Eddie Rosario missed a piece of history by about eight feet Wednesday night. Having homered in the second inning, tripled in the third and singled in the fifth, the Atlanta Braves left fielder had one more chance in the ninth to become only the second player in major league history to hit for the cycle in a playoff game.
If the ball hit the wall, Rosario would have the double he needed to join Brock Holt on a cycle built for two — the utility player achieved the rare feat for the Boston Red Sox in a division series game against the New York Yankees on Oct. 8, 2018.
But Rosario came up long. His drive sailed into the right-field bullpen for a three-run homer that capped his one-man wrecking crew of a performance in a 9-2 victory over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series before 53,025 in Chavez Ravine.
Rosario had four hits, drove in four runs and scored three runs, as Atlanta responded to a crushing, potentially series-turning loss in Game 3 on Tuesday with a roundhouse punch of its own to take a 3-1 series lead and move to within one win of its first World Series appearance since 1999.
Since the start of Game 2, Rosario has nine hits, including two homers, and two walks in 14 plate appearances of three games.
“Yeah, Eddie’s been in the moment here,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I tell you what, he’s liked this postseason play, that’s for sure. Good for him. He’s had great at-bats. I looked up and told Walt [Weiss, Atlanta bench coach], ‘He’s a double away from the cycle again,’ and then he hit a homer, so that’s better.”
The left-handed-hitting Rosario, 30, drew little interest on the free-agent market last winter despite a solid six-year career in Minnesota, which included a 32-homer, 109-RBI season in 2019.
He signed a one-year, $8-million deal with Cleveland and was traded to the Braves on July 30, part of General Manager Alex Anthopoulos’ outfield renovation in the wake of a season-ending knee injury to Ronald Acuña Jr.
Rosario was slowed for much of August by an abdominal strain but eventually found his stroke, hitting .271 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in 33 games for the Braves after hitting .254 with a .685 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, seven homers and 46 RBIs in 78 games for the Indians.
What changed in Atlanta?
“The weather,” Rosario said. “The first two months it was 40 degrees all the time in Cleveland. When it’s hot, I feel better.”
Rosario hit for the cycle in a Sept. 19 game at San Francisco and has been using the same bat since.
“I had that double remaining [Wednesday night], and I’m like, ‘Man, this bat has not let me down yet,” Rosario said. “But it’s the postseason. Cycle or not, I want to try to help the team win. Three RBIs is better than hitting a double.”
Former Twins manager Paul Molitor recently described Rosario as “a no-blink player,” meaning he’s not going to shy away from the spotlight or be afraid to take a risk on the basepaths.
That was clear in the eighth inning of Game 2, when Rosario tagged from first on Freddie Freeman’s routine fly ball to left field and beat AJ Pollock’s errant throw with a head-first slide into second.
Rosario scored on Ozzie Albies’ single, and Austin Riley’s RBI double tied the score 4-4. Rosario then capped a four-hit night with an RBI single off Kenley Jansen in the ninth to give Atlanta a 5-4 walk-off victory.
Rosario singled also had a brain cramp in the first inning of Game 3, getting a terrible read on Albies’ looper to shallow center and getting doubled off second in the first inning.
But Rosario, moved from leadoff to the fifth spot against Dodgers left-hander Julio Urías in Game 4, had his fingerprints all over the Braves’ win.
With an 0-and-2 count in the second, Rosario drove an up-and-away, 94-mph fastball from Urias over the left-field wall for an opposite-field homer and a 1-0 lead. Adam Duvall homered to center to make it 2-0.
Freeman’s homer to right pushed Atlanta’s lead to 3-0 in the third. Rosario kept the inning going with a two-out triple to right, Duvall was walked intentionally, and Joc Pederson dunked an RBI single into shallow center for a 4-0 lead.
Rosario added a key hit in the fifth, following Albies’ leadoff single with a one-out single to right to advance Albies to third. Duvall’s sacrifice fly made it 5-0. Rosario struck out against Justin Bruihl in the seventh.
“This whole postseason he’s been pretty much unbelievable,” Freeman said. “He had a huge game and is having a huge series.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.