ATLANTA — Tyler Matzek had almost no room for error when he was summoned to pitch in the seventh inning with the Braves holding a two-run lead Saturday night.
The Dodgers had just rallied for a run against ineffective reliever Luke Jackson and had runners on second and third base with nobody out. Soon, the Dodgers would be swinging at air.
In succession, the left-hander struck out Albert Pujols, Steven Souza Jr. and Mookie Betts, killing the Dodgers’ last rally. Matzek returned to the mound in the eighth and retired the side in order. He finished the NLCS with 11 strikeouts in five innings.
“My job is simple: It’s go ahead, get out there and just try to strike guys out,” Matzek said after the Braves advanced to the World Series with a 4-2 victory in Game 6 of the NLCS at Truist Park. “That is what I’m trying to do [in the seventh]. I know we have got no outs, runner on third and runner on second. I can’t let a pop up or a ground ball go through. I am looking to get those guys out and strike them out. It’s a simple job. Just go out there and throw my best stuff and I was lucky that my best stuff worked tonight.”
Matzek said it was obvious to him the Braves would win after they escaped the seventh.
“I knew that it put us in the best position to win and I knew we were going to pull through at that point, honestly,” Matzek said. “I felt the boys were going to come in, I hoped we were going to get another run or two. We didn’t, but we did what we needed to do and we got the win.”
Jorge Soler’s absence from the Braves after testing positive for COVID-19 has given him a new perspective on the power of preventative medicine.
The Braves outfielder was unvaccinated.
“I feel way different now,” Soler said Saturday before Game 6 of the NLCS at Truist Park. “I feel bad about it and I’m going to get a shot as soon as I can.”
Soler, who was asymptomatic, said he began working out at home on the fifth day after testing positive. He was reinstated to the roster after 10 days, for Game 5 of the NLCS on Thursday.
“I feel really bad not being with the team,” said Soler, who had a double in a pinch-hit at-bat in the eighth inning on Saturday. “Having COVID, it was tough for me, for the family, for the team, so I really missed not being here.”
Snitker offered congratulations to a member of the Astros coaching staff after the team beat Boston in Game 6 of the ALCS on Friday.
Snitker’s son, Troy, is the Astros hitting coach.
“Proud of him,” Brian Snitker said. “I got to FaceTime with him. Watched the celebration. I told him the first time, it’s not this easy, you know, it’s really hard to get there, as we’re seeing. But it’s been a great experience for him and I’m happy for him. I said, ‘I hope I can join you.’ ”
Eddie Perez, now a special assistant for Atlanta, was the MVP of the NLCS the last time the Braves reached the World Series, in 1999. Perez, then a backup catcher who specialized in handling Greg Maddux, joked before Saturday’s game: “I had to have surgery after that playoff because I was carrying the whole team.”
Perez was 10-for-20 (.500) with two homers and five RBIs in the Braves’ NLCS victory over the Mets.
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