Machado, Dodgers finish off Braves in NLDS with 6-2 win
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA — The Los Angeles 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 Monday 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 postseason to lead the Dodgers into the NL Championship Series for the third year in a row. Los Angeles moved on to face the Brewers after taking out the Baby Braves 3-1 in the best-of-five series.
Game 1 is 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 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.”
Coming off a tense victory in Game 3, the Baby Braves grabbed the lead 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. 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 flied out to end the inning, and Atlanta went down quietly in the ninth.
The Braves’ return to the postseason 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 is 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. Los Angeles 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,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s what they’ve done all year is hit home runs. We’re not built like that yet.”
Los Angeles also benefited from some shaky Atlanta defense during its go-ahead inning. Puig kept the sixth going with a popup down the line off loser Jonny Venters that fell between second baseman Ozzie Albies and right fielder Nick Markakis.
Houston 11, Cleveland 3
CLEVELAND — The Houston Astros advanced to the AL Championship Series for the second straight year, completing a division-round sweep of Cleveland on Monday with an 11-3 win in Game 3 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 homer and Houston’s bullpen combined for four scoreless innings as the defending champion Astros moved closer to reaching their second straight World Series.
The Astros are orbiting in October again, and next play Boston or the New York Yankees.
Boston 16, NY Yankees 1
NEW YORK — Brock Holt became the first player to hit for the cycle in a postseason game and the Boston Red Sox routed the New York Yankees 16-1 on Monday night to grab a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five AL Division Series.
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.
Boston battered an ineffective Luis Severino and silenced a charged-up Yankee Stadium crowd that emptied out fast on a night when Red Sox rookie manager Alex Cora made all the right moves. By the ninth, backup catcher Austin Romine was on the mound for New York — he gave up a two-run homer to Holt that completed his cycle.
Game 4 is Tuesday night in the Bronx, where the 108-win Red Sox can put away the wild-card Yankees for good and advance to the AL Championship Series against Houston. Rick Porcello is scheduled to pitch for Boston against CC Sabathia.
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.