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Missed opportunities halt Braves' surprising run

2018 surpasses expectations, ends in NLDS after offense stalls
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Though overmatched by the powerful Dodgers during this year's National League Division Series, the Braves hope to benefit from the experience if they are fortunate enough to live up to their expectation to be annual postseason participants over the next few years.

"We look at this as a learning experience," Braves reliever A.J. Minter said. "You can say we weren't supposed to be here this year. But we had an awesome ballclub. It's unfortunate we came up short. We are disappointed. But I think we're all ready for Spring Training because we got a taste of it, and we want to be back here."

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ATLANTA -- Though overmatched by the powerful Dodgers during this year's National League Division Series, the Braves hope to benefit from the experience if they are fortunate enough to live up to their expectation to be annual postseason participants over the next few years.

"We look at this as a learning experience," Braves reliever A.J. Minter said. "You can say we weren't supposed to be here this year. But we had an awesome ballclub. It's unfortunate we came up short. We are disappointed. But I think we're all ready for Spring Training because we got a taste of it, and we want to be back here."

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Atlanta's 6-2 loss in Game 4 of the National League Division Series put the Dodgers one step away from a second consecutive trip to the World Series. The Braves, meanwhile, head into the offseason hoping their 14 players who made postseason debuts during this series understand what it takes to take that next step.

"We just didn't hit in the playoffs," Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "We walked a lot of guys. We didn't hit. I think we left like 10 or 12 guys on base today. I felt like we had that game right there. We just didn't capitalize on a lot of opportunities. But a lot of people got to experience their first full season. So hopefully we can build off of that."

Freeman delivered the decisive home run in Atlanta's Game 3 victory, which was highlighted by Ronald Acuna Jr.'s grand slam. Those two homers accounted for five of the eight runs the Braves totaled over 36 innings.

Video: Must C Classic: Acuna youngest to hit postseason slam

Pressed to the brink of elimination on Monday, the Braves went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and finished the series 2-for-15 in this category.

With two on and two outs in the first inning, Johan Camargo followed a walk by popping out against Rich Hill's first-pitch fastball in the heart of the strike zone. The same situation presented itself in the third when Nick Markakis popped out against a first-pitch slider that also found the middle of the plate.

Kurt Suzuki provided the Braves a 2-1 lead in Game 4 when he delivered a two-run, pinch-hit single off Hill in the fourth inning. The veteran catcher was pressed into this situation because the Braves had not yet provided support to Mike Foltynewicz, whose exit after just four innings placed more stress on a suspect bullpen.

Video: LAD@ATL Gm4: Suzuki rips a go-ahead 2-run single

But after loading the bases and chasing Hill with one out in the fifth inning, the Braves blew a prime opportunity to blow the game open. Right-handed reliever Ryan Madson got Tyler Flowers to pop out behind the plate and then ended the threat with Ender Inciarte's lazy fly that Manny Machado gloved in shallow left field.

"We left a lot of opportunities out there today," Freeman said. "That's the frustrating part. I felt like this was our game to win right there. It just didn't happen for us."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Kurt Suzuki