ATLANTA -- The Dodgers added Manny Machado and David Freese late in the season thinking clutch October knocks and champagne corks popping, and the plan was right on point Monday.Freese's two-run, pinch-hit single turned the game around and Machado's three-run homer iced it as the Dodgers advanced to their third
ATLANTA -- The Dodgers added Manny Machado and David Freese late in the season thinking clutch October knocks and champagne corks popping, and the plan was right on point Monday.
Freese's two-run, pinch-hit single turned the game around and Machado's three-run homer iced it as the Dodgers advanced to their third consecutive National League Championship Series with a 6-2 Game 4 victory over Atlanta that clinched the best-of-five NL Division Series at SunTrust Park.
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"Tonight was actually pretty cool, to see a lot of those guys we've acquired over the last few months of the season come through," said general manager Farhan Zaidi.
Checking off another vital box on the path back to the World Series, the Dodgers dispatched the Braves in been-there, done-that fashion, overcoming rookie Walker Buehler's five-run speed bump in Game 3 that prevented a series sweep.
"We let that one get away, and we weren't going to let this one get away," said Justin Turner.
The Dodgers have reached the NLCS in four of the last six years. But they haven't won a World Series since 1988 and last year's Game 7 loss to the Astros still stings, from the owner to the usher.
"Just gotta stay hungry. We remember that big disappointment at the end of last year. We want to get back there again," closer Kenley Jansen said of the Dodgers' World Series loss.
"That's the focus you see with the hunger this team has. They play every single out. This year wasn't easy for us. We were talking about probably having the worst record at some point in April, and now here we are going to the NLCS for the third year in a row."
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The best-of-seven NLCS opens Friday in Milwaukee with Clayton Kershaw starting Game 1 on extra rest. The Dodgers were 4-3 against the Brewers this season.
"This is a special team and I can't wait for the next series," said Kershaw, who started Game 2 after Hyun-Jin Ryu got the Game 1 nod this series. "Contributions all the way around."
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To secure this year's trip to the NLCS, the Dodgers shrugged off a 4 1/3-inning start from Rich Hill by getting 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief from the bullpen.
"This game was a microcosm of our season," said Hill.
The Dodgers slugged eight homers in the series, accounting for 14 of their 20 runs.
"They're a very powerful team," said Braves manager Brian Snitker. "It's what they've done all year, hit home runs."
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Freese, who hit .385 after being acquired by the Dodgers for payday moments like this, lashed a two-run, two-out single off Brad Brach in the top of the sixth inning to put the Dodgers back on top, 3-2. Freese has 33 RBIs in 176 postseason at-bats. He was NLCS and World Series MVP for the Cardinals in 2011.
"It's more special than I can even honestly say, because I didn't expect this," said Freese, who was acquired from the Pirates on Aug. 31. "I expected to finish in fifth and ride out this year, but to end up with not only a playoff contender but an organization like this is incredible. You get to be around these beasts in an organization that wants to go after it. It's a lot of fun."
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One inning later, Machado, who came into the game 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the NLDS, lashed a laser into the left-field seats off Chad Sobotka after Turner's single and Player Page for Max Muncy's walk.
"I faced him the day before, so I had his slider in the back of my mind as well," said Machado, who popped out against Sobotka in Game 3. "At that point I'm trying to drive in at least one run, and I was able to get one up in the air on a good pitch that he made and drive in three."
Machado, who was acquired from the Orioles in a July 18 blockbuster trade, got the Dodgers' scoring started in the first inning with an RBI double after a Muncy walk, finishing the game with four RBIs and the series with a team-high six. The six RBIs tied James Loney (2008) and Hanley Ramirez (2013) for the Dodgers' NLDS record. Machado also homered to help win Game 2.
"You look back at this series, his two homers essentially led us to two wins," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "We have a lot of good players, but I can't say enough about his focus and preparedness."
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As they did in Game 1 at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers got to Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz quickly, this time again in the first inning on a two-out, four-pitch walk to Muncy and an RBI double inside third base by Machado.
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Frustrated by home-plate umpire Tom Hallion's strike zone, Hill followed Buehler's uneven Game 3 start and couldn't close the deal, either. He walked five in 4 1/3 innings, two of them scoring on a fourth-inning single by Kurt Suzuki, who was batting for Foltynewicz.
But the Dodgers' bullpen locked it down behind Ryan Madson, Pedro Baez (10 consecutive scoreless outings), Caleb Ferguson, Kenta Maeda and Jansen.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Trailing, 2-1, in the fifth inning, Dodgers infielders Turner and Machado couldn't handle bouncers by Freddie Freeman and Johan Camargo, and Hill was removed with one out and the bases loaded. Madson, another late-season acquisition, took over the bases-loaded jam and got Tyler Flowers and Ender Inciarte to pop out. The Dodgers scored five runs in the next two innings.
"Madson coming in, you know, holding down the fort, not allowing any runs, giving us the opportunity to go into the next day, to the next inning," said Machado. "I mean, give us the opportunity for Freese, one of the most clutch hitters in the game to come in and give us the opportunity to give us the lead.
"So at that point of the game, everything changes. Momentum goes on us. That leads to my home run, leads to the pitcher to walk two guys, walk a guy, get a hit, get to that situation of the game. And we get the home run. So there's a lot that leads to the situation of the games that people don't see."
The Dodgers hit only .210 in the NLDS, but the pitching staff had a 2.06 ERA and the bullpen allowed one run in 10 2/3 innings.
HE SAID IT
"We know more and more the preparation teams make, the advanced scouting. There are certain types of players that can really succeed in that setting. The at-bat quality that he's brought to this team over the last month of the season and into today -- that was a huge part of our thought process in acquiring him." -- Zaidi on Freese
The Dodgers will fly home Monday night, work out at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday and fly to Milwaukee on Thursday to work out at Miller Park ahead of Game 1 on Friday.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.