The Atlanta Braves are returning to the National League Championship Series for the second consecutive season and they are moving there in dramatic fashion.
Freddie Freeman of the Braves hammered a homer with two outs, first pitch to midfield in the bottom of the eighth off Josh Hader, the Milwaukee Brewers All-Star, who lifted Atlanta to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory on Tuesday, the conclusion of the NL division series in four games.
“I’ve had a lot of cool moments in my career, but so far I think that’s going to surpass them there,” Freeman said. “But hopefully that’s not the last cool one.”
Freeman’s heroism ended a back-and-forth affair in which the Braves and Brewers scored nine runs together – the total number of runs they scored together in the first three games of a well-placed series.
While Freeman is the face of the Braves franchise, the reigning NL MVP and possibly a future Hall of Famer, his homer to Hader was a blast.
“Against him all my career I just look at the venue because he’s throwing up all those heaters,” Freeman said. “Was I looking for a [first-pitch] slide up? New. I just looked up. … I looked up and away in the venue a little bit, and he threw it there and I was able to get it.”
One of the most dominant relievers of his generation, Hader had never allowed a postseason home run since July 28 and hadn’t allowed a single run since July 28. none since September 12, 2020, when Jason Heyward of the Chicago Cubs did it.
However, one of those seven lefty-lefty homers: Freeman hit a game-winning homer to Hader in the 10th inning of a game in Atlanta on May 18, 2019.
The stakes were a lot higher this time.
“[Hader] had to throw in the game, and it was the right part of the lineup for him to throw,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. “And it was our best against their best. I don’t think you regret that situation.”
The Brewers led early with a fourth-place finish of two runs on RBI-hits by Omar Narvaez and Lorenzo Cain, while Milwaukee broke a 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 took the lead back in the fifth on a huge two-run homer by Game 1 hero Rowdy Tellez, who clubbed a 448-foot shot into the woods and water behind the midfield wall in Truist Park.
The Braves tied that with two in the bottom of the fifth.
From there, the series returned to form, as the bullpens for both teams strung together zeros, setting the stage for Freeman.
“You can’t make that up,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I had so many things in my head when that happened, when he hit that ball.
“It was like the perfect ending. Unbelievable. And God, I don’t know if I’ve ever been involved in a game like that, just the intensity and everything that happened, and back and forth. My God. It was something else. “
Freeman became the first player in Braves history to hit a leading homerun in the eighth inning or later of a series-ending win, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
“You just have to hope [Freeman] swings on the first pitch and pulls itself out,” said Brewer’s righty Brandon Woodruff. ‘He’s so tough. And the fact that he was able to hit that ball where he did, and knock it out like he did on a slider, you tip your hat to him. He’s an incredible baseball player.”
With the clincher, Atlanta has now earned back-to-back berths in the NLCS for the first time since a five-year streak ending in 1999.
Last season, Atlanta fell one game short of the World Series and lost Game 7 of the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a game at neutral ground in Arlington, Texas.
The Braves may get a chance to avenge that loss as they await the San Francisco Giants-Dodgers series winner on the other side of the NL bracket.
“I think we are in a much better position now than we were a year ago,” said Snitker. “And last year we were a game away from where we wanted to go. I like our chances.”
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