ARLINGTON, Texas – The first showdown between players with the same name in postseason history turned out to be remarkably momentous.
Enough, perhaps, to turn the tide in this National League Championship Series, even.
In a battle of Will Smiths that was five games in the making, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ version put together a remarkable at-bat against his Atlanta Braves counterpart, falling into a two-strike hole before clouting a full-count fastball into the left-field seats at Globe Life Field, a critical three-run home run for a club fighting elimination.
Dodgers catcher Will Smith hits a three run home run off of Braves relief pitcher Will Smith in the sixth inning. (Photo: Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports)
It turned a one-run Dodgers deficit into a 4-2 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth in Game 5, with the Braves holding a 3-1 NLCS lead.
Smith, the Dodgers’ second-year catcher, and Smith, in his first year in the Braves bullpen, had met before. The left-hander was the San Francisco Giants closer last season, and he encountered the Dodgers’ then-rookie catcher with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of a 5-4 game on Sept. 7, 2019.
Smith the pitcher prevailed then, striking out his younger counterpart to end the game.
Seemed like a pretty big spot for a trivia question. Then came Friday night.
With both teams committed to bullpen games, Smith figured to come in early, and he was summoned with two outs in the sixth, explicitly to retire lefty slugger Max Muncy.
But Smith threw three consecutive balls to Muncy, battled to a full count before walking Munch, whose bat never left his shoulder.
In simpler times, that might have been it for Smith the pitcher. But the new three-batter minimum mandated the Smith-Smith matchup occur.
Can’t imagine what Act III will bring.
Will Smith vs. Will Smith.
Advantage, Will Smith. 😱 pic.twitter.com/RxjuhY5hek
Will Smith comes out on top against…Will Smith for a 3-run home run, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead.
The matchup was the first pitcher-batter matching name battle in MLB postseason history according to @EliasSportspic.twitter.com/PzIXk3KQnz
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