Led by an unlikely hero, the Atlanta Braves are heading back to a place that used to be so familiar to them.
The World Series.
Eddie Rosario capped a remarkable National League Championship Series with a three-run homer, sending the Braves to the biggest stage of all with a 4-2 victory over the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night.
The Braves won the best-of-seven playoff four games to two, exorcising the demons of last year’s NLCS — when Atlanta squandered 2-0 and 3-1 leads against the Dodgers — and advancing to face the AL champion Astros.
Game 1 is Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
“It’s a great moment in my life,” Rosario, from Puerto Rico, said through an interpreter. “But I want more. I want to win the World Series.”
The Braves were Series regulars in the 1990s, winning it all in ’95. That remains their only title in Atlanta. The Braves lost the Series four other times during that decade, a run of postseason disappointment that marred a momentous streak that grew to 14 straight division titles.
After getting swept in the 1999 World Series by the Yankees, the Braves couldn’t even get that far in the postseason.
Twenty-two years of frustration, 12 playoff appearances that fell short of a pennant.
Finally, it’s over.
“We actually did it,” said longtime first baseman Freddie Freeman, sounding a bit bewildered.
Rosario set an Atlanta record and became only the fifth player in baseball history to get 14 hits in a postseason series. He was an easy choice as MVP of the series.
Rosario’s final hit was certainly the biggest of the 30-year-old’s career.
Rosario got into an extended duel with pitcher Walker Buehler, who stepped up to start on three days’ rest after ace Max Scherzer wasn’t able to go because of a tired arm.
Rosario swung and missed the first two pitches. Then he fouled one off. Then he took a ball. Then he fouled off two more pitches.
Finally, he got one he liked and hit a 105 mph rocket down the right-field line, higher and higher, straight as an arrow until it landed well back into the seats below the Chop House restaurant.
Rosario delivered the 361-foot finishing shot to a highly paid team that won 106 games during the regular season — 18 more than the NL East-winning Braves — but came up short in its bid to become baseball’s first repeat champion since the 2000 New York Yankees won their third straight title.
“We had a tremendous season,” Roberts said. “We were two wins away from going to the World Series. I want the guys to be proud of that.”
Kill the narrative
The Braves will be looking to bury their city’s reputation for postseason misery across a wide range of sports.
From four World Series losses in the 1990s to the NFL Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in the 2017 Super Bowl, Atlanta again finds itself on the cusp of an extremely rare feat.
The ‘95 Braves remain the city’s lone team in the four major sports — baseball, football, basketball and hockey — to capture a title. Freeman said after a Game 5 loss that the city’s history would remain an issue “until we kill that narrative.”
They’re four wins from doing just that.
Snit Vs. Snit
Braves manager Brian Snitker will see a familiar face in the opposite dugout during the World Series.
Troy Snitker is the hitting coach for the Astros.
“The Snitker family is going to have a World Series trophy in our house,” Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know who’s going to have it, but we’re going to have one.”