Baseball / MLB

Dodgers defend NL crown as Red Sox await in World Series

AP

Yasiel Puig and Cody Bellinger flexed their muscles. Chris Taylor flashed some leather.

Then the Los Angeles Dodgers got a lift from ace Clayton Kershaw out of the bullpen to finish off the Milwaukee Brewers and return to the World Series.

Puig broke open a tight game with a three-run homer in the sixth inning, Taylor robbed Christian Yelich with a super catch and the Dodgers took Game 7 of the NL Championship Series with a 5-1 win on Saturday night.

It’s off to Fenway Park for a showdown against the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s going to be a pretty special series,” said Bellinger, chosen as the NLCS MVP.

Los Angeles hasn’t won the World Series since 1988. The Dodgers and Red Sox have met once before in the World Series, back in 1916 with Boston beating Brooklyn behind a big game from pitcher Babe Ruth.

Kenley Jansen tossed 1⅓ scoreless innings before yielding to Kershaw in the ninth. The three-time Cy Young Award winner, pitching on two days of rest after starting Game 5, tossed a perfect inning and finished off the Brewers by striking out Mike Moustakas.

Kershaw’s teammates mobbed the lefty near the mound after the final out, and the celebration was just beginning for manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers.

“I’m so proud of our guys during this roller coaster of a season,” Roberts said.

What a finish for a team that was 10 games under .500 on May 16.

The Dodgers have talked about having unfinished business after losing Game 7 of the World Series last year to the Houston Astros. Now they’ve made baseball’s final series of the year in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1977-78.

The Brewers had their chances against rookie starter Walker Buehler, a 24-year-old right-hander who navigated through trouble over 4⅔ innings. He allowed six hits, including a home run in the first by Yelich that made it 1-0.

Yelich looked like he would get to the Dodgers again in the fifth with Lorenzo Cain on second with two outs. The NL MVP candidate hit a high, hard liner to left that seemed destined to fall in for a double.

Running at full speed to his left, Taylor extended his glove hand high in the air just as the ball settled into the mitt to end the inning.

“I didn’t think he was going to catch it,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s what made it so impressive, just the ground he covered.”

The loss ended a remarkable year for the Brewers. A late surge led by Yelich lifted Milwaukee from 5½ games out of the NL Central lead on Aug. 28 to one win short of the franchise’s second World Series appearance.

“They took us on an amazing journey,” Counsell said about his team. “It was a magical run.”

But with Yelich and first baseman Jesus Aguilar emerging as offensive cornerstones, and a deep well of young pitching in the majors, the Brewers figure to be a team to beat again in the National League in 2019.

They’ll just have to dethrone the Dodgers.