ATLANTA – Freddie Freeman hit a tiebreaking home run off Milwaukee closer Josh Hader with two outs in the eighth inning and the Atlanta Braves advanced to the NL Championship Series for the second year in a row, finishing off the Brewers 5-4 on Tuesday night.
The Braves won the best-of-five Division Series 3-1, advancing to face either the 107-win San Francisco Giants or the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers with a trip to the World Series on the line.
The game was tied at 4 when the Brewers brought on Hader to make sure it stayed that way. The hard-throwing lefty struck out Eddie Rosario and Dansby Swanson, but he couldn't get past the 2020 NL MVP.
Freeman caught up with an 84-mph slider, launching a 428-foot drive into the seats in left-center – only the fourth homer all season off Hader, and first since July 28.
Freeman celebrated wildly on his way around the bases, and popped back out of the dugout for a curtain call as the crowd of 40,195 roared. He became the first player in franchise history to hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later in a series-clinching win, ESPN Stats & Info said.
“When Freddie hit that ball, I mean, I lost my poise. Everybody in the dugout was going crazy,” teammate Ozzie Albies said.
Will Smith pitched a scoreless ninth for his third straight save in the series, getting Christian Yelich to look at strike three with a runner on first for the final out. Tyler Matzek claimed the win with a perfect eighth.
“Freddie! Freddie! Freddie!” the crowd chanted as the Braves celebrated in the center of the field.
Despite having fewer wins (88) than any other playoff team – and even two teams that didn't make the postseason – the NL East champion Braves are headed back to the NLCS for the second season in a row.
They hope to finish the job they came so agonizingly close to achieving a year ago, when they squandered a 3-1 series lead and lost in Game 7 to the eventual World Series champion Dodgers.
“We've been feeling really good about ourselves in the second half, playing really good baseball. We carried it over to the postseason,” Freeman said.
Pitching on three days' rest, Charlie Morton lasted just 31/3 innings for the Braves. He surrendered four hits and was charged with Milwaukee's first two runs.