ATLANTA – Kenta Maeda worked a scoreless eighth inning to help the Los Angeles Dodgers bounce back and beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Monday for a spot in the National League Championship Series.
The Dodgers won the NL Division Series 3-1 and will meet the Milwaukee Brewers in their third straight NLCS. The Brewers have home field advantage as Games 1 and 2 will be played at Miller Park on Friday and Saturday.
The Dodgers broke out T-shirts and caps. They posed for pictures in the middle of SunTrust Park. They doused each other with beer in the clubhouse.
Then, just like that, their focus turned to bigger goals ahead.
For a power-packed team that hasn’t won a World Series since 1988, nothing less will do.
“We all know that there’s a lot more work to be done,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said after his team finished off the Braves in the NL Division Series. “We have eight more wins to go.”
Manny Machado hit a three-run homer and David Freese, the 2011 World Series MVP with St. Louis, countered with a pinch-hit single of his own in the sixth off Brad Brach, driving home Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig for a 3-2 lead.
“We prepared ourselves to get here,” Machado said, “and we’re not going to stop till we get what we want.”
Of course, this is just what the Dodgers had in mind when they bolstered their already power-packed lineup by acquiring the slugging shortstop — and free agent-to-be — from lowly Baltimore back in July.
Machado had only three hits in the series, but two of them were homers to go along with six RBIs. He got the Dodgers going in Game 4 with a run-scoring double in the first, and effectively wrapped up the series with his seventh-inning shot off rookie Chad Sobotka that cleared the Dodgers’ bullpen in left.
“There are so many expectations put on him,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of good players, but I can’t say enough about his focus and preparedness.”
Reliever Ryan Madson earned the win by getting the final two outs in the fifth to escape a bases-loaded jam.
The Braves’ final gasp came in the eighth, when Lucas Duda’s drive into the second deck in right drifted foul with two on against Kenta Maeda. Duda flied out to end the inning, and Atlanta went down quietly in the ninth.
After retiring the first two batters with ease, Maeda yielded a pair of singles. But he pitched out of a two-out, two-on jam by getting Lucas Duda to fly out on the sixth pitch.
“I had to go all-out in that situation (against Duda),” Maeda said.
“I tried to throw a strong pitch in the strike zone rather than taking a chance loading the bases. It was good I was able to get an out.”
Astros 11, Indians 3
In Cleveland, Houston advanced to the ALCS for the second straight year, completing a division-round sweep of Cleveland helped by two key throwing errors from Indians reliever Trevor Bauer.
Marwin Gonzalez hit a two-run double off Bauer on a shoulder-high pitch as the Astros scored three runs in the seventh inning and closed a series that figured to be much more competitive.
George Springer homered twice, Carlos Correa hit three-run shot and Houston’s bullpen combined for four scoreless innings as the defending champion Astros moved closer to reaching their second straight World Series.
Red Sox 16, Yankees 1
In New York, part-time utilityman Brock Holt put the finishing touch on a Red Sox blowout, becoming the first player to hit for the cycle in a postseason game as Boston routed the Yankees to seize a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five AL Division Series.
“This one I’ll remember for a long time,” said Holt, unaware of his achievement until told by a television reporter right after the final out. “Obviously, you don’t go into the game expecting to make history or do anything like that, let alone score 16 runs.”
Andrew Benintendi lined a three-run double and Holt tripled home two more in a seven-run fourth inning that quickly turned the latest playoff matchup between these longtime rivals into a laugher. Handed a big early lead, Nathan Eovaldi shut down his former team during New York’s most lopsided defeat in 396 postseason games.
“An embarrassing day,” Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius said.
Every starter had at least one hit for the Red Sox, who piled up 18 in all. The only time they scored more runs in the postseason was a 23-7 win over Cleveland in 1999.
Yankees hurler Luis Severino, who went 19-8 in the regular season, lasted three innings. He allowed six runs and seven hits. He walked two and struck out two.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5