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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.

Brewers hold off the Dodgers to force Game 7 of the NLCS

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Down 3-2 in the NLCS, the Brewers faced a must-win situation during Game 6 on Friday. Any residual uncertainty they might have felt about their chances of extending the series was all but resolved in the first inning, however, when Jesús Aguilar, Mike Moustakas, and Erik Kratz combined for a four-run spread to take an early lead. Powered by those early-game RBI, as well as masterful performances from Wade Miley, Corey Knebel, and Corbin Burnes, the club surged to a 7-2 win to pull even with the Dodgers and force a Game 7 tiebreaker.

Left-hander Wade Miley trounced the Dodgers in 4 1/3 innings of two-run, four-strikeout ball. He was bested by David Freese in the very first at-bat of the night, which culminated with a 402-footer to right field to put Los Angeles on the board, 1-0. After a few scoreless innings from the Dodgers, Freese returned to torment Miley in the top of the fifth, this time with an RBI double that narrowed the Brewers’ advantage from four runs to three.

Things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for opposing lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. In the bottom of the first inning, Ryu allowed a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain, followed by a four-pitch walk to Ryan Braun. Jesús Aguilar came up to bat with two out and two on, then smacked a two-RBI line drive double to right field. Moustakas and Kratz went back-to-back-to-back with Aguilar, putting up another three runs on an RBI double and single, respectively.

The Brewers kept rolling in the second inning. Christian Yelich and Braun each collected a double off of Ryu, bringing Milwaukee’s lead to 5-1 over Los Angeles. Braun advanced to third on a Travis Shaw groundout, but with Aguilar up to bat, Ryu wasn’t going to chance a repeat of the Dodgers’ first-inning debacle. He intentionally walked Aguilar, then whiffed Moustakas on three straight fastballs to cap the inning.

By the time both Miley and Ryu were forced from the mound, the Brewers stood 5-2 above their opponents. Right-hander Corey Knebel worked a scoreless 1 2/3 innings, striking out Manny Machado to eliminate another potential rally from the Dodgers in the fifth inning and retiring all four batters in the sixth (save for Joc Pederson, who reached base after taking a 96.3-MPH fastball to the wrist). The righty received another significant opportunity to do some damage against the Dodgers in the bottom of the fifth, when he came up to bat for the first time in his professional career with the bases loaded and two outs… but saw just four pitches before swinging at a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.

After Ryu’s unexpected departure in the third, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts cycled through five pitchers — Julio Urías, Alex Wood, Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson, and Kenta Maeda — in an attempt to squelch the Brewers’ comeback. The bullpen combined for four consecutive scoreless frames, but was ultimately foiled in the seventh, when, with runners on second and third and two outs, a wild pitch from Maeda ricocheted off the front of home plate and allowed Aguilar to plate yet another insurance run. Still not content with a two-hit, two-RBI performance, Aguilar came back in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single — only moments after a failed double play that would have ended the inning — to bring the Brewers to a cushy 7-2 advantage as they entered the ninth.

No similar last-minute rallies awaited the Dodgers there. Rookie right-hander Corbin Burnes orchestrated another flawless 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, retiring Pederson and Puig with consecutive strikeouts and inducing a game-inning, series-extending pop-up from Matt Kemp to wrap the win.

Game 7 is set for 8:09 PM EDT on Saturday. The starters for both clubs have yet to be announced.