Freddie Freeman hit a tiebreaking home run off Milwaukee closer Josh Hader with two outs in the eighth inning and the Atlanta Braves advanced to the NL Championship Series for the second year in a row, finishing off the Brewers 5-4 on Tuesday night.
The Braves won the best-of-five Division Series three games to one, advancing to face either the 107-win San Francisco Giants or the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers with a trip to the World Series on the line.
The game was tied at 4 when the Brewers brought on Hader to make sure it stayed that way. The hard-throwing lefty struck out Eddie Rosario and Dansby Swanson, but he couldn’t get past the 2020 NL MVP.
Freeman caught up with an 84-mph slider, launching a 428-foot drive into the seats in left-center — only the fourth homer all season off Hader, and first since July 28.
“The first two guys went down, so I just tried to get a pitch up and he hung a slider and I put a good swing on it,” Freeman said. “There was no rhyme or reason to it.”
Freeman celebrated wildly on his way around the bases, and popped back out of the dugout for a curtain call as the crowd of 40,195 roared. He became the first player in franchise history to hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later in a series-clinching win, ESPN Stats & Info said.
Will Smith pitched a scoreless ninth for his third straight save in the series, getting Christian Yelich to look at strike three with a runner on first for the final out. Tyler Matzek claimed the win with a perfect eighth.
Despite having fewer wins (88) than any other playoff team — and even two teams that didn’t make the postseason — the NL East champion Braves are headed back to the NLCS for the second season in a row.
Manager Brian Snitker’s team hopes to finish the job it came so agonizingly close to achieving a year ago, when it squandered a 3-1 series lead and lost in Game 7 to the eventual World Series champion Dodgers.
Atlanta hasn’t been to the World Series since 1999.
After the Braves and the Brewers combined for just nine runs through the first 30 innings of the series, the offenses suddenly came to life in the fourth.
The NL Central champ Brewers touched home for the first time since Game 1, getting RBI singles from Omar Narváez and Lorenzo Cain to snap a 22-inning scoreless streak. Narváez’s hit also broke an 0-for-20 performance by 95-win Milwaukee with runners in scoring position in the series.
But the Braves bounced back in the bottom half, even though Milwaukee may have caught a huge break on a deflected foul popup that was ruled a catch even through it appeared to hit the dirt. Pinch-hitter Eddie Rosario came through with a two-out, two-run single to center.
Milwaukee surged ahead again in the fifth, this time on Rowdy Tellez’s second two-run homer of the series. His first, way back in the seventh inning of Game 1, had produced the Brewers’ only runs of the series until Tuesday. This second one off Huascar Ynoa was a massive shot, plopping into the fountain beyond the center-field wall.
Back came the Braves, who put up another two-spot in their half. Joc Pederson drove in one with a forceout and Travis d’Arnaud delivered a two-out single to right to bring home another.
Astros 10, White Sox 1: The Houston Astros are going to the AL Championship Series for the fifth straight year. Their October-tested stars led the way.
Jose Altuve hit a three-run homer and scored four times, and Houston eliminated the Chicago White Sox with a 10-1 victory in Game 4 of their AL Division Series on Tuesday.
Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman each hit a two-run double as the Astros bounced back from Sunday night’s 12-6 loss with their usual relentless brand of baseball. Michael Brantley had three hits and two RBI.
Next up for Altuve and company is Game 1 of the ALCS against former Astros bench coach Alex Cora and the Boston Red Sox on Friday in Houston. The Red Sox eliminated Tampa Bay with a 6-5 victory in Game 4 on Monday night.
It’s Houston’s second ALCS under 72-year-old manager Dusty Baker, whose club got the best of 77-year-old Chicago skipper Tony La Russa. Baker replaced A.J. Hinch.
A testy La Russa argued with umpire Tom Hallion after he felt Houston reliever Kendall Graveman hit reigning AL MVP José Abreu intentionally with two out in the eighth. Abreu was plunked 22 times during the regular season.
Gavin Sheets connected for Chicago, becoming the third rookie in franchise history to homer in a postseason game. But Carlos Rodon was knocked out in the third inning of his first start since Sept. 29, and the AL Central champions left eight runners on base.
Correa put Houston ahead to stay with his two-out double in the third, pulling Rodon’s high 0-2 fastball into left. The Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a fastball that hit Altuve, drawing a round of cheers from the crowd of 40,170.
That was it for Rodon, who was limited down the stretch because of shoulder soreness and fatigue. Running his fastball into the upper 90s again after another extended break, the left-hander was charged with two runs and three hits in his first career playoff start.
Houston added three more in the fourth for a 5-1 lead. Kyle Tucker singled and swiped second and third — the latter without a throw — before coming home on Martín Maldonado’s first hit of the series.
Bregman drove in Maldonado and Altuve with his two-out double on a 3-0 pitch from Garrett Crochet. The left-handed reliever then struck out the lefty-batting Yordan Alvarez, ending the inning.
The big hits by Correa and Bregman supplied more than enough offense for Lance McCullers Jr., who departed with right forearm tightness after four effective innings. Yimi García got three outs for the win.
McCullers also pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Houston’s 6-1 victory in Game 1 on Thursday. If he can’t go in the ALCS, it would be a big blow for the Astros.