Dodgers catcher Will Smith hit a go-ahead, three-run homer off the Atlanta reliever with the same name, Corey Seager homered twice and Los Angeles avoided elimination with a 7-3 win over the Braves in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS) on Friday night.
Trailing 2-1 in Texas, Smith connected in the sixth innings against – of all people – Will Smith, the fourth of six Braves pitchers in their bullpen looking to steer them into the World Series for the first time since 1999.
“It was exciting,” the Dodgers’ Smith said.
“I faced him last year once in the regular season, but that was a big swing for us. It put us ahead, and that was awesome.”
It was the first time since at least 1961 that a batter homered off a pitcher with the same name in the regular season or postseason.
“For him to come through for us in that spot. I’m happy to see him expressing himself,” Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts said of his teammate (Smith) who rarely shows emotion but was clearly pumped up by his big blast.
The Dodgers extended their lead by three more runs in the seventh to put the game beyond reach and reduce the series deficit to 3-2 with Game 6 Saturday.
Earlier in the day in San Diego, the Houston Astros beat the Tampa Bay Rays for the third straight game to force a deciding Game 7 in the American League Championship Series (ALCS).
The Astros are now one win away from joining the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the only teams to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series.
If they pull it off there is also the small matter of reaching their third World Series in four seasons.
Houston are also trying to become the first team to win a pennant with a losing regular-season record (29-31).
“We’ve gotta bounce back,” Rays coach Kevin Cash said.
“This isn’t the scenario we wanted (after we were) up 3-0.
“We’re gonna show up tomorrow and do everything we can, like we always do, to find a way to win and pick each other up.”