MLB

MLB playoffs 2021: Dodgers 'didn't have an answer' for Braves' MVP Rosario

By Sports Desk October 24, 2021

As the National League Championship Series unfolded, it became clear to the Los Angeles Dodgers that they had to find a way to stop Eddie Rosario. 

Maybe that would have happened if the series had gone seven games, but Rosario made sure it did not, hitting his third home run of the NLCS to give the Atlanta Braves a 4-2 win Saturday and secure MVP honours. 

As the Braves advance to their first World Series since 1999, they can thank a man who did not make his first start for Atlanta until August 29 but has become indispensable. 

Rosario went 14 for 25 in the series for a staggering .560 batting average, driving in nine runs and scoring six himself. 

"We just couldn't figure him out," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "He beat us the other way. He beat us to the pull side. He got hits off lefties, off righties. We tried to spin him. We went hard.

"We just didn't have an answer for him and when you've got that big guy [Freddie Freeman] looming behind him it's just kind of tough to pitch around him, who was clearly hot. But, yeah, we just didn't have an answer for him."

Rosario tied an MLB record for the most hits in a postseason series, but he could lay claim to owning it outright.

The four men he shares the mark with – Marco Scutaro (2012 NLCS), Kevin Youkilis (2007 ALCS), Albert Pujols (2004 NLCS) and Hideki Matsui (2004 ALCS) – all needed seven games to reach 14 hits. 

"It's just amazing how locked-in he is," Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Rosario. "It's been something else."

Atlanta acquired Rosario from the Cleveland Indians on July 30, just under three weeks after losing star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. for the season with a knee injury, but they knew they would have to wait for the newcomer to join the lineup. 

Rosario had been out since July 5 with an abdominal strain and would not become a regular fixture in the Braves lineup until mid-September, but no one is taking him out now. 

Though the 30-year-old has postseason experience from his time with the Minnesota Twins, he has never experienced anything like the last week or so. 

"This is obviously my greatest accomplishment of my career so far, this [MVP] trophy and this award, so it's something to definitely be proud of," Rosario said. 

"It's truly a great moment, not just in my career, but in my life as well, but I want more. I want to win the World Series."

Related items

  • Salernitana 0-2 Juventus: Dybala and Morata get Bianconeri back to winning ways Salernitana 0-2 Juventus: Dybala and Morata get Bianconeri back to winning ways

    Juventus returned to winning ways in Serie A with a routine 2-0 victory over bottom side Salernitana.

    Massimiliano Allegri ruled Juve out of the title race after their defeat to Atalanta on Saturday, which followed a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea in the Champions League.

    But Juve hit back on Tuesday, Paulo Dybala breaking the deadlock in the 21st minute, though he did send a stoppage-time penalty way over the crossbar.

    Dybala's penalty miss was never going to prove costly, however, with Alvaro Morata having already sealed the points in the 70th minute.

    Aiming to avoid a third successive defeat against newly promoted sides in Serie A for the first time, Juve started well with Dejan Kulusevski shooting just wide.

    Kulusevski turned provider as Juve's pressure told in the 21st minute – Dybala exchanging a neat one-two with the winger before firing low beyond Vid Belec.

    Giorgio Chiellini thought he had doubled the lead when he tucked home the rebound after Juan Cuadrado's free-kick was tipped onto the post, but he was denied a first league goal of the season following a VAR check, with Moise Kean deemed to have strayed offside.

    Salernitana had a glorious opportunity to equalise when the ball broke kindly for Luca Ranieri in the 57th minute, but his effort crashed against the woodwork with Wojciech Szczesny beaten.

    It proved costly as, just three minutes after entering the action, Morata was in the right place to flick home Federico Bernardeschi's low cross.

    Dybala had the chance to put the icing on the cake from the penalty spot with the last kick of the game, but slipped at the vital moment and sliced his effort high over the goal.

  • Former England captain Alastair Cook signs Essex extension until 2023 Former England captain Alastair Cook signs Essex extension until 2023

    Former England captain Alastair Cook has penned a two-year extension with Essex.

    Cook, who is England's all-time leading run scorer in Test cricket, signed an initial three-year deal with Essex following his international retirement in 2018.

    Since then, the 36-year-old has played an integral role in the county's successive red-ball titles in 2019 and 2020, first the County Championship followed by the inaugural Bob Willis Trophy.

    Cook registered 172 in the first innings in the latter success at Lord's to offer Essex an early lead against Somerset, ending the campaign as the leading run scorer in the competition with 563 runs at an average of 56.30.

    But Essex endured a tough season the following campaign, failing to qualify for Division One of the County Championship, while it remained unclear whether Cook would renew terms.

    Cook, however, has decided to continue playing for at least the next two years.

    Upon signing his new contract, the opening batsman to Essex's in-house media: "I have really enjoyed my cricket here at Essex since my international retirement.

    "We are lucky to have a fantastic dressing room and great coaching staff, led brilliantly by Anthony McGrath, and I'm looking forward to what is hopefully another successful couple of years."

    The left-hander made 161 Test appearances, racking up 12,472 runs at an average of 45.35 as he holds records as not only England's most-capped red-ball captain (59) but also for the most centuries for his country in the longest format (33).

  • Merseyside derby: Benitez desperate for a win in Liverpool reunion Merseyside derby: Benitez desperate for a win in Liverpool reunion

    Liverpool have two reunions with fan favourites coming up in the space of 10 days.

    While Steven Gerrard will bring his Aston Villa team to Anfield on December 11, Liverpool first make the short trip to Goodison Park to face the manager under which they enjoyed their best spell of the 21st century prior to Jurgen Klopp's arrival.

    Rafael Benitez was a contentious appointment, to say the least, when he replaced Carlo Ancelotti at Everton.

    After a strong start to his tenure at Goodison Park, a combination of injuries to key players and questionable tactical decisions have left Benitez under pressure.

    Everton are on a seven-match winless run in the league, their worst run since 2016, and a streak of just one victory in 10 matches across all competition. 

    It does not look pretty, the mood around each club could hardly be more different, and the last thing Benitez needs is a reunion with a fanbase that once idolised him and may well be singing his name again on Wednesday.

    Where did it all go wrong?

    Benitez has inherited a mess and Everton's director of football Marcel Brands and majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri must face scrutiny. The Spaniard, however, must ultimately shoulder part of the blame for the current malaise.

    Of Everton's Premier League managers, only Howard Kendall (in his ill-fated third spell at the club) and Walter Smith took fewer points than Benitez's tally of 15 across their first 13 league games.

    Everton went unbeaten in their three league derbies under Ancelotti, albeit they did suffer a 1-0 loss to very much a second-string Liverpool side in the FA Cup in January 2020.

    However, Ancelotti oversaw Everton's first derby victory since October 2010 when the Toffees beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield in February, ending a winless run at that ground stretching back to September 1999.

    That win at an empty Anfield inflicted a fourth successive home league defeat on Liverpool for the first time since 1923 and left the Merseyside rivals level in the race for Champions League qualification.

    Since then, Everton have won just nine of their 27 Premier League outings, losing 11, with Liverpool winning 17 of 26, only suffering three defeats. The Reds have scored 62 goals, 36 more than their city rivals, while only Chelsea's defence is stingier of sides to have been in the top tier for the entirety of that timeframe.

    If Evertonians hoped a corner had been turned in February, Klopp's team have proved they are still worlds apart.

    Similar derby records... differing approaches

    Speaking of Klopp, he has won seven Merseyside derbies since joining Liverpool in 2015, drawing five and suffering that solitary defeat. 

    Benitez will be the sixth Everton boss Klopp has faced, and the German holds an impressive record over his Liverpool predecessor, winning four of seven meetings, losing just once, when Napoli beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the 2013-14 Champions League group stage.

    Liverpool also won their last three league games against Benitez's Newcastle by an aggregate score of 9-2. 

    This game will take Klopp onto the same amount of Merseyside derbies that Benitez managed as Liverpool boss. The former Real Madrid coach oversaw 14 meetings with David Moyes' Everton, winning eight and losing only three times. The Toffees' failures in this fixture have not been limited to the past decade.

    Across the last seven matches, Benitez's team rank 17th for possession (39.5 per cent), joint-18th for shots on target (21) and joint-20th for goals (four), albeit they have underperformed their expected goals (xG) value (7.58) – the absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not helped this.

    Liverpool, on the other hand, have scored a league-leading 24 times in that time. Their xG of 16.4 also tops the competition, though it does suggest their finishing is above the standard that would be expected based on the quality of the chances.

    Their high press has been back at its best, with no team producing more high turnovers (sequences that start in open play and begin 40 metres or less from the opponent's goal) than the Reds' 145. Everton's 78 ranks above only Watford (74) and Tottenham (72).

    Another concern for Benitez will be Everton's tally of 101 high turnovers against. This ranks 11th in the league, but an issue for the Toffees all season has been an inability to keep the ball for sustained spells, even if it has been their aim to counter-attack. Their number of sequences of 10+ passes stands at 63 (16th). Liverpool's total is 220, placing them behind only Manchester City (283).

    Everton had just 22.7 per cent of the ball in their recent 3-0 defeat to Manchester City, allowing 17 shots. It is hard to imagine Wednesday's statistics turning out much differently.

    Injuries giving Toffees the blues

    Mohamed Salah came seventh in the Ballon d'Or voting but if he continues his current form into 2022 then he could be a shoo-in for next year's award. He has been sensational, scoring 17 times in 18 appearances across all competitions, and also leads the league in assists (eight). 

    Salah scores every 92 minutes, on average, while Sadio Mane has bounced back from his struggles last season with seven league goals.

    Mane has played in 14 derbies, contributing to seven goals, scoring five himself, while Salah has netted twice across five appearances against Everton.

    While Liverpool's talismanic duo head into Wednesday's fixture in fine fettle, Everton are in the midst of an injury crisis that has exposed their weak squad.

    Richarlison should return from suspension and Abdoulaye Doucoure played at Brentford, but Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina remain out.

    Calvert-Lewin has been a huge miss but the influence of Doucoure and Mina should not be understated.

    With the pair playing, Everton have won three of six league games, averaging 1.8 goals for and 1.3 goals against, picking up 1.8 points per game. Without at least one of them, Everton have won just one of seven and averaged 1.7 goals against and 0.7 goals for. Their points per game drops to 0.6.

    Liverpool's last league win over Everton came on December 4, 2019, a 5-2 thrashing at Anfield marking the end of Marco Silva's tenure.

    Eight of Liverpool's last nine top-tier trips to Goodison have finished level but, unless Benitez can pull off an unexpected result, his fate may be similar. 

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.