, Miami Marlins 0

What happened? The Braves and Marlins came into Game 2 of the National League Division Series seemingly ready to fight. But only one team had some fight in this one — and it wasn’t the Marlins.

The Braves took a 2-0 series lead on Wednesday with a matching 2-0 win. And now they find themselves one win away from a berth in the NLCS.

Tempers flared in Game 1 after a Ronald Acuña Jr. homer and plunking. Sandy Alcantara, the Marlins Game 1 starter, said after the game he was ready to fight Acuña. Acuña then said on social media the Marlins couldn’t get him out.

None of it materialized. In fact, Acuña had a rough day at the plate with four strikeouts. But the Braves lineup has plenty of other people who can hit the ball over the fence. Dansby Swanson went deep in the second inning and Travis d’Arnaud did the same in the fourth.

That was enough, as the Braves pitching stifled the Marlins offense. Rookie Ian Anderson turned in another scoreless start, lasting 5 ⅔ innings and striking out eight. The Braves bullpen didn’t allow a hit after that to secure the win.

The Braves pitchers have now kept opponents scoreless in three of four games this postseason — something that’s only happened twice before, and not since 1966.

Anderson, again, deserves a huge amount of credit for his postseason performance. The 22-year-old was on the taxi squad until August and was called to the big leagues after a litany of Braves pitching injuries. He threw six scoreless innings and struck out nine in the NL wild-card series against the Reds.

For a team that desperately needed a starting pitching boost, Anderson has been a gift.

What’s next? The Marlins are fighting for their postseason lives in Game 3 and they have their prized 22-year-old future ace Sixto Sanchez heading to the mound. Sanchez debuted in August and had people drooling with his swing-and-miss stuff. He’s now being thrust into the biggest game of his young career.

The Braves counter with Kyle Wright, and the Marlins have to feel like they have a pitching advantage because the Braves rotation goes downhill after Anderson. Wright was 2-4 with a 5.21 ERA in 2020. This will be his first outing of the postseason and first time pitching since Sept. 25.

You see this? The Marlins had a chance to threaten the Braves in the eighth, but Nick Markakis made this great throw for a force-out at second base. Two runners on in the eighth and it could be a different ballgame.

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