The Atlanta Braves’ 22-year World Series drought was put to rest Saturday, thanks largely to a player who has been with the organization for less than three months.
The Braves continued to ride Eddie Rosario’s heroics, finishing off the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 4-2 victory at home Saturday in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.
Rosario’s three-run home run in the fourth inning was the difference as the Braves advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1999. Atlanta will travel to Houston for Game 1 of the Fall Classic on Tuesday.
Acquired in a July 30 deal from the Cleveland Indians, Rosario had never played in the National League before the trade and now he is the NLCS MVP, going 14-for-25 against the Dodgers with three home runs.
“I’m at a loss for words to be honest,” Rosario said through an interpreter. “I gave everything I had for the team, for a World Series. I just left it all out there. I’m extremely proud of myself and the team for getting to the World Series.”
Austin Riley had an RBI double, starter Ian Anderson gave up one run on three hits over four innings and left-hander Tyler Matzek (2-0) recorded six key outs as the Braves avenged their defeat to the Dodgers in the NLCS last season.
Rosario’s 14 NLCS hits tied a major league record for hits in a playoff series. He had four hits in Game 2, including a game-ending single, and four in Game 4.
“(The Dodgers) are an amazing team and we knew it was going to be hard but we believed in ourselves and I believed in myself,” Rosario said. “It was hard work but we knew it could be done. They were world champions last year but we weren’t afraid and we got it done.”
Cody Bellinger and AJ Pollock drove in runs for the Dodgers, while starter Walker Buehler (0-2) gave up four runs on seven hits over four innings on just three days of rest. Right-hander Max Scherzer did not start Game 6 for Los Angeles as scheduled because of arm fatigue.
The loss ended the seven-game winning streak in elimination games for the defending-champion Dodgers, going back to last year’s NLCS. Los Angeles now heads into an offseason when players like Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey Seager, Kenley Jansen and Chris Taylor all are free agents.
“It’s still not lost on any of us that we didn’t accomplish our goal,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But for me, I’m giving credit to the Braves because they outplayed us. Plan and simple.”
The Braves jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on back-to-back two-out doubles by Ozzie Albies and Riley.
Anderson held the Dodgers in check until the fourth, when Los Angeles had runners on second and first with one out. Bellinger rolled a two-out RBI single to left-center field to tie the game.
The Braves used another two-out rally to regain the lead in the fourth. Travis d’Arnaud walked, Ehire Adrianza doubled and Rosario sent the seventh pitch of his at-bat against Buehler over the wall and just inside the right-field foul pole for a 4-1 lead.
The Dodgers pulled within 4-2 in the seventh on an RBI double from Pollock. With runners on second and third with nobody out, Matzek came on to strike out Albert Pujols, Steven Souza Jr. and Mookie Betts to end the threat. Matzek added a perfect eighth inning.
“Honestly the job becomes simple at that point: Just get three guys out before they score,” Matzek said on MLB Network afterward, referring to his tall order in the seventh. “I just focused and went ahead and made my next pitch when I could. I stepped off, took a deep breath and said, ‘Alright, let’s go. Best stuff, let’s go.’ “
Closer Will Smith finished off the victory with a perfect ninth inning for his fourth save of the postseason, getting Pollock to ground out to shortstop to end it.
“I’ve been asked how I feel and I really can’t put it into words yet, but I think this is what pure joy is,” said Braves veteran Freddie Freeman, the longest tenured player on the club.