The Atlanta Braves defeat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 and advance to the NLCS for the second straight season.
Maybe Morton went an inning too long, but regardless, he gave the Braves a solid start in a pivotal game. Morton on short rest is better than most options, and there was always Max Fried on regular rest in game 5 if necessary.
Jesse Chavez came in for Morton after the starter yielded one run, though one of his inherited runners scored to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead.
The 5th inning was just as eventful, as Huascar Ynoa allowed a two-run home run to Rowdy Tellez to push the Brewers lead back to two. However, a Joc Pederson RBI fielder’s choice and d’Arnaud RBI single tied the game up again at four apiece.
The Braves bullpen slammed the door on the Brewers at this point. A.J. Minter, Luke Jackson, and Tyler Matzek combined for 3 perfect innings with 5 total strikeouts. One could feel the momentum shift thanks to these efforts.
But the game was still tied.
The Face that Runs the Place Comes Through
The Brewers elected to go to their lockdown closer Josh Hader in the 8th inning in an effort to shut down the Braves offense.
On the season, Hader had a 1.23 ERA, 2.18 xERA, 1.69 FIP, 2.35 xFIP, and a 2.6 fWAR. He struck out 45.5% of the batters he faced during the year… including his first 2 hitters tonight.
What he hadn’t done this season was execute a multi-inning save. In 60 regular season appearances, he had never even been called upon for even a 4-out save… much less 6 outs.
Nonetheless, Hader has a strong case to win NL Reliever of the Year and manager Craig Counsell had every reason to be confident in his guy to shut down the Braves offense.
There was only one problem: Freddie Freeman.
It only took one pitch. Freeman gave the Braves a 5-4 lead with his 8th inning Home Run off of Hader… who still has not pitched a multi-inning save.
Freeman did what superstars do. He pulled through in the clutch when it was needed most, something he has done time and time again for the Braves.
Will Smith then entered in the 9th with a chance to save the game and send his club to the NLCS.
After a leadoff single from Eduardo Escobar, and a pop-out bunt attempt from Kolton Wong, Willy Adames and Christian Yelich both struck out to end the game.
The Atlanta Braves are back in the National League Championship Series and will face either the Dodgers or Giants.
In a season where the team did not get over .500 until game 109 on August 5th, they will now play for a shot to get to the World Series. What a year, what a team.