ATLANTA (AP) — 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 .
Puig stole second without drawing a throw and came home when backup shortstop Charlie Culberson failed to knock down Freese’s sharp grounder up the middle. A super sub during the regular season, Culberson had to start in the playoffs because of an injury to regular Dansby Swanson.
“They played better baseball than we did,” Culberson said.
Rich Hill of the Dodgers walked five in 4 1/3 innings, including a pair leading off the fifth that set up Suzuki’s two-run single. Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz walked four (one intentional) in four innings before he was lifted.
Hill isn’t much of a hitter, but he sure made Foltynewicz work for an inning-ending strikeout in the fourth.
After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Hill fouled out five straight pitches.
Finally, Foltynewicz blew a 97 mph fastball by the .107 career hitter.
The Braves brought out another Hall of Famer to deliver the ceremonial first pitch.
Former Atlanta manager Bobby Cox one-hopped his toss to the plate but still received a big ovation from the Atlanta crowd.
Chipper Jones threw out the first pitch before Game 3.
The announced crowd of 39,586 was nearly 3,000 smaller than the previous night’s record SunTrust Park turnout, perhaps because of a 4:30 p.m. start time that coincided with Atlanta’s notorious rush hour.
The Dodgers beat Milwaukee 4-3 in the season series. Both teams won division titles with one-game playoff victories the day after the regular season.
Atlanta opens the 2019 season at Philadelphia on March 28.