ATLANTA — Atlanta Braves outfielder Eddie Rosario talked the other day about his lucky lumber, a 33 1/2-inch, 31-ounce Louisville Slugger that 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 through a translator after his second four-hit game of the National League Championship Series. "Man, this bat has not let me down yet."
Well, he topped that on Saturday night, when he was named MVP of the NLCS. As the crowd chanted his name, Rosario hoisted the award.
"It's truly a great moment, not just in my career, but in my life as well," he said. "But I want more. I want to win the World Series."
Rosario hit a tiebreaking three-run homer off the Los Angeles Dodgers' Walker Buehler in the fourth inning, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a 4-2 win in Game 6 for their first NL pennant since 1999 and a World Series matchup with the Houston Astros.
"We just couldn't figure him out," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "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."
Less than three months after he was traded by the Cleveland Indians, who sent the Braves money to take him away, Rosario had multiple hits in every game of the NLCS. He hit .560 (14-for-25) with three homers and nine RBIs against the Dodgers, giving him a 1.040 slugging percentage and 1.647 on-base plus slugging percentage.
He has hit safely in all 10 postseason games, batting .474 with 11 RBIs from the leadoff spot, ahead of Freddie Freeman.
"It doesn't matter what arm they're throwing with, he's just so locked in," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I don't know that I've ever seen a guy like that for — this has been a long while now."
No hit was bigger than Rosario's 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 Hideki Matsui and the Dodgers' Albert Pujols (2004), as well as Kevin Youkilis (2007) and Marco Scutaro (2012).
"I feel like I've had a good first half of my career," said Rosario, who turned 30 last month. "I feel like I was vying for two All-Star appearances. I feel like I deserved them. That didn't happen, so I kept just vying for the next award or accolade, and this was it."
Before this October, Rosario was known mostly for stepping up against Cleveland. During six seasons with the Minnesota Twins, he hit .301 with 22 home runs and 47 RBIs in 93 games against the Indians, prompting them 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.
"I wanted to illustrate the type of ballplayer that I am and showcase that I am capable of doing these things," Rosario said.
He 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 during the regular season. Rosario was one of four outfielders brought in via midseason trades, along with Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson 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 other 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," said Rosario, who's from Puerto Rico. "When it's hot, I feel better."
Rosario hit for the cycle on Sept. 19 against the San Francisco Giants, helping the Braves stop a four-game skid and build a two-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East standings. Atlanta then swept the Phillies in the final week of the regular season to win the division for the fourth year in a row.
Rosario batted .308 (4-for-13) with two RBIs in the four-game NL Division Series win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Now the sound of fans chanting "Ed-die! Ed-die!" has become a nightly occurrence at Truist Park.
"It motivates me to come through in big moments," Rosario said. "The pitcher hears a little bit, and it almost forces him to throw the pitch you want to see."