The Braves are headed to the World Series for the first time since 1999

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It’s been more than two decades — 22 years to be exact — since the Braves played in a World Series, but as it approached midnight in Atlanta on Saturday night, they finally did it, defeating the LA Dodgers 4-2 in Game 6 of the NLCS.

Last night’s game felt a bit like destiny from the get-go. Starter Ian Anderson began his outing with a 1-2-3 inning, which given his first-inning struggles this year, appeared to be a sign of good things to come. The Atlanta offense delivered.

Series MVP Eddie Rosario led off the bottom-half of the first with a single to left (which by the end of this game, pushed his postseason AVG to a whopping .560). However, as Freddie Freeman quickly grounded into a double-play, it looked as if the Braves may spoil a scoring opportunity. Thankfully, though, Ozzie Albies kept the early rally going when he doubled to right, setting up a two-out RBI chance for Austin Riley.

The double by Riley gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead, and at the time, a moment to breathe. The Braves had struck first at home, which was exactly what they needed to do.

With his changeup as crisp as ever (a 40% whiff-rate by the end), Anderson continued to pitch efficiently on into the second and third innings, working around only a double by AJ Pollock. The Braves lineup managed to hit a few mistakes by Walker Buehler, but through three it remained a one-run game.

In the fourth, Anderson got a quick flyout by Corey Seager to begin the frame, but he walked the speedy Trea Turner immediately after. That free pass would go on to bite the Braves righty as Will Smith singled and later Cody Bellinger slapped a base-hit to left to score Turner and tie the game. Sometimes the infield shift can burn you…

The most impressive sequence of the game for the Braves offense came in the bottom-half of the fourth. Following two fairly quick outs made by each of Joc Pederson (strikeout) and Dansby Swanson (groundout), d’Arnaud drew a two-out walk to keep the line moving, making manager Brian Snitker roll the dice by pinch-hitting for Anderson a bit sooner that perhaps anticipated. The decision by Atlanta’s skipper couldn’t have worked better as Ehire Adrianza punched a double to left to put runners on second and third, with none other than the scorching-hot Rosario.

The three-run homer by Rosario no doubt sealed his NLCS MVP, but more importantly, it gave the Braves some wiggle room in what was sure to be an intense battle of the bullpens.

A.J. Minter worked an absolutely brilliant fifth and sixth by setting all six batters down in order, and Atlanta’s lineup almost tacked on a run or two in the latter inning when LA’s Alex Vesia walked all three batters he faced. However, Blake Treinen entered with two outs and struck out Riley to escape the jam still down 4-1.

The most questionable decision of the game perhaps came in the seventh when Snitker chose to go with Luke Jackson — whose most-recent outing came during Thursday’s Game 5 loss in which he surrendered a game-tying, three-run homer to Bellinger. Jackson wasn’t necessarily bad, but the Dodgers hitters were all over everything he threw. Chris Taylor led off with a double, Bellinger walked and immediately after a mound visit from Rick Kranitz, Pollock doubled for the second time to make it a 4-2 ballgame. Jackson left with runners on second and third and no outs.

But thankfully, Tyler Matzek decided to have the game of his life. The lefty not only got out of Jackson’s jam in the seventh, but the Atlanta reliever also tossed a perfect eighth, ending his appearance with four strikeouts in two innings worth of dominant work. The Braves were just three outs away from victory.

The Atlanta offense threatened again in the bottom-half of the eighth. A pinch-hitting Jorge Soler led off with a double and was pinch-ran for by Guillermo Heredia, who would move on to third with a groundout by Rosario. An intentional walk of Freeman set up a first-and-third situation, but LA’s Kenley Jansen pitched his way out by striking out both Albies and Riley. The Braves would have to end this with no insurance runs.

The ninth couldn’t have been worked any better by closer Will Smith. The southpaw started the frame by punching out both Taylor and Bellinger, and on the second pitch of the AB versus Pollock, the 32-year-old induced a game-ending groundout that actually wound up being a pretty nifty play by Swanson. The Braves had done it.

The Braves are finally returning to the Fall Classic. For so long we’ve waited for this moment. The post-game comments made by both Snitker and GM Alex Anthopoulos were right on track with what I think most of us believe: this team is a special group of players. Overcoming the loss of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna, the absence of Mike Soroka — the many challenges that came with this season are now all completely worth it. Atlanta may have only won 88 games in 2021, but the team has gotten hot when it matters most.

The Braves will begin it’s quest for a world championship on Tuesday with Game 1 versus the Astros at 8:09 PM (ET). The first two games of the series will be in Houston, so let’s hope they can win at least one of two before coming back home to Atlanta on Friday. In the meantime, let’s enjoy Saturday’s win!

 

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