Legend of Joctober grows with booming HR

Former Dodger crushes longest homer of 2021 postseason off Scherzer

October 18th, 2021

ATLANTA -- Joc Pederson paraded from one end of the Braves’ dugout to the other, punching each fist into the air with indiscretion, seeking out fist bumps from wherever and whomever. He shouted complimentary words about himself. He ranted and raved in all the best ways possible. Pederson knew what he had just accomplished, tying Game 2 of the National League Championship Series with a fourth-inning homer off Max Scherzer.

He also knew what it represented: Joctober is back in business.

Pederson, who helped slug Los Angeles to a World Series victory last autumn, is now doing his best to prevent those same Dodgers from winning another pennant. His two-run homer off Scherzer on Sunday night allowed the Braves to stay competitive in a game they stormed from behind to win, 5-4, to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The NLCS now shifts from Truist Park to Pederson’s old October stomping grounds of Dodger Stadium, where his reputation took root not so long ago.

“It was pretty exciting, and [it] tied up the game and got the boys back in it,” Pederson said. “I’m just doing everything I can to help the team win.”

That’s the new team, not the old team. Two innings before going deep Sunday, Pederson hinted at his intentions, hooking a sharp fly ball just foul down the right-field line off Scherzer. Given a second chance, he had no trouble straightening things out in the fourth, blasting a curveball 454 feet into the Chop House in right. It was the longest homer of the 2021 postseason, and at 112.2 mph off the bat, it was the third-hardest-hit homer Scherzer has surrendered since Statcast began tracking data in 2015.

Prior to that, Pederson had been 4-for-26 lifetime off Scherzer, but one of those hits was a game-tying seventh-inning homer in Game 5 of the 2016 NL Division Series. Such is the nature of Joctober -- a nickname with too tight of a cadence to be anything but appropriate.

The Dodgers won that 2016 game, as they often did after Joctober did his thing. Pederson’s teams have now gone 10-2 when he homers in the postseason -- including a pair of wins last autumn, when Pederson batted .419/.471/.613 over his final 13 games en route to a title. His 12 playoff homers are tied with Hall of Famer Yogi Berra for 24th on the all-time list.

“That’s what it takes to win these games,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Snitker is beginning to understand as well as anyone, considering Pederson also delivered a pair of homers in Atlanta’s NLDS win over the Brewers despite starting only once in four games. It’s the sort of impact the Braves dreamed upon when they acquired Pederson from the Cubs at this year’s Trade Deadline, sending Minor Leaguer Bryce Ball to Chicago for the promise of some left-handed thump.

No matter whom he plays for, Pederson has become an entity unto himself, currently displaying his personality with a string of pearls that he wears during games. (When asked about the pearls in the past, Pederson has offered brief explanations ranging from surface-level -- “because they look good” -- to self-complimentary to gratuitous.) Late this season, Pederson bleached his hair blond, which isn’t the only reason why he’s easy to find on the field before games. While most of his teammates wear standard batting practice jerseys, Pederson dons a baby-blue shirt with a skull on it.

This time of year, Peterson needs none of it to be the center of attention -- even if doing so isn’t precisely his aim.

“This is a lot bigger than me,” Pederson said. “This is [26] of us pulling and having one common goal. Obviously, I [was] part of the Dodgers for a long time, and they’re a really good team and organization. But right now, they’re in the way of our common goal, so we kind of have to do whatever we can to win ballgames.”