The Associated Press
ATLANTA–The L.A. Dodgers went through all the expected motions after winning a playoff series.
They 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,” Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts said after his team finished off the Atlanta Braves with a 6-2 victory yesterday in the NL Division Series.
“We have eight more wins to go.”
Manny Machado hit a three-run homer and David Freese came through again in the post-season to lead the Dodgers into the NL Championship Series for the third year in a row.
L.A. moved on to face the Brewers after taking out the “Baby Braves” 3-1 in the best-of-five series.
Game 1 goes Friday night in Milwaukee–the Dodgers’ fourth championship series in six seasons.
“We prepared ourselves to get here,” Machado said. “And we’re not going to stop ’til 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.”
Coming off a tense victory in Game 3, the “Baby Braves” grabbed the lead yesterday on pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki’s two-run single in the fourth.
But 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.
“You just gotta be ready,” Freese said. “Whether you’re in high school, college, whatever, just be ready.
“You don’t have to be the best player in the world, you don’t have to make the most money, but you’re going to have a shot to do something cool,” he added.
“I learned that early in my career. I just try and stick with it.”
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 then flied out to end the inning before Atlanta went down quietly in the ninth.
The Braves’ return to the post-season for the first time since 2013 yielded a familiar result.
Atlanta has lost nine-straight playoff appearances–their last victory coming 17 long years ago against a team that’s no longer in the National League.
Since a sweep of Houston Astros in the 2001 NL Division Series, October has been a month of misery for the Braves.
Getting back to the playoffs ahead of schedule after a massive rebuild, Atlanta simply didn’t have the experience, depth, or power to stick with the power-packed Dodgers.
L.A. had a franchise-record 235 homers during the regular season and eight more against the Braves, accounting for 14 of its 20 runs.
Tinseltown has become Boomtown.
“They’re a very powerful team,” said Braves’ manager Brian Snitker.
“It’s what they’ve done all year is hit home runs,” he noted. “We’re not built like that yet.”