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Braves Advance to Face Astros in World Series After Beating Dodgers in NLCS Game 6

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIOctober 24, 2021

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

The Atlanta Braves are headed to the World Series for the first time since 1999 after defeating the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Truist Park on Saturday.

Atlanta left fielder Eddie Rosario's two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning gave the Braves a 4-1 lead.

Atlanta Braves @Braves

Say it with us...<br><br>🗣️ EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE!<a href="https://twitter.com/EddieRosario09?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@EddieRosario09</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BattleATL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BattleATL</a> <a href="https://t.co/IeZkuePbss">pic.twitter.com/IeZkuePbss</a>

That score held until the top of the seventh, when a Chris Taylor double, a Cody Bellinger walk and an AJ Pollock double got one run in and put runners on second and third with no one out.

Out went Braves reliever Luke Jackson, and in came Tyler Matzek, who proceeded to strike out Albert Pujols, Steven Souza and Mookie Betts to end the threat.

MLB @MLB

Three HUGE strikeouts from <a href="https://twitter.com/TylerMatzek?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TylerMatzek</a>! 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/zGFTrh1oU1">pic.twitter.com/zGFTrh1oU1</a>

Atlanta Braves @Braves

.<a href="https://twitter.com/TylerMatzek?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TylerMatzek</a> is a baaaaaaad man!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BattleATL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BattleATL</a> <a href="https://t.co/eqZzWMW4Cs">pic.twitter.com/eqZzWMW4Cs</a>

That's as close as the Dodgers got to erasing Atlanta's lead as L.A. didn't get a baserunner on for the remainder of the game.

Dodgers ace Walker Buehler started on three days rest. He was one strike away from getting through four innings while allowing just one run, but Rosario deposited his 1-2 offering over the outfield fence.

Atlanta third baseman Austin Riley opened the scoring with an RBI ground-rule double in the first. L.A. countered with a Bellinger RBI single in the fourth.

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Notable Performances

Atlanta SP Ian Anderson: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

Atlanta LF Eddie Rosario: 2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI

Atlanta 3B Austin Riley: 2-for-5, 2B, RBI

Atlanta RP Tyler Matzek: 2.0 IP, 4 K

Los Angeles SP Walker Buehler: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K

Los Angeles CF Cody Bellinger: 1-for-3, RBI, BB

Los Angeles LF AJ Pollock: 2-for-4, 2 2B, R


Rosario, Matzek Propel Atlanta into World Series

Rosario came into this game scorching hot, and he ended it that way after smacking the game-winning home run to put Atlanta into the World Series for the first time in 22 years.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Eddie Rosario has 14 hits in the NLCS, tied for the most by any player in any series in MLB postseason history. <a href="https://t.co/xsf16UQpkw">pic.twitter.com/xsf16UQpkw</a>

Jayson Stark @jaysonst

Eddie Rosario's last 20 plate appearances:<br><br>Single<br>Single<br>Single<br>Out<br>Walk<br>Out<br>Walk<br>HR<br>Triple<br>Single<br>Out<br>HR<br>Out<br>Single<br>Double<br>Out<br>Single<br>Out<br>HR<br><br>That's 12 for 18, with 2 HR, a triple, a double and 2 BB.<br><br>En fuego

Los Angeles simply had no answer for Rosario, a trade deadline acquisition from Cleveland who has proven to be one of the better midseason pickups in recent memory thanks to his sensational playoff performance.

He had a pair of four-hit outings in Games 2 and 4 (both Atlanta wins), smacking two home runs and driving in four in the latter appearance.

It's been an incredible turnaround for Rosario, as Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic noted:

Aaron Gleeman @AaronGleeman

Eddie Rosario got cut by the Twins, signed a one-year deal with Cleveland only to get salary dumped at midseason after slugging .389 ... and is now probably going to win NLCS MVP.

Rosario has dominated in Atlanta, posting a .903 OPS. He had as many home runs (seven) in 33 games for the Braves than he did in 78 matchups for Cleveland.

He got the job done at the dish, and Matzek took care of the rest.

The left-hander has a penchant for taking care of business himself when Atlanta finds itself in a sticky situation:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Tyler Matzek has 11 strikeouts with RISP this postseason.<br><br>That is tied for the most by a reliever in a single postseason (John Rocker, 1999). <a href="https://t.co/Ct1fXrN2iY">pic.twitter.com/Ct1fXrN2iY</a>

But he did a lot more than just wiggle out of one seemingly impossible jam, dusting off the Dodgers in the eighth as well before Will Smith shut the door with a one-two-three ninth. Jayson Stark of The Athletic recorded his outing:

Jayson Stark @jaysonst

Tyler Matzek was so stoked to be able to pitch another inning, he roared out of the dugout so fast, he beat the infielders onto the field.<br><br>Then he ripped through 2-3-4 in the order in 6 pitches.<br><br>17 pitches, 15 strikes, 4 K's, 2 huge runners stranded.<br><br>A career-defining outing

What Matzek did was nothing short of inspiring, especially considering the obstacles he overcame to get to this point and perform under significant pressure. Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs provided more information amid Matzek's marvelous postseason.

"His performance has been all the more impressive given his backstory, an odyssey that took him from being the Rockies’ first-round pick in 2009 to taking leave from the team six years later due to performance anxiety issues to pitching for an indy-league team called the Texas Airhogs before returning to the majors."

He's struck out 17 batters over 10.1 playoff innings, allowing only two earned runs. Matzek's also appeared in nine playoff games this year, certifying himself as an absolute workhorse in the process.

In sum, Atlanta has enjoyed a tremendous run to the postseason that has seen many different players step up at the right time, but this series is highlighted by Rosario's plate dominance and Matzek's otherwordly mound performance in the bright NLCS spotlight.

      

Disappointing Dodgers Offense's Missed Opportunities Dooms Repeat Bid

The Dodgers' 830 runs led the National League, and their .759 OPS was second as the 106-56 team cruised to a postseason berth.

That offense did not consistently appear in the playoffs, and that's why the Dodgers are heading home early.

At the offense's best, it was carrying the team to victories, like when Chris Taylor smacked three home runs in an 11-2 win over Atlanta in Game 5 of the NLCS. 

At the offense's worst, it was struggling to score any runs. The Dodgers were shut out twice in the NL Division Series against the San Francisco Giants and averaged just 3.2 runs per game in the NLCS outside the Game 5 outburst.

Saturday featured another case of the Dodgers failing to take advantage of their opportunities. The seventh-inning trio of strikeouts will stick with fans (and the organization) for quite some time, but this team had more chances.

A leadoff AJ Pollock double in the third amounted to nothing as Matt Beaty, Buehler and Betts all got out without plating the outfielder, let alone advancing him.

Pollock had a chance to be the hero with runners on the corners and two down in the fourth, but he popped out to Riley at third.

Otherwise, the Dodgers went down in order one-two-three a total of six times on Saturday as the Atlanta pitching staff flummoxed L.A.

Granted, the pitching staff was not at full health.

Max Scherzer could not make the start Saturday as he struggled with a dead arm from his Game 2 outing that limited him to 4.1 innings then. L.A. also didn't have the services of franchise legend Clayton Kershaw, who was out for the playoffs with left forearm and elbow discomfort.

That led to bullpen games and Buehler starting on short rest in Game 6, putting the onus on the lineup to come through. Despite an excellent 2021 season, L.A. did not get it done in October, and now the defending World Series champions are heading home.

     

What's Next?

Atlanta will face the American League champion Houston Astros in the World Series.

Houston will have home-field advantage in the best-of-seven series, and it will host Game 1 from Minute Maid Park next Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

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