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Dodgers defeat Braves 6-2, advance to NLCS for third straight season

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The Dodgers are headed to the NLCS for a third consecutive season. They won the NLDS three games to one after winning 6-2 in Atlanta on Monday night.

Rich Hill got the start for the Dodgers and was staked to a 1-0 lead before he even took the mound, as Manny Machado knocked in a run with a double in the top of the first. Hill held the Braves scoreless for three innings, but got himself into hot water to start the fourth, issuing back-to-back walks to Johan Camargo and Tyler Flowers. Ender Inciarte moved both runners up with a bunt. Hill then got Charlie Culberson to sharply ground out, keeping both runners put, making it seem like he would be able to see his way out of the jam. However, Kurt Suzuki came through with a two-run single to left field to put the Braves on the board and in the lead 2-1.

Mike Foltynewicz got the start for the Braves and gave up just the one run in four innings of work. The Dodgers were able to muster a rally in the sixth facing reliever Jonny Venters as Enrique Hernández singled with one out and Yasiel Puig singled with two away to put runners on the corners. David Freese pinch-hit for Ryan Madson, prompting Braves manager Brian Snitker to bring in right-hander Brad Brach. Puig stole second base unconstested and it immediately paid dividends as Freese was able to sneak a single into center field, scoring both runs to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead.

The Dodgers’ offense didn’t stop there. In the seventh, Justin Turner led off with a single and Max Muncy drew a walk against Chad Sobotka, bringing up Manny Machado. Machado fell behind 0-2, then fouled off a couple 1-2 pitches before turning on a 95 MPH fastball, lining it over the fence in left field for a three-run home run. That pushed the Dodgers’ lead to 6-2.

From there, it was up to the Dodgers’ bullpen. Pedro Báez and Caleb Ferguson combined to work a 1-2-3 seventh. Kenta Maeda got in and out of trouble in the eighth, stranding a pair of runners. The ninth inning was Kenley Jansen‘s, of course. He got Ronald Acuña to ground out, then struck out Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman to end the game, sending the Dodgers to the next round.

The Braves once again fail to advance past the NLDS. The club hasn’t made it to the NLCS since 2001 despite eight postseason appearances since then. The Dodgers will head to Milwaukee for the NLCS, which opens on Friday.

Braves sign Marcell Ozuna to one-year, $18 million deal

Marcell Ozuna
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The Braves have announced on Tuesday evening the signing of free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that it’s a one-year contract for $18 million.

Ozuna, 29, hit .241/.328/.472 with 29 home runs, 89 RBI, 80 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 549 plate appearances for the Cardinals last season. He’s been consistently above-average in each of the past four seasons, which also included a career year in 2017 in which he was worth 6.1 WAR, per Baseball Reference.

It is surprising that Ozuna, a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, had to settle for a one-year deal. The Braves are happy he did as he will help make up for some of the offense lost when third baseman Josh Donaldson became a free agent and ultimately signed with the Twins. Ozuna can become a free agent again after the 2020 season but won’t have qualifying offer compensation attached to him, part of the reason why his market may have been slow to develop.

Along with Ozuna, the Braves have signed in free agency this offseason reliever Will Smith, starter Cole Hamels, and catcher Travis d'Arnaud. They re-signed relievers Chris Martin and Darren O'Day, catcher Tyler Flowers, infielder Adeiny Hechavarría, and outfielder Nick Markakis.