2021 NLCS: How It Happened

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For the first time since 1999, our Atlanta Braves are going to the World Series. The “little ol’ 88-win Braves” took down the 106-win Dodgers; who most national baseball writers had as preseason World Series favorites. As the season progressed, their status as World Series favorites only grew. Then they played the Braves.

Games One & Two

Walkoff wins in Games One & Two for the Braves was HUGE. The early 2-0 series lead gave manager Brian Snitker the freedom he needed to use the guys he wanted in the spots he picked. The 2-0 lead in the 2-3-2 home game structure of this series set Atlanta up to only need one win in Los Angeles before heading back home.

Game Three

Of course, Game Three would’ve been the preferred option of Braves Nation to secure the third win; but Cody Bellinger launching a 3-run homerun in the bottom of the Dodger 8th on a Luke Jackson fastball that most players in professional baseball would’ve had to jump to put a bat on it prevented the Braves from a 3-0 series start. This wouldn’t be the last time in this series that Luke Jackson came in late, only to threaten weak hearts across the southeast. Braves would lose Game 3, 6-5.

Game Four

Game 4 (Game 2 in Los Angeles) will forever be known as the Drew Smyly game. In what was a bullpen game for Atlanta, Drew Smyly ate 3.1 innings, leaving the game with a 5-2 Braves advantage. Adam Duvall, Freddie Freeman, & Eddie Rosario all homered (Rosario twice). Rosario was a double shy of the cycle when he came up to bat in the 9th inning, unfortunately he could only scrounge up a 3-run homerun against Gonsolin. After blowing a 5-2 lead in the 8th inning the day prior to this game, Rosario put the game away with his second homerun. The Dodgers would come to bat in the 9th with a 9-2 deficit; a deficit they wouldn’t be able to overcome.

3-1 Advantage, Braves.

Game Five

Game 5 (third & final game in Los Angeles) was nothing short of a hitting clinic out on by the Los Angeles Dodgers. LA scored early, and they scored often. Braves starter Max Fried struggled through 4.2 innings, leaving with 5 earned runs on his tab for the night.

If I told you the Dodgers scored 11 runs, and I asked you who you thought did the most damage; you’d probably guess Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, & maybe Corey Seager. Rightfully so, those are the stars amongst the stars for LA. The top four Dodgers hitters were a combined 5-for-18 this game. While the bottom half of the lineup (excluding pitchers & pinch hitters) were 12-for-18 with five homeruns & ten RBI. Chris Taylor himself hit three homeruns; the first player in MLB history to hit 3 homeruns in a postseason elimination game. Snitker wisely used the low-leverage relief arms to get through the game. 11-2 was the final.

Game Six

The series returned to Atlanta with the home team carrying a 3-2 series advantage into the penultimate Championship Series matchup. Ian Anderson got the nod for Game Six just as scheduled. He threw four innings of one-run ball on just three hits, he was cruising compared to Max Fried’s start in Los Angeles. His success is precisely the reason some started to grumble when Ehire Adrianza walked out on deck when Ian’s at-bat rolled around in the 4th inning.

The grumbling wasn’t just because Ian’s day was now done, it was also because Jorge Soler was sitting on the bench available to pinch hit. But Ehire made more sense solely for the Righty-Lefty matchup. The grumbling would turn to cheers when Adrianza stroked a double down the right field line on a broken bat (a bat that belonged to Eddie Rosario). Turns out, Eddie had another bat. RETURN TO SENDER. Rosario launched a three-run homerun over the wall in the right field corner. Truist Park was in a FRENZY. 4-1 Braves.

Both teams would hold serve until the top of the 7th inning when Luke Jackson allowed AJ Pollock to double in Chris Taylor & send Cody Bellinger to third with no one out.

4-2 Braves, nobody out, two Dodgers in scoring position. In comes Tyler Matzek, Janitor. The man woke up on Saturday & chose violence. Unless you’ve personally experienced the feeling of knowing that you’re on & no batter can touch what you’re throwing that day, I can’t describe to you exactly what Matzek was feeling, but he was feeling it. He had the utmost confidence in his stuff, so he just filled up the zone.

The man turned in the greatest postseason pitching appearance in Atlanta Braves history. I’m not exaggerating & I’m not in the least bit joking. He struck out three straight batters, two of which being Mookie Betts & AJ Pollock, on eleven pitches. ELEVEN. Nine strikes, eleven pitches. He had no regard for where Travis d’Arnaud was setting up behind the plate. The Braves defense behind him was just a formality. Tyler Matzek was there to pump 97 & 98 mph fastballs right down Broadway so he could go relax in the dugout until it was time to come back out in the eighth.

He walked out to the mound in the eighth inning like the modern day baseball version of Ceasar’s men coming into the arena to finish off the poor gladiators who just had to simultaneously fight three lions with one sword. The Atlanta crowd could taste victory. Six outs away. First up: Braves-Killer Corey Seager…strikeout. Next: another notable Braves-Killer, Trea Turner…1st-pitch groundout. Last: Will Smith…joke. Three up, three down.

Quasi-Villain Will Smith comes in to close the game for the Braves. He’s got the gauntlet in front of him, the three batters who’ve done far-and-away the most damage this entire series: Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, & AJ Pollock. Chris Taylor & Bellinger both strikeout. AJ Pollock shoots a hard groundball to Dansby’s gloveside at shortstop. He makes a stabbing stop and slings it across the diamond to the Face of the Franchise, Freddie Freeman. Pollock is retired by two steps, the Braves are the 2021 National League Champions.

THE ATLANTA BRAVES HAVE WON THE 2021 NATIONAL LEAGUE PENNANT.

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