Braves make first World Series since 1999

Eddie Rosario watches his three-run ninth-inning home run leave the park in game four of the NLCS. Rosario won series MVP on the back of his .560 batting average, which featured three home runs. // Photo courtesy of Wally Skalij Los Angeles Times

It actually happened. The last time the Braves were in the World Series, I was 7 months old and had never knowingly stepped foot in Atlanta. A friend of mine said this team was not the best team we’ve put together. I would say last year’s team was much better, but this team was the right team to make it to the World Series, even if it wasn’t the best we’ve had. The outfield is currently in its third iteration of the year, the pitching rotation is about the same as we thought it would be minus Mike Soroka, but most importantly, the clubhouse cares about each other.

Jorge Soler, one of the Braves’ trade deadline acquisitions, noted that Guillermo Heredia was instrumental in making him feel like part of the team as a fellow Cuban. Even with the dismissal of Ozuna mid-season, the culture within the team didn’t break down. They adapted time and time again, even their celebrations on base evolved to match the natural energy of the team.

Championship ready teams always have to be hot at the right time. Jayson Stark noted that from August onward, the Braves played like a 109 win team. We just beat a 106 win Dodger team in six games, and that included a blowout win, our first in Dodger Stadium since 2018. I would take almost any of their main starters in a heartbeat to add to the Braves lineup or pitching rotation. No game is a cakewalk with them, and we beat them during our bullpen game!

In general, the NLCS was working in the Braves’ favor from the beginning. The Dodgers started with a bullpen game since Scherzer had to close Game 5 of the NLDS. We barely escaped it with a walk-off, and the legend of Eddie Rosario was beginning with his first NLCS hit. Game 2 was another walk-off, beating Scherzer and keeping him from pitching in Los Angeles. Eddie Rosario got the walk-off hit on Kenley Jansen, who would mow down all the Braves he saw in games three to five.

The Los Angeles portion of the series went about as well as one could hope for Atlanta. The Dodgers pulled a fast one from under us on a Cody Bellinger eighth inning homer to tie in Game 3, and a Mookie Betts double to grab the lead going into the ninth. It was Luke Jackson’s first of two disastrous outings, but thankfully only this one cost Atlanta a game. Game 4 became the catalyst game for Eddie Rosario’s ascension into the Braves history books. The 9-2 Braves win saw homers by Freddie Freeman and Adam Duvall and two more by Rosario. In Eddie’s last at-bat, he was only a double away from hitting the second postseason cycle in history, but instead hit a two-run homer to put the game away.

Don’t worry about Game 5. Max Fried had a bad night. We got killed. Yeah people were saying we were about to blow a 3-1 series lead again. But as you probably know, that didn’t happen.

Game 6 was a dream. An absolute dream. The game was close, we had clutch moments, we had near disasters, but we most importantly won. Facing Walker Buehler, Austin Riley brought in a first inning run with a ground-rule double to score Ozzie Albies. Los Angeles finally got through Ian Anderson via a Cody Bellinger single to tie the game at one run apiece in the top of the fourth inning.

The bottom frame was arguably the best inning in Braves history since 1995. With two outs, Travis D’Arnaud walked in a tight at-bat. Anderson’s spot was up next, but even with two outs, Snitker decided to pull Ian and have Ehire Adrianza pinch hit. Adrianza pulled a double down the line, putting runners at second and third for Rosario.

There was no one else on the team I wanted more to be up than Eddie. He was on fire. After going down 0-2, and fouling off a bunch of pitches inside, he yanked a screamer of a line drive that just barely made it over the right field wall. Braves up by three. The Dodgers got one more run before Tyler Matzek came out blazing hot and struck out four of the six batters he faced in relief of Luke Jackson. The NLCS was over. Atlanta was heading to their first World Series since 1999 to face Houston.

Game 1 in Minute Maid Park began literally with a blast. Jorge Soler became the first to hit a home run in the first at bat of the World Series. Framber Valdez, Houston’s starter, got rocked for five earned runs, with the following four runs coming from an Austin Riley double (Albies scored), a Soler fielder’s choice (d’Arnaud scored), and a Duvall two run homer (Rosario scored).

Charlie Morton needed 32 pitches to get through the first inning, but escaped the inning scoreless. In the bottom of the second, a Yuli Gurriel comebacker nailed Morton in the shin, and the ball deflected right to Freeman for an easy out. While in the moment it didn’t look bad, after one batter in the third, Morton was clearly grimacing after striking out Jose Altuve. He came out and it was revealed his fibula was fractured.

Multi-inning appearances by Minter and Matzek held the Astros to a run apiece, which included Minter’s longest career outing with 43 pitches. Will Smith closed the game on four batters to give the Braves their first World Series lead since 1996.

Game 2 was a role reversal for both sides. Houston broke the game open in the second inning on four straight ground balls that found their way through the Braves infield, scoring four runs to get their lead to 5-1.

Atlanta had nothing on Houston starter Jose Urquidy, who threw 55 strikes on 74 pitches and faced only one notable hard hit ball that D’Arnaud homered on in the first. The game was Max Fried’s second straight shaky start, and the second in a row Atlanta lost that he started.

Game 3 is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 29, but rain is in the forecast, so it’s unclear whether the game will go on as scheduled. Atlanta gets to host Games 3 through 5.