Sweet revenge: Atlanta knocks off Los Angeles Dodgers to advance to World Series

·6 min read

Editor’s note: A previous version of this column was edited to remove the team name after it had been originally published. Due to an editing change, the team name was inserted without the author’s knowledge.

Corrections & Clarifications: A previous version of this story included an incorrect dateline. The game took place in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Atlanta is still seething that Major League Baseball stripped the All-Star Game away from their beloved city this summer.

Well, politics or not, there’s absolutely nothing MLB can do to stop Atlanta now.

Atlanta will host the World Series for the first time since 1999.

Atlanta knocked off the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2, winning the National League pennant Saturday night.

It was sweet revenge, Southern style, with a sellout crowd of 43,060 at Truist Park loving every minute.

Atlanta won the National League Championship Series 4 games to 2, and will face the Houston Astros in the World Series beginning Tuesday night (8:09 p.m. ET, FOX) at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Whoever wins the World Series, it promises to be quite the World Series trophy presentation.

Freddie Freeman is all smiles after the Braves beat the Dodgers.
Freddie Freeman is all smiles after the Braves beat the Dodgers.

If it’s Atlanta, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is going to be booed from Cobb County to Savannah for moving the All-Star Game to Denver in protest of Georgia’s voting laws.

And if it’s Houston, Manfred will be booed from Minute Maid Park to the Alamo for exposing the Astros’ cheating scandal, which led to the firing of GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, and national embarrassment.

Who would ever have thought that Atlanta, six games back in June, not over .500 until Aug. 6, and with a starting outfield that wasn’t even in the organization until the last two weeks of July?

Now, after watching everyone in the NL East reach the World Series since their last visit, they are kings of the National League.

This was hardly a fluke. It was simply Atlanta getting hot at the right exact time.

They lost their best player (Ronald Acuna), best pitcher (Mike Soroka), and best slugger (Marcell Ozuna) during the season, made six mid-season trades to stay alive, since have been gone a surreal tear, going 43-22 since Aug. 1, including a 7-3 record in the postseason.

“We've been playing a .630, .640 win-percentage baseball,’’ said first baseman Freddie Freeman, the face of the franchise, who’s a free agent. “So, this isn't anything new to us. We've been a really good team for a really long time, so we've just been playing really good baseball lately.’’

Said Dodgers All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts: “I mean, sometimes it's just teams get hot. I think we could search for answers and this, that, and the other, but sometimes you just don't get hot. That make it's really hard to win like that.’’

Then again, it makes it a whole lot easier to win when you’ve got Eddie Rosario on your team, voted the NLCS Most Valuable Player, after being a one-man Dodger-wrecking crew.

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Rosario, acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline, hit .560 (14-for-25) with three homers and nine RBI, with a franchise-record 14 hits in a postseason series.

There was no bigger hit than Rosario’s three-run homer in the fourth, breaking a 1-1 tie, and sending the crowd into hysteria, with the party starting early in the surrounding Battery.

Dodgers starter Walker Buehler, who had never pitched on short rest in his career, but was now doing it for the second time in nine days with Max Scherzer unable to pitch, opened the fourth with two quick outs. He then walked No. 8 hitter Travis d’Arnaud with Atlanta starter Ian Anderson on-deck. Atlantamanager Brian Snitker decided to gamble. He yanked Anderson and sent up pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza.

It was the move of the series, with Adrianza hitting a double into the right-field corner, fielded clearly by Betts. Third base coach Ron Washington thought about sending d’Arnaud, but with Rosario standing on deck, it was no time to be ultra-aggressive.

It was the matchup of the night.

Rosario swung and missed at a 93-mph cutter. Strike 1.

He fouled of a 93-mph cutter. Strike 2.

He fouled off a 93-mph cutter, took a 96-mph slider, and then fouled off another 92-mph cutter and another 95-mph slider.

The crowd on its feet, screaming, Buehler tried to throw a 94-mph cutter past Rosario.

He turned on it, and sent it deep into the Georgia night, a 3-run homer into the right-field seats.

He skipped, jumped, pumped his fist, and danced across home plate. He entered the dugout, but soon was shoved out, with the crowd demanding a curtain call.

He stepped out of the dugout, someone took off his hat, quickly thrust his right arm into the air, and disappeared.

"It's truly a great moment, not just in my career," said Rosario, "but in my life as well, but I want more. I want to win the World Series.

"It's just amazing how locked in he is," Snitker said. "I mean, I said it doesn't matter what arm they're throwing with he's just so locked in. I don't know that I've ever seen a guy like that for, this has been a long, awhile now that, what he's been doing. It's been something else."

The Dodgers, who won their last seven elimination games, refused to roll over.

They escaped a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth when Blake Treinen struck out Austin Riley, looking at a 99-mph fastball, keeping the game in check.

The Dodgers, who had only three hits the first six innings, came storming back in the seventh off reliever Luke Jackson. It began with a Chris Taylor double, then a Cody Bellinger walk, and an A.J. Pollock run-scoring double.

Snitker immediately yanked Jackson and brought in left-hander Tyler Matzek, who has pitched in all but one game this postseason.

He trotted in from the bullpen, looked around, and there was a runner on third base, a runner on second base, no outs, and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols at the plate.

He struck out Pujols for the first out.

He struck out pinch-hitter Steven Souza for the second out.

And he struck out former American League MVP Mookie Betts for the third out.

He danced off the mound, thrust his arm into the air, and screamed in jubilation, as the crowd wildly celebrated, smelling the pennant.

Matzek came out with another 1-2-3 eighth inning, and one inning later, it was all over.

"What (A.J.) Minter and Matzek did today was just phenomenal," said Snitker. "And Matzek's been doing it the entire series.

"I said I would like to cut that MVP thing up and give him a little piece of it because that guy was just spectacular the whole series."

The Dodgers, who scored two or fewer runs in six of their 12 postseason games, are done for the season.

Atlanta finally, after all of these years, slayed the giant.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Atlanta knocks off Dodgers to advance to the World Series

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