Rosario experienced the thrill of a storybook performance when he capped a four-hit night with the game-ending single that gave the Braves a 5-4 comeback win over the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night at Truist Park.
“You better not leave early when this team is down, because you’ll end up missing the best part of the game and listening to it on your radio when you’re driving home,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “These guys never quit.”
On their way to claiming a 2-0 lead over the Dodgers in the NLCS for a second straight season, the Braves joined the 1997 Marlins (NLDS vs. Giants), ‘81 Astros (NLDS vs. Dodgers) and ‘69 Orioles (ALCS vs. Twins) as the only teams with a walk-off win in the first two games of a postseason series.
In postseason history, teams taking a 2-0 lead in any best-of-seven series have gone on to win that series 73 of 87 times (84%). The most recent comeback from a 2-0 deficit involved these same teams last year, with the Dodgers rallying from both 2-0 and 3-1 down to advance to the World Series.
“I think that when we're all pulling on the same string, special things happen,” Braves outfielder Joc Pederson said. “You can see that we're doing that right now. There's no one person that has the pressure on their shoulders that they have to get the job done. It's a new person every day and that's what makes it special.”
Rosario became the first player with four-plus hits and a walk-off knock in a postseason game since David Ortiz in 2004. He was thrust into the unfamiliar leadoff role with Jorge Soler on the COVID IL. Rosario responded by tallying a big first-inning run on Saturday and fueling the Braves’ two-out, eighth-inning rally on Sunday.
But the 30-year-old outfielder's most memorable contribution was the one that sent the Braves to Los Angeles with momentum.
With a runner at second and two outs in the ninth, the Dodgers called for closer Kenley Jansen. Rosario greeted him by lacing a first-pitch cutter up the middle, where it glanced off the glove of shortstop Corey Seager, who was positioned behind the second-base bag. Dansby Swanson scored in uncontested fashion.
“I feel great today, and when I feel great, I go aggressive all the time,” Rosario said. “I know that I faced him yesterday. He got me out. But I didn’t want to try too much today. Yesterday I tried to hit a homer and today I tried to get a base hit.”
This wasn’t a game the Braves seemed destined to win when Chris Taylor’s soft two-out double off Luke Jackson gave the Dodgers a two-run lead in the seventh. But when Los Angeles turned to expected Game 4 starter Julio Urías in the eighth inning, the Braves took advantage with the top of their lineup against the lefty.
Rosario messed up the Dodgers’ plan with a leadoff single and Freeman, who had struck out in his first seven plate appearances of the NLCS, produced a fly ball to left field that moved Rosario to second with some aggressive baserunning.
Before the eighth, the Braves’ only runs had come via Pederson’s 454-foot two-run homer off Max Scherzer in the fourth.
“We get knocked down a few times, but we're able to grind back, get a guy on, get him over and then come up with a big hit,” Pederson said. “So it's pretty special.”
This victory certainly didn’t go according to the blueprint. Anderson allowed a two-run homer before recording the game’s first out, and after an extended conversation with Snitker in the dugout when he was due up second in the bottom of the third, he was pulled after three unimpressive innings. This seemed to be a recipe for disaster. But a dead arm led Dodgers starter Max Scherzer to exit with one out in the fifth inning, making this a battle of bullpens.
Snitker successfully managed his relievers, so the Braves should feel comfortable if they opt to go with another bullpen game in Game 4 on Wednesday.
With Charlie Morton set to start Game 3 on Tuesday and Max Fried in line to start Game 5 (if necessary) on Thursday, the Braves have reason to feel good heading to Dodger Stadium. They know what happened last year, but a much stronger rotation and a pair of resilient victories have them feeling like this year will be different.
“You can't stop now,” Riley said. “You’ve got to continue to apply the pressure and come out every day and get after it.”