ATLANTA (AP) — Eddie Rosario talked the other day about his lucky lumber, which started to heat up with a four-hit night in mid-September.
“I’ve been using that bat that I hit for the cycle with and it has not disappointed,” he said after his second four-hit game of the NL Championship Series. “Man, this bat has not let me down yet.”
Well, he topped that on Saturday night, becoming MVP of the NL Championship Series.
As the crowd chanted his name, Rosario hoisted the award.
“Truly incredible,” he said through a translator.
Rosario hit a tiebreaking, three-run homer off Dodgers ace Walker Buehler in the fourth inning, lifting the Atlanta Braves over Los Angeles 4-2 for their first NL pennant since 1999 and a World Series matchup with the Houston Astros.
Less than three months after he was traded by Cleveland, which sent the Braves money to take him away, the 30-year-old outfielder had six multi-hit games against the Dodgers. He hit .560 (14 for 25) with three homers and nine RBIs, giving him a 1.040 slugging percentage and 1.647 OPS.
He has hit safely in all 10 postseason games, batting .474 with 11 RBIs.
No hit was bigger than his home run in the fourth inning, With the score 1-1, he fouled off three pitches around a ball that left the count at 1-2, then sent a cutter down the right-field line at 105 mph, the ball carrying 361 feet.
With 14 hits, he tied the record for a postseason series, a mark he shares with Albert Pujols and Hideki Matsui (2004), Kevin Youkilis (2007) and Marco Scutaro (2012).
”I came here and I wanted to show my name, showcase my talents and prove to the people the kind of ballplayer that I am,” Rosario said.
“I feel like I had success in Minnesota and I struggled a little bit in Cleveland, so when I came over here I definitely wanted to make sure that I showcased my talents appropriately and let people sort of demonstrate that this is the kind of ballplayer that I am, these are the skills that I have and the things that I can bring to a team,” he said.
Before this October, Rosario was known mostly for stepping up against Cleveland. During six seasons with Minnesota, he hit .301 with 22 homers and 47 RBIs in 93 games against the Indians, prompting Cleveland to sign him as a free agent to an $8 million, one-year contract with funds saved after trading Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets.
Rosario batted .254 with seven homers and 46 RBIs for the Indians and was on the injured list with an oblique strain when he was traded to Atlanta on July 30 for infielder Pablo Sandoval, who was immediately released. Cleveland sent the Braves $500,000 to offset part of the $2,795,699 remaining in Rosario’s salary.
“We just never did get to see the best of Eddie,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “I do think he’s going to go over to Atlanta and be able to help them for the last month and a half for the season once he’s ready to come off the injured list.”
Rosario didn’t return the major leagues until Aug. 28, and he hit .271 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in 96 at-bats for the Braves, one of four outfielders brought in along with Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler.
“To be honest, it was a competition at first,” Rosario said. “All four of us showed up and I think we all wanted to get some playing time and be in the lineup. And obviously the three or guys they were having success on the field, so for me it was definitely a little bit of a sense of urgency to kind of push the envelope a little bit and try to work my way into the lineup.”
Turns out, heat helped Rosario’s bat to get hot.
“The first two months is 40 degrees all the time in Cleveland,” the Puerto Rican native said. “When it’s hot I feel better.”
Rosario hit for the cycle on Sept. 19 against San Francisco, helping the Braves stop a four-game skid and build a two-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL East.
He hit .308 (4 for 13) with two RBIs in the four-game Division Series win over Milwaukee, and his walkoff single in the ninth inning of Game 2 gave him a four-hit night and pushed the Braves into a 2-0 lead over the Dodgers. He had four more hits, including a pair of home runs, in a 9-2 Game 4 rout.
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