Freeman lifts Braves into second straight NLCS

  • Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09
  • Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus
  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus
  • Member, Baseball Writers Association of America
  • Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association

The Atlanta Braves are headed back to the National League Championship Series for the second straight season, and they go there in dramatic fashion.

The Braves’ Freddie Freeman hammered a two-out, first-pitch homer to center field in the bottom of the eighth off Josh Hader, the Milwaukee Brewers’ All-Star closer, lifting the Braves to a 5-4 come-from-behind win on Tuesday, closing out the NL division series in four games.

Freeman’s heroics ended a back-and-forth affair in which the Braves and Brewers combined for nine runs — the total number of runs they scored together during the first three games of a well-pitched series.

Though Freeman is the face of the Braves franchise, the reigning NL MVP and possibly a future Hall of Famer, his homer off Hader was a stunner.

Hader, one of the most dominant relievers of his generation, had never allowed a postseason homer. He had allowed just seven homers to left-handed hitters during his regular-season career and none since Sept. 12, 2020, when the Chicago Cubs’ Jason Heyward did it.

However, one of those seven lefty-lefty homers: Freeman hit a game-winning homer off Hader in the 10th inning of a game in Atlanta on May 18, 2019.

The stakes this time were a whole lot higher.

The Brewers jumped on top early with a two-run fourth on RBI hits by Omar Narvaez and Lorenzo Cain, as Milwaukee snapped an 0-for-20 drought in the series with runners in scoring position.

Atlanta came right back with two in the bottom of the fourth thanks to Eddie Rosario’s two-out, two run single.

Milwaukee grabbed the lead right back in the fifth on a massive two-run homer from Game 1 hero Rowdy Tellez, who clubbed a 448-foot shot into the forest and water display beyond the center-field wall at Truist Park.

The Braves matched that with two in the bottom of the fifth.

From there, the series reverted to form, as the bullpens for both teams strung together zeros, setting the stage for Freeman.

With the clincher, Atlanta has now earned back-to-back berths in the NLCS for for the first time since a five-year streak ending in 1999.

Last season, Atlanta fell one game short of the World Series, losing Game 7 of the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a neutral site game in Arlington, Texas.

The Braves might get a chance to avenge that loss, as they await the winner of the San Francisco Giants-Dodgers series on the other side of the NL bracket.

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