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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Atlanta on the Verge of World Series Thanks to Rosario’s Hot Bat

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Ahmed Bendary
Ahmed Bendary is reporter at DDDNews a focus on health news.

LOS ANGELES — Eddie Rosario introduced himself to October baseball in 2017 by crushing a home run off the Yankees’ Luis Severino in the first postseason plate appearance of his career in that year’s American League wild-card game. Though the Minnesota Twins would nontender him after the 2020 season, there was more postseason magic left in his bat.

Like Randy Arozarena, Kiké Hernández and Joc Pederson, Rosario, an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, is fast emerging as a player that shines his brightest on the October stage — each a successor of sorts to the legacy of Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson. You could feel Rosario’s impact in the silence that enveloped the once-raucous Dodger Stadium by the middle of Game 4 here Wednesday night. And you could see it in the empty seats as Los Angeles fans streamed out of the park long before the ninth inning.

Atlanta pummeled Dodgers starter Julio Urias in a 9-2 win that moved it to within one victory of its first World Series since 1999. Rosario started the slugfest with an opposite-field solo homer to lead off the second and then followed that up by cracking a triple in the third, a single in the fifth and a three-run homer in the ninth.

Rosario, a native of Puerto Rico, finished the night with four R.B.I., three runs scored and 12 total bases.

“I’m still dreaming of bigger things,” he said afterward, and so is his team.

One year ago Atlanta also had the Dodgers on the brink of elimination with an identical three-games-to-one lead in the National League Championship Series on a neutral field in Texas during the height of the pandemic. Los Angeles won three in a row to zap those dreams and, incidentally, begin the current Dodgers’ streak of winning their past six consecutive elimination games.

Extending that streak on Thursday will be difficult. Not only has the Dodgers’ offense disappeared for much of this postseason, but third baseman Justin Turner suffered a Grade 2 hamstring sprain in Game 4 and Manager Dave Roberts already declared him done for the season. Max Muncy (elbow) is out, further hampering their lineup. The pitching is in tatters, the bullpen overtaxed.

The game was already mostly out of reach when Tony Gonsolin came out for the eighth and ninth innings, but the reliever made things worse, allowing four runs on three hits.Credit…Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

And, they cannot devise a strategy for harnessing Rosario. He now is 10 for 17 (.588) with five runs scored, two home runs, a triple, six R.B.I. and two walks in the N.L.C.S. For the entire postseason, he is 14 for 30 (.467) with eight R.B.I.

When he tripled against Urias in the third, the two exchanged knowing looks, Rosario on third and Urias looking over from the mound.

“It was a smile on his part to me as if he was telling me, ‘Everything is going for me,’” Urias said in Spanish.

“He was laughing like, ‘Oh, I can’t get this guy out,’” Rosario said, also in Spanish. “And I’m laughing because today is my day.”

Rosario came to Atlanta in a largely overlooked trade on July 30 that was essentially a salary dump for Cleveland (Atlanta sent Pablo Sandoval to Cleveland). It was part of a flurry of smart, on-point moves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos made at the trade deadline after the club lost star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. to season-ending knee injury.

“Alex went out and got him and showed these guys that we’re not going to sit and hang our heads,” Manager Brian Snitker said. “We’re going to go for this thing.”

Rosario was nursing an abdominal injury at the time and didn’t start playing every day in Atlanta until nearly a month after the trade, on Aug. 28. Atlanta wasn’t sure what it was getting because, after signing a one-year, $8 million deal with Cleveland, Rosario hit only .254 with seven homers and 46 R.B.I. in 78 games.

What changed when he arrived in Atlanta?

“The weather,” Rosario quipped. “The first two months is 40 degrees all the time in Cleveland.”

Rosario has been at his best against the Dodgers. He is 10 for 17 over the course of four games.Credit…Jae Hong/Associated Press

But it was cold often enough during his first six seasons in the majors with Minnesota, and he still managed to lead the majors with 15 triples as a rookie. He received votes for the A.L.’s Most Valuable Player Award in two of his seasons with the Twins.

The way he’s going now, he’s threatening to become the Twins’ most notable nontender since they parted ways with David Ortiz in December 2002.

With a knack for first impressions, like that first postseason homer in Minnesota, Rosario hit for the cycle in just his 20th game with Atlanta. His hot streak can largely be traced back to that September day against San Francisco.

Rosario said Wednesday night that he’s still using that same bat that he did on the day he hit for the cycle. And when he came to the plate in the seventh and ninth innings in Game 4, all he needed was a double for another cycle.

“When I was missing the double, I thought, ‘Wow, this bat is incredible,’” Rosario said.

He struck out in the seventh and then crunched the three-run homer in the ninth to ruin his chance at the rare feat.

“Three R.B.I. is better than hitting a double,” he said.

“I was on second base for the last home run, and he swung under a 1 and 0 splitter,” Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “It’s very hard to do, to swing under a splitter, and he did it and then he didn’t swing under the next one. So those are those things where you just hope they last as long as they last because it’s a pretty good feeling as a hitter.”

The rest of this month would suit Atlanta just fine.

James Wagner contributed reporting.

Ahmed Bendary
Ahmed Bendary is reporter at DDDNews a focus on health news.

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