ATLANTA—When the Los Angeles Dodgers dealt for Manny Machado back in July, they couldn’t have expected a moment like Monday would happen. But they could have predicted it.
Machado, the All-Star shortstop who’d been relatively quiet in the National League Division Series, broke out huge in Game 4, doubling to drive in the Dodgers’ first run and hammering a long seventh-inning home run that iced a 6-2 victory and sent a feisty but still young Braves team to an early playoff exit. Los Angeles now moves on to face Milwaukee in the NLCS, and the Dodgers will bring the terrifying combination of a fully rested bullpen and fully operational offense to the party.
When you’ve got nothing to lose, you can play loose. Early in Game 4, the Braves, facing elimination for the second straight game, were the looser team, putting balls in play, moving runners, forcing the Dodgers into a reactionary pose in a way they hadn’t in Atlanta’s first two losses.
Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz began this game the same way he did Game 1, giving up a run in the first – in this case, Max Muncy crossed the plate on a Machado double that got hung up under the left-field corner padding. But where he collapsed in Game 1, giving up three runs in the second inning, Foltynewicz settled into a far more relaxed mode on Monday afternoon, allowing just two hits against five strikeouts over four innings.
The Braves, meanwhile, played patient ball in the early innings, using the classic get ‘em on-get ‘em over-get ‘em in approach. Atlanta broke through in the fourth, pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki bringing home Tyler Flowers and Johan Camargo to put Atlanta up 2-1. Braves fans hadn’t seen a meaningful October game in five years, and they felt the first familiar flickerings of hope. Could it happen? Could Atlanta force a Game 5? Could this band of come-from-behind overachievers make history?
Nope. The next inning, still up by one, the Braves loaded the bases with one out, and seemed on the verge of putting the Dodgers on the deck. But two weak popouts by Tyler Flowers and Ender Inciarte ended that threat, and you had the sense that for Atlanta, that right there was opportunity lost.
Because here’s the thing with the Dodgers: if you have them on the ropes, you don’t just try to knock them out. You try to bury them in a deep hole, and you cover that hole with cement. Because if they get loose, they’ll do exactly what they did to the Braves immediately after wriggling out of the fifth-inning jam. Los Angeles didn’t get this far just to pucker in the clutch, and after absorbing those jabs, the Dodgers struck back, hard and with finality.
With Kiké Hernandez on base, Yasiel Puig lofted what seemed to be a routine inning-ending fly ball into short right. But both Markakis and Albies took odd angles on the ball, and it dropped in for an unexpected single. Pinch-hitter David Freese, the deadline acquisition and long-ago postseason hero for St. Louis, then rifled a liner right past a diving Charlie Culberson, and just like that, a one-run deficit was a one-run lead.
One inning later, the Dodgers pressed their advantage, putting runners at first and second with no one out and Machado at the plate. Machado worked six pitches out of Chad Sobotka before turning on a four-seamer and sending it 393 feet into the Hank Aaron Terrace in left field.
Put another way: you give the Dodgers an inch, they’ll take your arm off.
From there, it was all over but the strikeouts. Dodgers relievers retired five straight Braves after Machado’s homer, and Kenta Maeda shut down a two-on, two-out eighth inning rally without an Atlanta run crossing the plate. All-Star closer Kenley Janson took the hill in the ninth, shutting down the Braves’ 1-2-3 hitters in order and closing out Atlanta’s season on a meek note.
Los Angeles now heads to its third straight NLCS, where it will face a Milwaukee team riding the hottest of win streaks. The young Braves, meanwhile, have the winter to reflect on how much bigger the game gets when the postseason rolls around. Atlanta may well be the future of the National League. But Los Angeles is the imposing, impressive present. ____ Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
ATLANTA — The odds are still overwhelming in favor of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but at least the Atlanta Braves still have a chance in their National League Division Series.
After the Milwaukee Brewers swept the Colorado Rockies to advance to the NL Championship Series earlier Sunday, the Dodgers had a chance to do the same at SunTrust Park.
The Braves, though, bounced back from two shutouts in Los Angeles to edge the Dodgers 6-5 and force a Game 4 in Atlanta on Monday. If needed, Game 5 would be Wednesday at Los Angeles.
Freddie Freeman hit a tie-breaking homer in the sixth inning after the Braves had let a five-run lead slip away and closer Arodys Vizcaino pulled off an escape act in the ninth inning with three strikeouts to spoil the Dodgers’ sweep hopes.
Only 10 of the previous 80 teams that lost the first two games of a division series have come back to win. The Braves are trying to beat the long odds as the 11th.
“I like our chances,” Freeman said. “Nobody picked us to be here, so why not prove people wrong again. We can do it.”
Right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, who lost the series opener in Los Angeles on Thursday, will get the Game 4 start for the Braves, while the Dodgers will call on left-hander Rich Hill.
Hill, who hasn’t worked since pitching seven scoreless innings at San Francisco last Sunday, won his last five regular-season starts to finish 11-5 and is 5-0 with 1.74 ERA in nine games against the Braves.
Foltynewicz was 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA in the regular-season but lasted just two innings in Game 1 while giving up a lead-off homer by Joc Pederson and a three-run blast by Max Muncy an inning later.
“Fifty pitches. He’s good. That’s just a workout,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Quite honestly, I’d rather start him than have him coming in behind somebody. He’s raring to go and itching to get the ball. It’s still elimination, so we’re going to try and go with the best we got.”
The Dodgers overcame a five-run Braves second inning highlighted by rookie Ronald Acuna Jr.’s grand slam but couldn’t cash in on their chances after Freeman put the Braves back ahead.
The Dodgers have seven homers in the NLDS, but just 10 other hits. Los Angeles, which received nine walks, left nine runners on base, including four in the final two innings.
“The seventh, eighth and ninth, we had our chances,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We couldn’t get that one extra hit.”
Acuna, at age 20, is the youngest major leaguer to hit a bases-loaded homer in the postseason. Mickey Mantle did it at 21 for the New York Yankees in the 1953 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Acuna, who hit 26 homers in the regular season, had a double and single in Game 2 and followed that up impressively on Sunday. He is batting .273 (3-for-11) while Atlanta is hitting .144 in the series.
“He continues to amaze,” Freeman said. ‘He’s been doing it all year and he continued it in the playoffs. He’s pretty incredible, and everybody is starting to get to see it.”
The announcement came after Atlanta’s 6-5 victory Sunday to fend off elimination for at least another day. The Dodgers hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
“We’re going to go with Folty,” Snitker said. “He went two innings, 50 pitches [in Game 1]. He’s good. That’s just a workout. Quite honestly, I’d rather start him than have him coming in behind somebody.”
Foltynewicz started Game 1 of the series in Los Angeles but struggled with his command and departed after just two innings. Foltynewicz allowed four runs, three walks and two homers in the outing, throwing 50 pitches.
However, Foltynewicz was Atlanta’s top starter during the regular season, his best as a major leaguer. He went 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA and 202 strikeouts — all career-best marks. He also pitched in his first All-Star Game.
“He’s raring to go and itching to get the ball, and it’s still elimination,” Snitker said. “So we’re going to try and go with the best we got.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did not announce his Game 4 starter during his postgame news conference, though lefty Rich Hill is expected to get the nod.
If the Braves win Monday, Game 5 will be played in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The winner of the series will advance to the NL Championship Series to face the Milwaukee Brewers, who completed a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.
Milwaukee hit three homers, the pitching staff limited the Rockies to four hits and the Brewers defeated Colorado 6-0 to sweep the Rockies and advance to the NLDS.
While none of the games were blowouts — and Game 1 went to extra innings — the Brewers controlled this series throughout. The only two runs that Colorado scored in the series came in the ninth inning of that first game, and they rarely threatened against the Brewers’ starters or relievers. Milwaukee didn’t exactly light the scoreboard up, either, but they were able to get clutch hits from their usual suspects like Christian Yelich and Mike Moustakas, and some surprising big games from players like Erik Kratz and Orlando Arcia.
One of the biggest surprises for the Brewers came on Sunday; an excellent performance from left-hander Wade Miley. Miley pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings, and he allowed just three hits and walked just one while striking out two. The veteran left-hander was solid over the regular season with a 2.57 ERA over 16 starts, but to get a scoreless effort from him in a postseason game — pitching in the hitting utopia that is Coors Field — was not something you should have expected. The Brewers also got a three-hit day from Kratz a game after his two hit series, and his NLDS average of .625 nearly matched his season OPS of .634.
We say goodbye to the Rockies, and while it ends on a disappointing note, it’s certainly fair to call this a successful season. Colorado won 91 games, and for the first time in, well, ever, a lot of that success has to do with the starting pitching. Kyle Freeland and German Marquez were excellent, Tyler Anderson was solid, and while Jon Gray’s numbers were ugly, the analytics suggest a lot of that was due to poor luck and he’s a prime candidate for a breakout season. There’s still offensive stalwarts like Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story; and David Dahl was among the best hitters in baseball in September. They’ll be back.
But they won’t be advancing to the NLCS, because Milwaukee was the better team. No matter who advances to the NLCS between Atlanta or Los Angeles, the Brewers have an excellent chance of reaching their first ever World Series as a National League club.
Braves Stay Alive With Game 4 Win
We know that Milwaukee is heading to the NLCS. We still aren’t sure who they’re going to play.
That’s because Atlanta was able to hang on to beat the Dodgers on Sunday in a 6-5 game that forced a Game 4, with the Dodgers still holding a 2-1 lead in the series.
This one looked like it might be a blowout after the first two innings. Walker Buehler did not have his best control — or close to it — and he walked pitcher Sean Newcomb with the bases loaded to give the Braves a 1-0 lead. A few pitches later, Ronald Acuna Jr. wallopped a grand slam to make it 5-0, and it looked like the rout might be on.
But, as we’ve seen several times this year, the Dodgers didn’t quit. An RBI single by Justin Turner turned into a two-run hit because of an error by Acuna in the top of the third. Two innings later, Chris Taylor crushed a two-run shot to pull the Dodgers to within a run, and a few batters later, Max Muncy blasted a solo homer to tie the game at 5-5.
It wasn’t tied for long. The next inning, Alex Wood left a change-up right down the middle of the plate, and Freddie Freeman deposited it deep into the seats to give Atlanta their 6-5 lead. The Dodgers were able to get runners on first and second with nobody out off of closer Arodys Vizcaino in the ninth, but Vizcaino struck out the next three hitters to give the Braves a victory and keep them alive in the series.
The Dodgers will start Rich Hill in Game 4, and the Braves are expected to start Julio Teheran in the must-win game, although they could go with Mike Foltynewicz on short rest. Kevin Gausman pitched in relief in the victory, so it’d be a surprise if he was considered for the start.
Quick Hits: Twins 3B Miguel Sano was detained by police in his native Dominican Republic on Sunday after being involved in a traffic incident. According to reports, Sano was asked to stop at a police checkpoint, but instead drove through and injured a police officer … Yankees OF Aaron Hicks (hamstring) said Sunday that he’s ready to return for Game 3 of the ALCS on Monday … Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday that he’s “not expecting any problems” with Jose Altuve’s knee … Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports writes that David Bell “appears to be the biggest focus of the Reds’ manager search and is considered by some the possible favorite for the job.” Cincinnati is also known to have interviewed or plans to interview Hensley Meulens, Charlie Montoyo, Joe Girardi, Brad Ausmus, Billy Hatcher, Pat Kelly and Freddie Benavides … RHP Nathan Eovaldi will start for the Red Sox in ALDS Game 3 versus the Yankees on Monday. Eovaldi had seemingly been in line to start Game 4, but he’ll be moved up to Game 3 after Rick Porcello pitched in relief in Game 1 … Indians manager Terry Francona said Sunday that Yandy Diaz and Brandon Guyer will both be in the lineup versus lefty Dallas Keuchel and the Astros on Monday for ALDS Game 3. Diaz will be the designated hitter, with Edwin Encarnacion covering first base and Yonder Alonso going to the bench … Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Sunday that Mitch Moreland (hamstring) is receiving “aggressive treatment” but his status for ALDS Game 3 remains up in the air. Cora also said that David Price is expected to be available out of the bullpen in the coming days … Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado said after Sunday’s loss to the Brewers that he’s not yet thinking about the offseason or his contract situation.
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. has become the youngest player to hit a grand slam in the postseason.
The 20-year-old Acuna made history with his second-inning homer off Walker Buehler in the NL Division Series on Sunday night.
The previous youngest hitter with a postseason grand slam was Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle, who was 21 when he accomplished the feat against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1953 World Series.
Buehler issued a bases-loaded walk to Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb to force in a run. Acuna took three balls and a questionable called strike before pulling a 98-mph fastball from Buehler into the seats in left-center.
The homer gave the Braves, who trail 2-0 in the series, a 5-0 lead. The five second-inning runs were the first of the series for Atlanta.
BOTTOM OF SECOND: Nick Markakis walked on four pitches. Johan Camargo struck out swinging. Kurt Suzuki struck out swinging. That walk seemed to anger young Buehler, who blew balls past both batters. Ozzie Albies singled to center and took second on Bellinger’s error, Markakis to third. Charlie Culberson was walked intentionally. And then Buehler walks the pitcher, Sean Newcomb, giving the Braves their first run of the series. Wow, Buehler’s command fell apart quickly. He seems over-amped for the playoffs. Acuna hit a grand slam. And this game is spiraling out of control. It is 5-0 Braves. Inciarte grounded to second. But the damage is done. BRAVES 5, DODGERS 0