ATLANTA -- The Dodgers acquired Manny Machado in July so he could be a difference maker in October.In four National League Division Series games, Machado certainly played the part.The Dodgers shortstop got the fastball he was looking for from Braves reliever Chad Sobotka in a one-run game Monday evening. He
ATLANTA -- The Dodgers acquired Manny Machado in July so he could be a difference maker in October.
In four National League Division Series games, Machado certainly played the part.
The Dodgers shortstop got the fastball he was looking for from Braves reliever Chad Sobotka in a one-run game Monday evening. He pulverized it into the first row beyond the left-field bullpen, giving Los Angeles its final 6-2 margin in the seventh inning of Game 4.
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All at once, the air came out of a once-raucous SunTrust Park. The Dodgers' win sent them to their third straight NL Championship Series. They'll face the Brewers in Game 1 on Friday night.
"There's not a better feeling," Machado said of the home run. "I didn't feel anything. I knew I hit it, I knew it was out. There's just not a better feeling than that."
Machado posted otherworldly numbers during the first half of the season, which he spent in Baltimore as the sport's foremost trade candidate. A day after playing in his fourth All-Star Game, he was dealt to Los Angeles, a replacement for injured shortstop Corey Seager.
His numbers dipped some after that, though they were plenty solid. Machado's OPS was 138 points lower with the Dodgers. They didn't care, of course, so long as he came through in the postseason. And he's done exactly that.
Never mind his 1-for-12 start to the series. That one was a two-run homer to put the Dodgers on top in Game 2. In the first inning of Game 4, Machado lined a two-out double down the right-field line, giving Los Angeles a 1-0 lead.
"I've been locked in all series," Machado said. "Obviously the results haven't shown, but you try to stick with the same approach and not try to change anything. I think you put yourself in bad situations when you try to change. Today, I was just able to make hard contact and not miss two balls that were a big key to our win today."
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"Hard contact" is quite the understatement. Machado's seventh-inning homer left his bat at 110 mph and traveled a projected 393 feet, according to Statcast™. His first-inning double had an exit velocity of 112 mph. Even the two outs he made were clocked at 111 and 105 mph, respectively.
"He's just unflappable," Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said. "... To come up in that situation and essentially put the game away after having some frustrating at-bats in the interim, just shows he's just playing for the next at-bat. That's how you need to approach it."
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The game still hung in the balance when Machado strode to the plate in the top of the seventh inning with two aboard. Sobotka threw him nothing but fastballs. Machado watched the first three go by, falling into a 1-2 hole. He fouled off the next two.
"How many fastballs did he throw me? Of course, I was looking fastball," Machado said afterward.
He was ready for the sixth one. It quickly became his second homer in four days, double his postseason total from his time in Baltimore.
After the season, Machado is destined for free agency and a huge payday. That almost certainly won't come with the Dodgers, with Seager destined to return. But no matter how it ends, Machado is going to remember his time with Los Angeles fondly.
"Coming over from Baltimore midway through the season, new ballclub, new atmosphere, new teammates, new coaching staff, new front office, I mean, it's always a bit of an adjustment. But they've been nothing but amazing."
On Monday night, he helped assure himself of at least a few more games in Dodger blue. A busy offseason surely awaits. He doesn't want to think about that yet.
"I'm just sitting here enjoying everything," Machado said. "Just enjoying the ride."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.