On to Milwaukee.
Manny Machado hit a three-run homer and David Freese knocked in the go-ahead runs as the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Atlanta Braves, 6-2, in Game 4 of the National League Division Series to advance to the NLCS.
The Dodgers have won seven of their last eight games overall and advance to their third consecutive NL Championship series.
The Dodgers starting pitchers dominated the first two games of the series as Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw pitched back-to-back shutouts before the series shifted to Atlanta on Sunday.
“It was unbelievable,” Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal said of his pitchers in the postgame champagne celebration. “The last time I caught back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs it was against the Cubs. I don’t think anyone expected Ryu to do the job he did.”
Walker Buehler and Rich Hill struggled with their command in the next two games, but it was Machado’s blast, his signature moment so far in a Dodgers uniform, that put the proverbial nail in the Braves coffin.
It was Machado who opened up the scoring with an RBI double in the first inning, and it was Machado again who closed the series with a three-run home run off Chad Sobotka in the top of the seventh.
“It felt great,” Machado said of his three-run homer. “I was fighting that whole at-bat. He finally gave me a pitch I can drive and I was able not to miss it. I’ve been missing my pitches all series.”
It turned out to be quite the day for Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, as three of the players he acquired at the non-waiver and waiver trade deadline all played pivotal roles in the close out game.
“The focus in this group, to go to the NLCS three times in a row is special,” Friedman said as his players sprayed champagne all over him.
Following a two-out, two-run, pinch-hit single for Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the fourth inning that gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead, reliever Ryan Madson entered the game with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fifth.
Madson, who was acquired on Aug. 31 from the Washington Nationals, promptly induced back-to-back pop ups to end the threat.
“You have to eliminate what’s trying to attract your attention: You have the chop, the runners, and you have everything else trying to grab your attention. I know to block it and put the attention on myself and the baseball,” said Madson of the moment. “It was so cool. I just value it so much. More than I ever have in my whole career.”
Half an inning later, it was the player acquired just hours after Madson that put the Dodgers back in front for good, as David Freese, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates at the waiver deadline, also hit a two-out, two-run, pinch-hit single to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead.
“Pinch-hitting might be the toughest thing to do offensively in the game,” Freese said during his postgame press conference. “When you’re feeling right, especially pinch-hitting, especially against the stuff that was coming at me, man, you’re in a good spot, and if you don’t try and do too much, balls can squeak through.”
Appearing on just three days rest after allowing three runs in just two innings in Game 1, Braves’ starter Mike Foltynewicz pitched much better in Game 4, allowing just one run on two hits with four walks and five strikeouts in four innings.
“He probably had one more inning,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of pulling Foltynewicz for a pinch-hitter in the fourth. “I thought Folty can throw great, and if we never get another chance at this in this game, I’ll regret not taking a shot right there to put something on the board.”
Dodgers’ starter Rich Hill didn’t last much longer as the 38-year-old left-hander struggled with his command, and with home plate umpire Tom Hallion’s strike zone, as he allowed two runs on four hits with five walks and three strikeouts in four and 1/3 innings.
“It was a great honor to be able to pitch,” said Hill. “It was a big team win. The bullpen did an incredible job. Guys picked me up. Manny’s home run was huge. Today was kind of a synopsis of the season. Everyone came through and it was awesome to see.”
However, it was Machado’s defining blow that thrust him back into the good graces of Dodger fans across the globe that will forever be remembered from this game.
“I can’t go 100 for 100 every time,” said Machado during the clubhouse celebration. “This was a team effort. Freese came up in a big situation and gave us the lead early on. This is just the beginning of it. We have to keep doing everything as a group and as a team. If we can do that, we’re going to go very far.”
So it’s on to Milwaukee where Los Angeles will face the hottest team in baseball in the Brewers who have won their last 11 contests.
If the regular season was any indicator however, the Dodgers defeated the Brewers in four out of seven games during the year.
“Three games down, four more to go,” said Yasiel Puig between dousing everyone with beer and champagne. “I see you soon Milwaukee. We’re going to get you.”
Game 1 of the NL Championship Series is expected to feature Clayton Kershaw against likely starter Jhoulys Chacin for the Brewers on Friday with the first pitch time yet to be determined.
If you can’t view the embedded videos, click “VIEW THE FULL MOBILE SITE” at the bottom of this page.