Late-night magic: Braves beat Dodgers 5-4, lead NLCS 2-0

Late-night magic: Braves beat Dodgers 5-4, lead NLCS 2-0
ATLANTA (AP) — The Braves won with a walk-off hit for the second night in a row when Eddie Rosario lined a two-out single off shortstop Corey Seager’s glove in the ninth inning, giving Atlanta a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night and a 2-0 NL Championship Series lead.

Atlanta twice rallied from two-run deficits before Rosario came up with his fourth hit of the game, Seager tried for a backhand snag, but the ball skidded off his glove into center field.

There was no chance to get Dansby Swanson, who raced around from second with the winning run, dropping his helmet as he crossed the plate — a virtual repeat of Game 1 when Austin Riley came through with a winning hit in the ninth for a 3-2 victory.

The series resumes in Los Angeles, where Game 3 is set for Tuesday night.

The Braves need two more victories for their first World Series appearance since 1999, but they can’t celebrate just yet.

Seventy-three of 87 teams taking 2-0 leads in best-of-seven baseball postseason series have gone on to win.

A year ago, however, Atlanta held leads of 2-0 and 3-1 over the Dodgers in the NLCS, only to lose the last three games of a series played in Arlington, Texas, because the pandemic. Los Angeles went on to beat Tampa Bay in the World Series, while the Braves stewed for another shot.

They are halfway to payback after rallying in the eighth off Julio Urías, who pitched three hitless innings to finish Game 7 against the Braves last October.

Seager and Atlanta’s Joc Pederson traded two-run homers — Pederson adding to his “Joctober” lore with his third homer of this postseason and first off his longtime team — before Chris Taylor put the Dodgers ahead again with a two-run hit in the seventh.

Los Angeles again wasted chances, going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and dropping to 2 for 18 in the series.

Atlanta Braves Joc Pederson celebrates after hitting a two-run home run during the fourth inning in Game 2 of baseball s National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Atlanta.

Six outs away from tying the series, the Dodgers brought in expected Game 4 starter Urías to protect the lead before turning it over to Jansen in the ninth.

The 20-game winner couldn’t get it done. Rosario led off with a single and wisely tagged up to move up to second on Freddie Freeman’s flyout to left.

Ozzie Albies lined one to right for another hit off Urias. Rosario zipped around third as third base coach Ron Washington sent him home, just beating the throw with a brilliant slide that avoided the swipe by catcher Will Smith.

Then it was Riley, the Game 1 star, coming through again. He ripped a double to wall in right center, bringing Albies all the way around from first with the tying run.

Travis d’Arnaud led off the ninth with a broken-bat single to center on a 101 mph pitch from Brusdar Graterol and was replaced by pinch-runner Cristian Pache. Swanson tried to move Pache along with a bunt, only to have the attempted sacrifice result in a forceout at second when Seager made a backhand stop on Graterol’s bounced, offline throw.

But Swanson managed to get to second himself when Guillermo Heredia grounded out to third base. The Dodgers turned to their closer to face Rosario, who connected on the very first pitch for the fifth walk-off in 23 postseason games this year.

Braves closer Will Smith picked up the win with a 1-2-3 top of the ninth, breathing a big sigh of relief when Trea Turner’s drive was caught at the base of the wall in left.

The Dodgers grabbed a 2-0 lead just six pitches into the game against Braves starter Ian Anderson, who came in with a 3-0 record and 0.76 ERA in five postseason starts.

Mookie Betts led off with a single, and in right-center to stun the raucous crowd.

Pederson brought them back to life with another installment of Joctober in the fourth.

With a runner aboard, Pederson connected on a hanging curve from Max Scherzer for his third homer of this postseason, a 454-foot shot into Chop House restaurant above the right-field stands.

It was the longest homer by any player in this postseason — and the 12th of Pederson’s career in the games that really matter.

The first nine of those came while Pederson played for the Dodgers. Now, he’s turned the tables with the Braves.

Scherzer, who had earned the first save of his career in the deciding game of the Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, returned to a more familiar role as Game 2 starter.

But, with only two days of rest between appearances, he departed after just 4 1/3 innings, having thrown 79 pitches. He surrendered four hits, two runs, one walk and struck out seven.
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