More late-night magic has the Atlanta Braves just two wins away from the World Series.
Eddie Rosario delivered Atlanta’s second straight walk-off hit in the ninth inning, giving the Braves a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday and a commanding 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.
Rosario’s fourth hit of the game was a two-out single off shortstop Corey Seager’s glove after the Braves twice rallied from two-run deficits.
“These guys have always been like that,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “They’re never out.”
Rosario delivered a 105 mph scorcher up the middle on the first pitch after closer Kenley Jansen relieved. Seager tried for a backhand snag, but the ball skidded off his glove into centre 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 in the best-of-seven series is set for Tuesday night.
“We all have that dream, that desire to get to the World Series,” Rosario said. “That’s just what we’re going for.”
The Braves are halfway to their first World Series appearance since 1999. Seventy-three of 87 teams taking 2-0 leads in best-of-seven baseball post-season series have gone on to win.
“We were up on them 2-0 last year, so it’s like one of those things where you can’t stop now, you got to continue to apply the pressure and come out every day and get after it,” Riley said.
Seager and Atlanta’s Joc Pederson traded two-run homers – Pederson adding to his “Joctober” lore with his third homer of this post-season and first off his long-time team – before Chris Taylor put the Dodgers ahead again with a two-run hit with the bases loaded in the seventh.
But it was another night of wasted chances for Los Angeles, which went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and dropped to 2 for 18 in the series.
Six outs away from tying the series, the Dodgers brought in expected Game 4 starter Julio Urias to protect the lead before turning it over to Brusdar Graterol 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 fly out to left.
Ozzie Albies lined one to right for another hit off Urias. Rosario zipped around third as 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 coming through again. He ripped a double to wall in right centre, bringing Albies all the way around from first with the tying run as Washington made another aggressive send.
Dodgers manger Dave Roberts had no regrets about turning to Urias.
“He was the best option at that point in time,” Robert said “He was prepared for it. It was a perfect spot for him.”
Travis d’Arnaud led off the ninth with a broken-bat single to centre on a 101 mph pitch from 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 force-out at second when Seager made a backhand stop on Graterol’s bounced, offline throw.
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 post-season games this year.
Braves closer Will Smith picked up the win with a 1-2-3 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 in against Ian Anderson. Mookie Betts led off with a single, and Seager launched one over the fence in right-centre to stun the raucous crowd.
Pederson brought them back to life with another instalment of Joctober in the fourth.
With a runner aboard, Pederson connected on a hanging curve from Max Scherzer for his third homer of this post-season, a 454-foot shot into Chop House restaurant above the right-field stands.
It was the longest homer by any player in this post-season – and the 12th of Pederson’s career in the games that really matter.
Scherzer, who had earned his first career save in the deciding game of the Division Series against San Francisco, 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.
“My arm was dead,” Scherzer said. “I could tell when I was warming up that it was still tired.”
A sore neck ended Justin Turner’s streak of 77 consecutive post-season starts.
Dale Murphy, one of the Atlanta Braves’ greatest players, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Murphy walked toward the mound wearing a No. 3 jersey that was so familiar during his career, pulled off the jersey to reveal Hank Aaron’s No. 44 uniform. then tugged off the Hammer’s jersey and had on Riley’s No. 27. Murphy also pulled out a pair of pearls, a tribute to Pederson’s fashion statement.
RH Walker Buehler (0-1, 3.38 ERA in the post-season) gets the start for the Dodgers in Game 3 against Braves RH Charlie Morton (0-1, 3.86).