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Eddie Rosario’s 4-hit, 2-homer night gives Atlanta Braves 3-1 lead over Los Angeles Dodgers in NLCS

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LOS ANGELES — There’s hot, there is sizzling and then there is the BravesEddie Rosario.

Rosario banged out four hits in a game for the second time in the National League Championship Series and tied a Braves postseason record with 12 total bases, leading Atlanta to a 9-2 win over the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday. With the victory, the Braves seized a commanding 3-1 series lead over Los Angeles and can clinch their first pennant since 1999 with a win at Dodger Stadium in Game 5 on Thursday.

“This whole postseason he’s been pretty much unbelievable,” said Braves leader Freddie Freeman, who homered, doubled, walked and got overshadowed by Rosario’s spree.

Rosario fell a double short of becoming the second player to hit for the cycle in a postseason game, but only because his bat is almost too hot. With a homer, triple and single already in the books, Rosario cleared the fence with a drive to right in the ninth inning for his second homer of the game, a three-run shot that capped a four-run Atlanta rally that broke open the game.

“It’s postseason, no matter what, the cycle, I want to try to help the team to win,” Rosario said. “Three RBI is better than hitting a double.”

On Sept. 19, Rosario hit for the cycle against the San Francisco Giants, needing just five pitches to do so. That kicked off a hot streak that has continued right on into the highest-stakes games of his career. Beginning with that game, Rosario has hit .354 with five homers over a 22-game span. And when his bat is referred to as being hot, it’s just that — one particular hot bat. Rosario said he has been using the same stick with which he hit for the cycle.

“I’ve been using that bat that I hit for the cycle with and it has not disappointed,” Rosario said. “I had that double remaining, and I’m like, man, this bat has not let me down yet.”

During the NLCS, Rosario has hit .588 with a pair of four-hit games. He’s the first player to have a pair of four-hit games in the same LCS. Only Hall of Famer Robin Yount, who did it in the 1982 World Series, has done it in any postseason series.

Not bad for a player who was non-tendered by the Minnesota Twins last fall, didn’t latch on to a new team until February, struggled during a half-season with the Cleveland Indians and then was dealt away at the trade deadline.

“I came here and I wanted to show my name, showcase my talents and prove to the people the kind of ballplayer that I am,” Rosario said. “I feel like I had success in Minnesota and I struggled a little bit in Cleveland, so when I came over here I definitely wanted to make sure that I showcased my talents appropriately.”

As postgame questioners were all too willing to remind the Braves after Wednesday’s game, Atlanta also held a 3-1 lead over the Dodgers in the NLCS last season, only to drop three straight to L.A. and finish one game short of snapping the franchise’s pennant drought. But with every question asked in that vein, the Braves have had a pretty simple response: This is a different team and a different year.

“[It is] 2021,” Freeman said. “2020 was last year. This is a whole different team, a whole different thing. So if anybody’s thinking about 2020, I think everybody wants to be in a 3-1 lead, so we’ll take it.”

The different team part has been on full display against the Dodgers. Rosario and two other in-season outfield acquisitions — Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall — have led the Braves’ offense this series. The trio has combined to hit .404 with four homers and 14 RBIs against L.A. Everyone else has hit .225 with two homers and seven RBIs.

Atlanta still has to take that final step, but things could hardly line up better for the Braves than on Thursday. That’s because baseball’s hottest hurler, Max Fried, will take the mound, while the Dodgers will go with a bullpen game to save their season. Fried, who hails from southern California and grew up a Dodgers fan, has a shot to close the door on his boyhood club.

“What he’s done in the second half and pretty much over the whole course of the season, after the first couple weeks, every time you see No. 54 on that mound you got a real good feeling,” Freeman said.

If Freeman’s feelings are prescient, the Braves will be headed back to the World Series for the first time this century.

“I was very young when they went, the last time they went,” Freeman said. “So we got a good team and we’re playing really good baseball and hopefully we can take this thing home and get to the World Series.”

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Daisuke Matsuzaka ends 23-year career, surprised by Ichiro Suzuki in ceremony

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Daisuke Matsuzaka brought his 23-year professional baseball career to a close Saturday in a ceremony that included a surprise appearance by Ichiro Suzuki.

Matsuzaka, who faced only one batter this season for the Saitama Seibu Lions — issuing a walk in an October appearance — told fans at Seibu’s MetLife Dome that he was happy to leave the sport on his terms.

“I’m content that I was able to keep playing baseball until I could no longer throw normally in the end,” Matsuzaka said, according to Kyodo News.

A video from Suzuki was played, ending with the longtime Seattle Mariners outfielder surprising Matsuzaka on the field and giving him a flower bouquet.

“I hadn’t imagined this. It was crazy,” Matsuzaka said, according to Kyodo News. “At first I was able to hold up, and then the tears came and I was done for.

“I was surprised and just overjoyed that, at the end, Ichiro-san came to see me. I’m happy I was able to come so far.”

Suzuki and Matsuzaka faced each other both in Japan and Major League Baseball over their careers. They were also teammates for Japan’s World Baseball Classic titles in 2006 and 2009.

Matsuzaka, 41, was 56-43 with a 4.45 ERA in 132 career MLB starts with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets from 2007 to 2014. He won a World Series title in his rookie season with the Red Sox in 2017.

He started and ended his career with the Lions, pitching for them from 1999 to 2006 and the past two seasons. He also played for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Chunichi Dragons after returning to Japan in 2015.

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Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson and USWNT soccer player Mallory Pugh announce their engagement

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Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson earned a ring last month. U.S. women’s national team forward Mallory Pugh got one this month.

The World Series champion and the World Cup winner announced their engagement on Instagram Thursday night. The two have dated since 2017.

The couple met through Swanson’s former teammate Jace Peterson, now with the Milwaukee Brewers, who is married to Pugh’s sister.

Pugh plays with the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL and has been with the U.S. national team since 2016. She played in the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2019 World Cup, scoring a goal against Thailand.

Swanson made his major league debut with the Braves in 2016. This season, he hit .248 with 27 home runs and 88 RBIs.

The couple is just the latest power couple with connections to the U.S. team. They join Megan Rapinoe and her partner, WNBA star Sue Bird, and Julie Ertz, who is married to Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz.



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Time to put Minnie Minoso in Cooperstown (finally) and more on this weekend’s Baseball Hall of Fame vote

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As much as it might feel like it, the baseball world has not completely shut down. While the thrilling rush of free-agent signings and trades from the past few days will cease for now because of the lockout, there is a lot of baseball business still to be conducted.

One of the more important items comes this Sunday, when the biggest void in the membership of the Baseball of Hall Fame can be filled: The omission of White Sox legend Saturnino Orestes Armas (Arrieta) Minoso, remembered by history as Minnie.

Minnie Minoso is one of 20 greats who will be under consideration at the winter meetings this weekend for induction to the Hall of Fame. And, yes, the winter meetings will go on even without the presence of Major League Baseball. The minor league portion of the meetings will still take place, and those appointed to consider the Hall’s two era-committee ballots will convene, as scheduled.

The ballots are as follows:

• The Early Baseball committee (covers the beginning of time to 1950) will consider Bill Dahlen, John Donaldson, Bud Fowler, Vic Harris, Grant “Home Run” Johnson, Lefty O’Doul, Buck O’Neil, Dick “Cannonball” Redding, Allie Reynolds and George “Tubby” Scales.

• The Golden Days committee (covers 1950 to 1969) will consider Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Roger Maris, Minoso, Danny Murtaugh, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce and Maury Wills.

This is a big weekend for the Hall, which is hoping that 2022 will bring with it the full Hall of Fame induction experience, including the annual Parade of Legends, the induction ceremony itself and the scores of fans who make their way to Cooperstown, New York, each July. After the festivities were canceled because of the pandemic in 2020, 2021 saw a scaled-down version in September in which Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller were inducted without parades and with smaller crowds than otherwise would have flocked to upstate New York, particularly for Jeter.

The thing is, Induction Weekend is a heck of a lot more fun — and a bigger draw — when there are actual inductees. And there is no guarantee that this year’s BBWAA ballot will produce any new Hall of Famers.

Sadly, of this group of 20, the only candidates still living are Kaat, Oliva and Wills, so obviously it would be great for one or all of that trio to get in. We’ll get to that, but for now I want to really focus on Minoso, the most egregious omission in the Hall’s plaque room, at least among those not still on the BBWAA ballot.

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