Dodgers power past Brewers to return to World Series

The Los Angeles Dodgers have advanced to the World Series. (AFP pic)

MILWAUKEE: The Los Angeles Dodgers booked a return trip to the World Series behind steady power and sturdy pitching on Saturday, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 5-1 in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig hit home runs to back a strong effort from rookie right-hander Walker Buehler and four relievers, sending the Dodgers to the World Series in consecutive years for the first time since 1977-78. Game 1 of the World Series against the Red Sox is set for Tuesday night at Fenway Park in Boston.

Bellinger was recognized as NLCS Most Valuable Player. Though he hit .200 in the series, his home run on Saturday accounted for the go-ahead run, and he had the game-winning hit in the 13th inning of Game 4.

Puig had three of the Dodgers’ 10 hits, none bigger than a three-run home run in the sixth inning that gave Los Angeles a 5-1 lead. Buehler helped set the tone for the pitching staff with a strong start, limiting the Brewers to one run and six hits in four and two-thirds innings while striking out seven.

Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich opened the scoring with one out in the first inning, delighting the sellout crowd of 44,097 by smacking a solo home run to right field. The ball narrowly escaped Puig’s leaping attempt at the wall.

The Dodgers responded in the top of the second, however, as Bellinger hit a two-run homer into the second deck in right to give Los Angeles a 2-1 lead. Shortstop Manny Machado started the rally by bunting down the third base line on a 3-2 count to beat a defensive shift.

Brewers right-hander Jhoulys Chacín worked out of further trouble to end the inning, which proved to be his final action of the game. Craig Counsell pinch-hit for Chacín with two on and two out in the bottom of the second, but Jonathan Schoop grounded out to end the threat.

Chacín (1-1) allowed two runs on three hits in two innings, walking one. A fully rested Josh Hader followed and kept the Brewers afloat by continuing a dominant postseason.

Pitching for the first time since Game 4, Hader struck out four, walked one and allowed one hit in three innings of scoreless relief. The All-Star left-hander fanned 16 of the 35 batters he faced in 10 shutout innings over seven playoff appearances. He allowed five hits and walked one.

Hader entered the on-deck circle to potentially hit in the bottom of the fifth, but was removed for a pinch hitter after Orlando Arcia grounded out to start the inning.

Largely reliable throughout the regular season stretch run and into October, the Brewers’ bullpen stumbled one inning later as Puig lined a three-run home run to left field against Jeremy Jeffress with two outs. Puig pumped his arms exuberantly as he rounded the bases.

Los Angeles’ rally came on the heels of Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor’s dazzling defensive play to end a prime Milwaukee scoring chance in the fifth. With two out and the potential tying run on second base, Yelich drilled an opposite-field line drive to the left-field gap against Julio Urías.

Taylor ranged toward the ball to make a sliding, over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track.

Urías, Ryan Madson, Kenley Jansen, and Clayton Kershaw combined for four and one-third innings of scoreless relief.

The Dodgers stood at 16-26 on May 16 and did not climb over .500 until June 10. They took sole possession of the National League West lead for the first time on July 13 but battled with the Colorado Rockies for the division crown through the end of the regular season.

Los Angeles clinched its sixth successive division title with a home victory against the Rockies in the NL West tiebreaker game.

The Brewers also needed a 163rd regular-season game to outlast the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central title, earning the club’s third postseason berth since moving to the National League in 1998. The Brewers were seeking their first World Series berth since 1982.