When the Dodgers acquired Manny Machado and David Freese, they envisioned a pair of players that would help down the stretch and contribute to a deep playoff run. Both would play a big part Monday to help secure a third straight trip to the NLCS.
Entering the game, Machado was a quiet 1-for-12 at the plate with a two-run homer in Game 2 as the only hit to his name in the series. That all changed when he drove in four runs, none bigger than a three-run homer in the seventh inning to secure a 6-2 win for the Dodgers, eliminating the Braves.
Welcome to Atlanta, where the players play. pic.twitter.com/OM5RCpw757— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 8, 2018
“I’ve been locked in all series,” Machado said. “I mean, obviously the results haven’t shown, but you try to stick with the same approach and not try to change anything. I think you put yourself in bad situations when you try to change, and today I was just able to make hard contact and not miss two balls that were a big key to our win today.”
The Dodgers will now head north to Milwaukee, where the Brewers will be waiting to start the NLCS on Friday.
Freese, no stranger to big postseason moments, entered as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning to take part in his 54th career playoff game. With two outs and two on, these were the type of moments the Dodgers had in mind when they traded for him in the hours before the August 31 trade deadline.
With his team down 2-1 at that point, Freese worked a 3-2 count against reliever Brad Brach. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Freese punched a single into center, just out of reach for the diving Charlie Culberson to score both Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig, giving the Dodgers a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
“You know, David is a guy that we’ve always -- I’ve always admired, and what he’s done in big moments and the way he plays the game,” said manager Dave Roberts. “So to see him on a daily basis and how he interacts with our guys and makes people around him better, he’s really impacted us in a short period of time.
“And now when you’re talking about putting him in a spot in a big moment, you just can bet on the pulse, and he’s obviously come up with some big hits for us in such a short period of time. But obviously this is probably the biggest one, and we’re lucky to have him.”
For the third time in four games, the Dodgers jumped out to an early first-inning lead. After a two-out walk to Max Muncy, Machado smoked a ball down the left field line for a double to bring Muncy home from first. Los Angeles scored four runs in the first inning overall in the NLDS.
“Can’t say enough about him,” Roberts added. “And obviously with Manny and a player of his caliber, there are so many expectations put on him. And we said it from the beginning that it’s going to take all of us to win a championship, and he understands that and for him to put together some at-bats tonight, really quality at-bats, and obviously a game-changing home run.”
“So you look back at this series, his two homers essentially led us to two wins. We have a lot of good players, but I can’t say enough about his focus and preparedness.”
Rich Hill worked in and out of trouble for most of his afternoon after being given a 1-0 lead to work with. The Braves had multiple runners on in four of the five innings against the Dodger left-hander, breaking through in the fourth.
Looking for some runs, Braves’ manager Brian Snitker went to his bench to pinch hit for his starter Mike Foltynewicz. With runners on second and third, catcher Kurt Suzuki lined a base hit to left that would score two runs and give the Braves a 2-1 lead.
Atlanta threatened again in the fifth when Freddie Freeman smashed a ball that ate up Justin Turner at third and Nick Markakis worked a one-out walk. It looked like Hill would get out of the inning when he induced a ground ball off the bat of Johan Camargo but Machado booted it to load the bases.
Roberts had seen enough, summoning veteran right-hander Ryan Madson from the bullpen. Madson did a stellar job of getting the next two batters to pop out in the infield to end the inning.
Madson, Pedro Baez and Caleb Ferguson would come up big for Los Angeles, combining to get eight outs without incident to hand the ball to the back of the bullpen.
The Braves again put two runners on in the eighth with a pair of two-out singles, but Kenta Maeda would get out of it to set the stage for Kenley Jansen to shut the door in the ninth.
Atlanta finished the night going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and 2-for-15 overall in the series.
Clayton Kershaw will take the ball against Milwaukee Friday as the Dodgers and Brewers open the NLCS at Miller Park.
Home Runs: Machado (2)
WP: Ryan Madson (1-0): 2⁄3 IP
LP: Johnny Venters (0-1): 1 2⁄3 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout