ATLANTA — The dulcet cheers of “Eddie” reverberated throughout Truist Park. A sellout crowd of 43,060 fans stood in concert as the symphonic melody meandered like a gusty wind on a cool Georgia night.
In the middle, stood an unlikely hero basking in his moment. A giant smile accompanied his brazen confidence. On Saturday night, Atlanta Braves outfielder Eddie Rosario forever etched his name in club history.
And he did it with one swing.
In the fourth inning, Rosario blasted a massive three-run homer to propel the Braves to the World Series for the first time in 22 years. The Braves vanquished the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 4-2 victory.
“It motivates me to come through in the big moments,” Rosario said of hearing the crowd chant his name.
Rosario was named NLCS MVP for his strong efforts. He also made history in the process by becoming the fifth MLB player to have 14 hits in a single postseason series joining the likes of Albert Pujols and Kevin Youkilis.
He also set a Braves record by eclipsing Javy Lopez’s 26-year mark. The run support was enough for Braves starter Ian Anderson. The young phenom pitched four innings and allowed one run in a bounce back effort.
The Dodgers were caught off-balance against Anderson’s darting changeup. He used it to breeze through the potent lineup. Anderson got Game 5 hero Chris Taylor twice with the devastating pitch. His lone mistake was an RBI single from Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger.
Anderson threw 33 of his 66 pitches as changeups. He generated 20 swings as the average velocity hovered around 88.6 mph. The standout performance confirmed what Braves manager Brian Snitker had professed to local media about needing him once again in the series.
Despite early struggles, the Dodgers were defiant all night. The lineup generated scoring chances, but they couldn’t get the breakthrough inning.
In the seventh inning, the Dodgers had runners on second and third with no outs. Taylor doubled to start the frame and Cody Bellinger earned a walk against Braves reliever Luke Jackson. AJ Pollack proceeded to double to bring home Taylor.
The Dodgers cut the deficit to 4-2. However, they were unable to capitalize further as Snitker went to ace reliever Tyler Matzek.
Matzek proceeded to strikeout three consecutive batters to avoid major disaster. He ignited the crowd once more to a loud ovation.
“What he did was truly special,” Braves reliever A.J. Minter said. “He put the team on his back when we needed the most. That is what it’s all about when it’s the postseason.”
The seventh inning was a microcosm of the Dodgers NLCS journey. The Braves were one step ahead all series. Whenever the Dodgers threw a punch, the Braves found a way to counteract it. It didn’t matter if it was Max Scherzer, Julio Urias or Walker Buehler.
The Braves had an answer.
Buehler pitched four innings and allowed four earned runs. He walked three batters and collected six strikeouts. His biggest mistake was Rosario’s home run and it proved costly in the end.
“We were kind of behind it and fighting an uphill battle this entire series,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I really believe, regardless, we got beat. The Braves played a heck of a series.”
The Dodgers end their 2021 season on a sour note. After 106 wins and a grueling NL West battle with the San Francisco Giants, the defending champions are going home. There will be offseason questions regarding the large payroll and what to do with impending free agents.
For Atlanta, the unlikely journey continues. At the MLB All-Star break, it was hard to find a large group of fans that foresaw a World Series run. The loss of Ronald Acuña Jr., Marcell Ozuna and Mike Soroka didn’t help matters either.
Still, the Braves remained solid and kept fighting. They avenged a heartbreaking collapse in the 2020 NLCS.
“We just kept getting back up and kept hitting punches back,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “I think that is just the collective whole, as a unit, that we have.”
Now, the Houston Astros await as the final test in an improbable season.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Braves oust defending champion Dodgers to reach World Series
Source: Yahoo Sports