- Manny Machado, the Dodgers' prized trade-deadline acquisition, accounted for four of the Dodgers' six runs in their series-clinching victory over the Braves. L.A. now turns its attention to its third straight NLCS, this time against the Brewers.
The Atlanta Braves just barely managed to stave off elimination in Sunday’s Game 3 but couldn't survive Monday's Game 4. The Los Angeles Dodgers jumped ahead early, with a 1-0 lead in the first inning. The Braves went ahead 2-1 off a pinch-hit single by Kurt Suzuki in the fourth, but couldn’t hold that lead. A Manny Machado three-run shot put L.A. back on top, and that was it. The Dodgers will go on to the NLCS for a third straight year, and the Braves’ season ends here. Here are three thoughts on L.A.’s 6-2 victory:
A Burned-Out Bullpen
The Braves needed seven pitchers to get through Game 3, after yanking starter Sean Newcomb in the third inning. That didn’t leave them with many fresh options for Game 4. Starter Mike Foltynewicz’s performance was fair—just one run on two hits, albeit with four walks. At 64 pitches through four innings, however, he got the hook. Manager Brian Snitker clearly wasn’t interested in trying for long relief, either, as the replacement was Jonny Venters. The 33-year-old, most notable for his many surgical procedures, hadn’t made an outing of two innings or more this year (or, as a matter of fact, since 2012). Venters’ first frame on the mound passed without incident, but the situation got dicey in the second: one single, another, another, and bam, two runs were in and Atlanta’s lead was gone.
Venters was pulled with two outs in the sixth and Atlanta began cycling through its shaky ‘pen. Brad Brach saw one batter and allowed one hit. Max Fried, who’d blown Sunday's save attempt, recorded one out; Chad Sobotka, who’d pitched one inning Sunday, also recorded just one out. (He also allowed one home run, to Manny Machado.) In all, Atlanta again needed to use seven pitchers, three of whom had pitched the day before. The approach had worked in a close Game 3, but the team paid a price for it in Game 4.
Return Of The Freese
In the postseason, land of the small sample size, one moment is all that a player needs to build a reputation. David Freese has that one moment, obviously. But his reputation has been built on so much more than that. Freese has an .868 October OPS, across 11 series in five seasons for three different franchises. That’s a full hundred points, and then some, above his career OPS. Even at his absolute best—in his one All-Star season of 2011—Freese’s regular season performance at the plate didn’t touch what he’s done in the playoffs.
Picked up on the last day of the waiver trade deadline, Freese had a red-hot first month with the Dodgers. His first postseason hit for the franchise came in the sixth inning of Game 4, and it couldn’t have been more crucial. With two runners on—after Atlanta missed an opportunity to turn a double play and then let a ball drop between two men in the outfield—Freese shot a single past a diving Charlie Culberson. Both runners scored, and the Dodgers took a 3-2 lead.
Manny Machado Comes Up Big
Entering Game 4, Manny Machado was 1-for-12 in the series, following a somewhat quiet September—by his standards, at least, with a .799 OPS. Today, though, he was the most crucial part of the offense for the Dodgers. He put the team on the board in the top of the first, hitting a double to bring home Max Muncy; later, he launched a decisive three-run blast to stretch their lead to four in the seventh inning. Down 0-2 to Sobotka, Machado took one ball and fouled off two more to stay alive before sending a fastball deep:
Machado hadn’t necessarily been quiet before. In Game 4, though, he sure was louder than he’d been in some time.