October

He went up swinging, and he kept swinging. Eddie Rosario stepped in against Walker Buehler in the fourth inning with two runners on in an NLCS Game 6 tied at one. Met with a 93 mph cutter, he swung and missed for strike one.

The Atlanta Braves outfielder was the hottest hitter on the field, having batted .571 through the first five games of the NLCS with two homers and two four-hit games. Buehler, the 27-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, was wearing down, but also amped up.

Next pitch: Another 93 mph cutter. Another swing, foul tipped. Two strikes.

Neither Rosario nor Buehler were supposed to be here, per se. Rosario was the fourth outfielder Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos acquired in a July trade spree to restock a depleted lineup — a salary dump from Cleveland who came over while injured, for the cost of one soon-to-be-released Pablo Sandoval. Buehler was lined up to pitch a potential NLCS Game 7 on Sunday until the Dodgers’ elder ace, trade deadline headliner Max Scherzer, reported continuing arm fatigue. That left the Dodgers’ 106-win season on his shoulders — pitching on short rest for the second time this month and the second time of his major-league career.

Buehler was sticking to a clear game plan against the left-handed Rosario. Cutters inside, sinkers outside. Rosario fouled off a cutter, let one sinker go wide, then fouled off two more pitches to bring Buehler — who had eclipsed 225 total innings on the season — to his 70th pitch of the night.

The seventh pitch of the at-bat might have been the toughest, a 94 mph cutter bearing down and in, heading for that dangerous border of the strike zone. Rosario was swinging, of course.

Since breaking into the league in 2015, Rosario has swung about as often as any hitter in baseball — 56.5% of the pitches he sees, he goes after. The cost-benefit analysis of this tendency toward aggression is more complicated over years of competition and thousands of plate appearances, but in the playoffs its appeal becomes crystal clear: You never know which one might make the difference. 

This was the one that made the difference. With a quick step and a slash of the bat, he sent the ball screaming into the right-field stands, the 88-win Braves to the World Series and the 106-win Dodgers into a disappointing winter.

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler watches Eddie Rosario's go-ahead homer sail into the stands in the Braves' NLCS Game 6 win. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! Sports Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler watches Eddie Rosario's go-ahead homer sail into the stands in the Braves' NLCS Game 6 win. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

A star-studded Dodgers team falls

Recent vintage Dodgers teams have seemed designed to test the limits of how many great baseball players can be stuffed on to one team at the same time. Their architect, Andrew Friedman, has rewired the baseball world by taking constant swings.

A swing brought Mookie Betts to Los Angeles, and finally led to the team’s first World Series title in decades in the shortened 2020 season. They had previously taken big swings on Manny Machado, on Yu Darvish, on A.J. Pollock.


Gallery: MLB postseason: 8 players who could change the course of the playoffs (SMG)

The 2021 MLB postseason is here and with it, a new round of opportunities for players to become forever heroes in the cities they represent.  The great thing about baseball, of course, is that anyone in the lineup can have a big impact in that day's game. But some players have more of a chance than others. Here are eight players — one from each of the remaining teams in the playoffs — who could really help their teams reach the promised land. The 2021 MLB postseason is here and with it, a new round of opportunities for players to become forever heroes in the cities they represent.  The great thing about baseball, of course, is that anyone in the lineup can have a big impact in that day's game. But some players have more of a chance than others. Here are eight players — one from each of the remaining teams in the playoffs — who could really help their teams reach the promised land.>