Clutch hits from David Freese and Manny Machado carried the Los Angeles Dodgers to a National League Division Series (NLDS)-clinching 6-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
The Dodgers advance to play the Brewers in the National League Championship Series (NLCS), with game one in Milwaukee on Friday. It is their third straight appearance in the NLCS.
Coming off their World Series loss to the Houston Astros last season, many observers thought the Dodgers were poised to once again play deep into October.
But shortstop Corey Seager suffered a season-ending elbow injury a month into the season, and ace Clayton Kershaw battled injuries throughout the year. In late August, the Dodgers were in third place in the National League West, just a few games above the .500 mark. Yet the Dodgers rebounded to finish the year on a 25-10 run, and have continued their hot play in the postseason.
Manny Machado is getting hot at just the right time
Manny Machado's offensive metrics have been down since the Dodgers landed him in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles. His home run rate and OPS are down, his strikeouts are up. But the slugging shortstop might suddenly have found his Baltimore form. His two-run home run in the first inning of game two gave the Dodgers all the runs they needed in a 3-0 victory. Still, that was Machado's only hit in 12 at-bats coming into game four, when he came alive. He opened the scoring with an RBI double in the first, then added a three-run home run in the seventh inning.
The Dodgers lineup is so deep, they can win even with the numbers Machado put up the last two months of the season (an .825 OPS, 13 home runs in 267 at-bats). But if he starts swinging the bat the way he did with the Orioles, he makes a great lineup that much better.
Oh my, Manny. pic.twitter.com/GJV2sjneDM— MLB (@MLB) October 8, 2018
Dodgers have jewel in David Freese on the bench
The Dodgers' acquisition of Machado before the trade deadline was arguably the biggest MLB deal of 2018. Yet the Dodgers' trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for veteran infielder David Freese right before the deadline flew under the radar. Freese is a few years removed from his phenomenal 2011 postseason, when he was both the NLCS and World Series MVP with the St Louis Cardinals. But the 35-year-old infielder still provides quality at-bats, and he is a luxury for the Dodgers on the bench. He showed that once again on Monday in the sixth inning when his pinch-hit, two-run single put the Dodgers ahead 3-2.
Beyond his bat, Freese brings a different feel to the clubhouse, as Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner recently told the Orange County Register .
"His pedigree is off the charts in our clubhouse," Turner said. "He's probably been in and done it better than anyone else we have."
The 'Baby Braves' will be back next year … and probably for years to come
If you were a GM, with the ability to choose any existing roster/payroll in MLB as your own, it would be hard to pass on the Braves'. Atlanta are loaded with young talent that will be inexpensive and under club control for several years. Young stars such as Ronald Acuna Jr. (age 20), Ozzie Albies (21), Dansby Swanson (24) and Johan Camargo (24) are only going to get better with experience. Perhaps that inexperience hurt the Braves in the first two games of the NLCS, both Dodgers shutouts.
But the Braves battled back to win game three and pushed the Dodgers in game four before losing. It would be almost a shock not to see them return to the postseason next year, and probably the next two or three.
|WATCH: Chargers top Chiefs on dramatic two-point conversion in final seconds|
|Suns owner Sarver committed to keeping team in Phoenix|
|Chargers WR Allen leaves with injury after near-spectacular catch|
|Socceroos not giving up on Mooy for Asian Cup|
|Cooper says Raiders owner wanted to trade him to Cowboys|
|Pochettino jokes Levy is ´worried´ about losing him|
|Barcelona would welcome Morata – Alba|
|Toure not a priority for West Ham – Pellegrini|
|Koscielny no certainty to face Southampton, says Emery|
|We gifted the game – AC Milan boss Gattuso furious after Europa League exit|
|My season starts now, says Koscielny|
|Cipriani ´at peace´ with latest England snub|
|Laporte: Deschamps must have personal reasons for France snub|
|Morata injury not too serious, claims Chelsea boss Sarri|
|Hansen to leave: All Blacks coach returning focus to World Cup defence|
|I want to fight the champion! - Joshua reiterates Wilder in April ambition|
|Gundogan glad to leave Christmas holidays behind|
|I know how it feels and it hurts - Gundogan on Sterling abuse|
|Celtic 1 Red Bull Salzburg 2: Scottish champions through despite defeat|
|Olympiacos 3 AC Milan 1: Rossoneri crash out of Europa League|
|Arsenal 1 Qarabag 0: Lacazette on target as Saka shines|
|Hansen to leave: All Blacks will take time to name replacement|
|Chelsea condemn alleged anti-Semitic chanting from fans|
|Hansen to leave: The best Opta facts from New Zealand coach´s tenure|
|Hansen to leave: Five contenders to be the next All Blacks coach|
|Hansen to leave: Highs and highs of his All Blacks reign|
|Hansen to leave All Blacks after World Cup|
|Rapid Vienna 1 Rangers 0: Late Ljubicic winner sends Gerrard´s men out|
|Beckham continues to miss Giants practice with quad injury|
|Vidi 2 Chelsea 2: Giroud spares Sarri´s side in lacklustre draw|
|Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille fixtures among latest Ligue 1 cancellations|
|Santos turn to ex-Argentina boss Sampaoli|
|Muller could miss Champions League last 16 after Tagliafico kick|
|Home hope Bekker out in front at Alfred Dunhill Championship|
|Van Bommel in touch with Robben over PSV reunion|
|Pinarello chief confident over Team Sky future|
|Stade make Ospreys tickets free in tribute to teenager|
|WRC great Loeb seals Hyundai switch|
|Madrid rumours better than sack talk, says Pochettino|
|Nadal to join Federer at 2019 Laver Cup|
|Prigoda smashes world record, Hosszu dethroned in Hangzhou|
|Former Juve CEO Marotta takes over at Inter|
|Glenn to stand down as FA boss next year|
|Muller apologises to Tagliafico for kick to the head|
|Pereira pleads for more Manchester United chances|
|Griffin hails ´phenomenal´ Lowry after Warriors demolition|
|I´ve played with Zidane and Henry, but Messi is something else – Pires|
|Dragons forward Jack de Belin charged with sexual assault|
|Durant: Raptors are the real deal|
|Cocu bids farewell to Fenerbahce after ´mutual agreement´ is made over October sacking|
|Australia unchanged for historic Perth Test|
|Champions League draw: The possible last-16 ties|
|Southee happy to be back on home soil|
|I wouldn´t swap Dembele for Neymar – Pires|
|Canelo ready to risk heavy weather against Fielding|
|Raptors upstage Warriors, Davis leads Pelicans with 44 points|
|India skipper Kohli excited by green Perth wicket|
|PSG? I haven´t decided my future yet – De Jong|
|Marcelo: Real Madrid don´t have attitude problem|
|India pair Ashwin, Rohit ruled out of second Test|
|Kovac: Ajax-Bayern draw was amazing|
|Sims re-signs with Dragons until 2022|
|Derrius Guice injury update: Redskins RB (knee) has rehab setback, undergoes 3 more procedures|
|Emery: Arsenal could sign defender in January|
|Phillies sign McCutchen to three-year deal|
|O´Neal thinks his Lakers teams could ´easily´ beat Warriors|
|A-League to add two clubs by 2020|
|Curry says he was ´obviously joking´ about moon landing comments|
|Now the beautiful part starts – Ronaldo ready for Champions League knockout stage|
|Bayern have a lot more potential – Lewandowski not satisfied despite top spot|