The Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves could not have taken more different paths to get to the NLCS. The Dodgers were a historic 106-win Wild Card team. They suffered their fair share of injuries, but an All-Star quality lineup and pitching staff was on the field on a nightly basis.
The Braves, meanwhile, scraped by in a dismal NL East, needing just 88 wins to secure the division title. They did this for much of the season without their superstar — Ronald Acuna Jr. — and an outfield that was pieced together at the trade deadline.
For their 106-win season, the Dodgers were rewarded by playing the 107-win San Francisco Giants in the NLDS, a riveting five-game series that could take energy out of the even the best players. The Braves played a Milwaukee Brewers team devoid of offensive acumen, and it showed during their 3-1 series win.
So when they time came for the two to finally meet, the Braves — while being far worse on paper — had all the momentum set up in their favor for a massive upset. They completed it in just six games, ousting L.A. and putting them in the World Series against the Houston Astros.
Because the Dodgers were the Wild Card team, the Braves had home-field advantage despite winning 18 less games. They made the most of it in the first two games.
Games 1 and 2 were tight throughout, both coming down to the final frame. The first game saw things knotted up at 2 in the fourth inning, then no runs were scored until the Braves were up to bat in the bottom of the ninth.
After a Freddie Freeman strikeout, Ozzie Albies singled and stole second. That steal would prove necessary, as Ausitn Riley singled off of Blake Treinen to score Albies and give the Braves a 3-2 win in Game 1.
In Game 2, the Dodgers led 2-0 early and 4-2 as late as the eighth inning, but the Braves stayed fighting. RBIs by Albies and Riley tied the game in the eighth, making it 4-4 heading to the bottom of the ninth.
There, Travis d’Arnaud singled off Brusdar Graterol. His pinch-runner came in and was out at second on an attempted sac bunt by Dansby Swanson. Swanson got to second on a groundout, putting a runner in scoring position with two outs.
The Dodgers turned to Kenley Jansen for the final out, but he gave up a grounder single to the red-hot Eddie Rosario and the Braves took a 5-4 win and a 2-0 series lead back to L.A.
The Braves had a real chance to put the nail in the coffin in Game 3. They led 5-2 for most of the game after scoring four runs in the fourth inning. However, in the bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers put together a dying gasp of energy.
Will Smith and A.J. Pollock singled to put runners on first and second with one out. Then, Cody Bellinger took a high fastball 400 feet out to left field for a three-run, game-tying home run. The inning didn’t end there, as a Chris Taylor single and stolen base gave him the chance to score easily on a Mookie Betts double, making it 6-5. The Dodgers won in comeback fashion to make it a 2-1 series.
Game 4 gave the Dodgers a real chance at momentum. They had trusted starter Julio Urias on the mound while the Braves were faced with a bullpen game. Instead, Urias was all over the place, the Braves bullpen put up a combined gem, and Rosario hit two home runs in a 9-2 Braves win.
Game 5 was the first elimination game of the series for the Dodgers, but their fourth of the playoffs already. While most of the Dodgers players weren’t ready for it, Taylor and A.J. Pollock were. Taylor and Pollock combined for five home runs and 10 RBIs as the Dodgers blew out the Braves, 11-2.
Now a 3-2 series, the Dodgers and Braves shifted back to Atlanta, with L.A. trying to make history for the second straight year and the Braves trying desperately to avoid it.
Once again, Rosario was the hero. Tied 1-1 in the fourth inning with two outs and two runners on, Rosario hit a missile of a home run off of Walker Buehler to give the Braves a 4-1 lead that they would not concede. They won the game 4-2, the series 4-2, and Rosario took home a well-deserved NLCS MVP award.
World Series Preview
The Braves continue their Cinderella story against the mighty Astros, whose dominant offense allowed them to coast through the American League playoffs. The Braves face a difficult challenge, but defeating the Dodgers means they absolutely have the ability to beat great teams.