Marvin A Azrak
Chop on Atlanta! You’re headed to the World Series. An overjoyed Braves squad streamed the field on Saturday night, after Dansby Swanson completed the putout to Freddie Freeman at first base, putting an end to the reigning world-champion Los Angeles Dodgers hopes of repeating with a 4-2 game six victory to wrap up a classic National League championship series. The triumph pits these 88 win Braves against the American League winner 95 win Houston Astros for the 2021 commissioner’s trophy. But first, we must take a look at how they avenged a long Winter, stunned at how these same Dodgers pull off a 3-1 series comeback in the 2020 NLCS themselves.
Game 1: Dodgers 2 Braves 3
Despite having 106 wins to the Braves 88, this NLCS began in Atlanta because the Dodgers entered the playoffs as a “Wild Card” team, and per bracket, rules were the lower seed. Yet, it seemed like LA would promptly steal home-field advantage when Will Smith went deep off of Max Fried to give them a 2-1 lead in the fourth, but a bomb from Austin Riley in the bottom half, evened the score once again. Fried went six innings of two-run ball, matching the Dodgers “opener” plan, before it truly became a battle of the bullpens. In the top of the ninth, Chris Taylor was caught in a rundown between second and third on a Cody Belinger hit that ended the threat and set Atlanta up with a chance to walk it off to begin the series. Blake Treinin entered in an effort to send the game to extras, but a one out single by Ozzie Albies, and a stolen base set the table for a red-hot Austin Riley. Riley who had hit a solo shot earlier to tie the game, won it with a single to left field, setting off a celebration in “Choptown”, giving the Braves the first tally in this series.
GAME 2: DODGERS 4 BRAVES 5
Once again, Atlanta used its trademark “Bravery”, and stunned the Dodgers 5-4 in walk-off fashion yet again to hold serve and take a 2-0 series lead to Los Angeles for the second portion of this NLCS. It didn’t look that way early on, as a Corey Seager first inning two run blast had LA on top, but a game-tying shot by Joc “Joctober” Pederson tied the score, before Atlanta eventually knocked out Max Scherzer after 4.1 innings due to a “dead arm”. In. The seventh, Chris Taylor continued his reign over this Dodgers playoff run, with a bases loaded two out RBI double, putting the Dodgers 4-2, and after a Blake Treinin scoreless seventh, it seemed as if LA would nail down the split.
But facing Julio Urias in the eighth, Eddie Rosario singled, then risked tagging up on a Freddie Freeman fly ball to left, and slid in safely. That set up Ozzie Albies, who lined a single to right, putting third base coach Ron Washington in “Aggressive” mode, and he sent Rosario who unbelievably slid around the Will Smith tag attempt to get Atlanta within a run. With the crowd in full “Chop mode”, game one hero Austin Riley tomahawked a ball over AJ Pollock’s head, to tie the game headed into the ninth, where lightning struck twice. Eddie Rosario lined Kelley Jansens first pitch up the middle, that got under the glove of Corey Seager to score the game-winning run, and double Atlanta’s series lead.
GAME 3: BRAVES 5 DODGERS 6
Down 5-2 with one out in the eighth, it seemed as if a 3-0 series deficit was inventible. But Cody Belinger went deep for a game-tying three run HR, and few batters later, Mookie Betts doubled home the go-ahead run, as LA cut the Braves lead and seized momentum for a day in the NLCS.
GAME 4: BRAVES 9 DODGERS 2
Eddie Rosario went deep twice with four RBI’s, and Adam Duvall and Freddie Freeman went deep, as Atlanta pummeled Julio Urias for five run in five innings, won a bullpen game on their side, and saw a four-homer night put them within 27 outs of a World Series berth, after a 9-2 rout in game four against the world champions at Dodger Stadium. We found once again ourselves at 5-2 in the eighth, but Tyler Matzek who’s pitched in all eight Braves playoff games, worked a scoreless frame, before a Freddie Freeman RBI double, and a three-run HR by Rosario put the exclamation point on things. The hope for LA, is they can turn the clock back to last year’s NLCS in Texas, when they trailed 3-1 to these Braves, before winning the series, and a couple of weeks later, the title.
GAME 5: BRAVES 2 DODGERS 11
Chris Taylor channeled his inner Reggie Jackson, going deep thrice with six RBI’s, while AJ Pollock went deep twice with four RBI’s himself, as the Dodgers pounded the Braves in hopes of starting a second straight 3-1 comeback against these Braves in the NLCS.
GAME 6: DODGERS 2 BRAVES 4
Eddie Rosario took Walker Buhler deep in the fourth for a tie-breaking three-run blast that ignited Braves county for the rest of the evening, as Atlanta advanced to their first Fall Classic since 1999. Ian Anderson went four innings of one run ball to set the tone for the Braves, before AJ Minter went two to preserve the 4-1 lead given to them by Rosario’s latest moment of glory. In the seventh, Luke Jackson looked like a deer in headlights, allowing a Chris Taylor double, a Cody Belinger walk, and an AJ Pollock RBI double put the Dodgers within striking distance, as they had men on second and third with nobody out, only trailing by two runs. But Tyler Matzek had his own story to tell, entering for the tenth time already these playoffs, he made every relievers fantasy a reality, by striking out the side, before pitching a perfect eighth inning, carving his own postseason lore, and setting up the ninth inning, where closer Will Smith put the finishing touches on redemption for a franchise that was the but hurt of playoff chokes for the last 12 months. During the ceremony at Truist Park, Eddie Rosario was presented with the NLCS MVP, after becoming just the fifth player in MLB history to have 14+ hits in the playoffs, and will have a chance to add to his legend, come the World Series on Tuesday. This also represented a true Herculean effort for a team that lost franchise star Ronal Acuna JR, ace Mike Soroka, and free-agent stars Marcel Ozuna, and Jorge Solar to season-ending injuries, and were 50-53 on the morning of July 29th, but luckily only six games back of the NL “Least” title. They then went out, acquired Rosario from Cleveland, Joc Pederson from the Cubs, Adam Duvall from Cincinnati, and reliever Richard Rodriguez from Pittsburg, with the aforementioned top two having an instrumental impact on an 88 win team that not only made it to the dance, but upended the 95 win Brewers, and upstaged the 106 win reigning world champion Dodgers, to advance to the World Series.
As for LA, they were simply outplayed, and as Walker Buhler put it “We did all we could”. This was a Dodgers team that were exasperated after their gauntlet with the Giants in the NLDS, and it showed how rundown their pitching was. Max Scherzer was pushed back twice due to a “dead arm” from game five against San Francisco, last years unsung hero Julio Urias was overused both as a starter, and a reliever , and unlike the Braves, injuries to Max Muncy, and Justin Turner came back to bite them. But per Mookie Betts, we see that’s not an excuse as he said all he wanted to do was “Tip my cap to the Braves”, as we all should, with Atlanta “Braving” through adversity, and are partying like it’s 1999.
Game one of the World Series will take place on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston, where former-Stro Charlie Morton will go opposite Framber Valdez for the Astros. Houston enters as heavy favorites, due to their health , and extreme determination to show once and for all, they’re a legitimate dynasty in MLB history. Meanwhile, if Atlanta takes the cake, it will cap one of the most improbable championship runs in recent memory. Yes, even the 2019 Nationals, who overcame a 19-31 start, and took home the title as a Wild Card team didn’t go through the type of mental adversity that Atlanta had to go through when they were dealt a big blow in the middle of their gifted playoff chase.
PREDICTION: Astros in 6.
WHO MARV IS ROOTING FOR: Braves(Now America’s team since Houston is the MLB’s villain)
MY WORLD-SERIES PICK WAS… Dodgers vs White Sox, but was changed to Dodgers-Astros at the All-Star break. Never believed the Braves would make it this far until it happened on Saturday night.
WHO NEEDS A TALKING TOO: Without a doubt the New York Mets. They held first place in the NL East for over 100 days, yet cracked and tumbled to a 77-85 finish. Meanwhile, the team who staged them are now representing their league for all the marbles. Steve Cohen needs to wake up this Winter, and fast. That begins with finding a team President who won’t be quiet at the trade deadline unlike Alex Anthopoulous, and a manager who has the demeanor of fighting through adversity like Brian Snitker has done for Atlanta.