Rosario, Braves dreaming big with 3-1 lead

October 21st, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- After constructed one of the best hitting performances in Braves franchise history, there was reason to ask whether it exceeded some of his top dreams.

“Possibly, but I’m still dreaming of bigger things,” Rosario said through an interpreter. “I kind of want more at this point. Just thinking about the next thing. Hopefully, we can get there.”

Well, the Braves found themselves a win away from the World Series after claiming a 9-2 win over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. Rosario led the way by highlighting a four-hit performance with a pair of home runs.

“Eddie has been in the moment here,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s liked that postseason play for sure. He’s had really just great at-bats. I looked up and told [bench coach Walt Weiss], 'He’s a double shy of the cycle again' and then he hit a homer.”

Instead of tallying the double that would have made him just the second player (Boston’s Brock Holt in Game 3 of the 2018 ALDS) to hit for the cycle in a playoff game, Rosario hit a three-run homer off Tony Gonsolin in the ninth. Consequently, he joined Marcell Ozuna as the only Braves to homer twice within a four-hit performance in the postseason.

Ozuna did it in Game 4 of the 2020 NLCS against the Dodgers. Now the Braves are looking to avoid what happened after that, when they squandered a 3-1 series lead.

The Dodgers have won six consecutive postseason elimination games dating back to last year’s NLCS. But teams ahead 3-1 in all best-of-seven postseason series have gone on to win the series 75 of 89 times (84%).

“2020 was last year and this is a whole different team and a whole different thing,” Braves first baseman said.

Truly, the Braves are a completely different team since they reconstructed their outfield and accounted for Ronald Acuña Jr.'s absence by acquiring four outfielders after the All-Star break.

Two of those additions were Rosario and , who began the second inning with consecutive home runs off Dodgers starter Julio Urías. They became the first Braves to hit back-to-back home runs in a postseason game since Javy Lopez and Vinny Castilla in Game 2 of the 2002 NLDS against the Giants.

“As soon as I hit that first home run, I thought, 'Wow, I feel amazing right now,'" Rosario said.

Rosario tripled and scored on ’s two-out RBI single in the third. When Rosario reached third base, he and Urías briefly looked at each other.

“It was just a smile,” Rosario said. “You know, it was kind of like one of those laughing moments where Urías was like, ‘Man, I can't get this guy out.’ And in return, I kind of just smiled back and I was like, ‘Man, this must be my day.'”

When Rosario homered in the ninth, he joined the Dodgers’ Steve Garvey (1978 NLCS) as the only players to hit two homers and a triple in the same playoff game. He also joined Kiké Hernandez (2021), Albert Pujols (2011), George Brett (1985) and Robin Yount (1982) as the only ones to have multiple four-hit games in one postseason.

Only Yount and Rosario did it twice within one series.

“I feel proud of my efforts,” Rosario said. “I came here wanting to showcase my talents [and] show the people what kind of player I am."

It’s safe to say Rosario has exceeded expectations since Atlanta acquired him from Cleveland in exchange for Pablo Sandoval on July 30. It was a financially motivated move for the Indians and a slight gamble for the Braves, who knew Rosario would be on the injured list until late August with an abdominal strain.

Initially, it looked like Rosario might be used as a backup outfielder. But he forced himself into an everyday role as he homered seven times and produced a .903 OPS over 33 regular-season games for Atlanta. He hit for the cycle against the Giants on Sept. 19 and now has four hits in two of the four games in this series.

Rosario has hit .467 (14-for-30) with a 1.248 OPS through eight playoff games. He has led off three times in place of Jorge Soler, who is on the COVID-19 injured list. With the lefty Urías on the mound Wednesday, he batted fifth.

“You lose Jorge, who has been our leadoff hitter, for a few weeks and Eddie slides in and seems to get four hits every game,” Freeman said. “Things have just been going really well.”