ARLINGTON, Texas — Now, this is a story all about how a game got flipped, turned upside down, and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how Will Smith became the prince (and goat) of Game 5.
In short, it is the Will Smith story.
Not Will Smith the musician and actor. It’s about Will Smith the pitcher and Will Smith the catcher. One threw a pitch on Friday night, and the other blasted it over the fence for a pivotal three-run home run, powering the Dodgers to a 7-3 win in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, to the delight of all the fans in Dodger blue at Globe Life Field.
Corey Seager added two home runs for the Dodgers, but Smith’s homer off Smith turned a deficit into an advantage in the sixth inning — and, like many Will Smith songs, it was a winning hit.
The Smith-vs-Smith showdown was the first time two players with the same name had faced each other in the postseason. William Michael Smith, 31, is a veteran left-hander from Newnan, Ga., and pitches for the Braves. William Dills Smith, 25, is a catcher from Louisville, Ky., in his second year with the Dodgers. His nickname, according to the website Baseball-Reference, is The Fresh Prince, a nod to the Will Smith who played that role in the 1990s hit television show, “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”
“It’s a common enough name,” Will D. Smith said after the game, adding that there was another Will Smith at his high school, too.
But his namesakes were not on his mind when the evening began. The Dodgers came into the game trailing the Braves by three games to one in the best-of-seven series, needing a win to avoid elimination from the playoffs for the eighth straight season. They also trailed, 2-1, in the sixth inning when the Braves brought in Will M. Smith to face Max Muncy with Justin Turner on base and two outs.
Muncy drew a walk, and that set up the second ever at-bat between Will Smith and Will Smith. In their previous meeting last year, Will M. Smith struck out Will D. Smith.
As social media began to flutter over the name coincidence, Will D. Smith fell behind in the count, 0-2. But he drew a full count and then turned on a low fastball clocked at 94 miles per hour, sending it into the stands to left field. And then social media really exploded.
Suddenly, the Dodgers led, 4-2 — a lead they would not relinquish.
“That’s the big moment you need a big hit,” Seager said, “and he got it.”
Dave Roberts, the Dodgers manager, said he had a good feeling when he saw it was going to be Will Smith vs. Will Smith.
“I did,” he said. “I’ll always bet on our Will Smith.”
Smith the catcher is not known to show much emotion on the field, but after hitting the homer he carried his bat about halfway down the first-base line, then yelled and slapped hands with the base coaches as he rounded the bases.
“That intensity, that fire and passion is in there,” Roberts said. “To see it come out is a lot of fun. I know there are going to be bigger hits than that, but that was a big one.”