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Braves Slam Door on Brewers, Return to Second Straight NLCS

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With the home crowd behind them and facing the nearly impossible task of trying to score off Milwaukee's Josh Hader, the Braves sent to the plate just the man for the job: reigning MVP Freddie Freeman.

Freeman connected on a slider from Hader and sent it over the wall in left-center field, and Atlanta held on to beat the Brewers, 5-4, and advance to the NLCS for the second straight season.

The blast made Freeman the first player in franchise history to hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later of a series-clinching win, per ESPN. That he did so against Hader makes the feat even more astounding.

Hader has been one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the game for some time, and he's particularly untouchable against lefties. During the regular season, left-handed hitters had gone 6-for-45 against Hader with no home runs, one extra-base hit (a double) and 23 strikeouts. For his career, Hader's held lefties to a minuscule .124/.223/.240 slash line, with just seven home runs allowed to 306 batters faced. The only other time a left-handed hitter went deep against Hader's slider was Cody Bellinger on April 21, 2019.

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Freeman blew past all of that with one swing, and it puts Atlanta—who had the fewest wins (88) of any of this year's postseason field—back into the NLCS for the second year in a row. The Braves didn't get above .500 until Aug. 6, and have played the entire second half without star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., who tore his ACL just before the All-Star break.

To close out the Brewers, Atlanta turned to Charlie Morton on three days's rest. Morton held Milwaukee scoreless through three innings before giving up a pair of runs in the fourth. The teams proceeded to score a pair of runs in each subsequent half-inning until the score was tied, 4-4, where it remained until Freeman's blast in the eighth. Closer Will Smith pitched a round a leadoff single to secure his third save of the series.

Since being sept by the Yankees in the 1999 World Series, the Braves have made the postseason in 13 of the next 22 seasons, but haven't won another National League pennant. Atlanta led last year's NLCS, 3-1, before dropping three straight games to the eventual champion Dodgers.

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