ATLANTA — As Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker entered SunTrust Park on Monday afternoon for Game 4 of his team's National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he looked past the 2-1 hole the Braves faced in the best-of-five series and thought back to their dramatic 6-5 win a night earlier.
"Maybe we can pull this off," he thought before the 6-2 loss that ended the Braves' season. "You get one win this time of year, anything can happen."
And it looked that way for a time, especially after pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki put Atlanta on top 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth.
But then came the sixth inning, and just before it began, the Braves marketing department brought out "The Freeze," that really fast guy in an icy blue body suit who gives some poor, overmatched soul a really big head start in left field in their footrace around the stadium's warning track, then overtakes him somewhere in right field, much to the delight of the crowd.
Only this time around it foreshadowed a not-so-delightful moment for the home team.
For in the top of the sixth, the Dodgers' own Mr. Freeze — pinch-hitter David Freese — drilled a frozen rope of a single between short and second to drive home two runs and give Los Angeles a 3-2 lead it would not relinquish.
An inning later, Manny Machado mashed a three-run homer to left and the Dodgers had the 6-2 advantage that was all they needed to advance to the NL Championship Series this weekend against Milwaukee.
"This game's so mental," said Freese, who was acquired by L.A. from Pittsburgh on the last day of August. "If you don't try to do too much, sometimes (those hits) squeak through."
Said Machado of his homer that iced the win, as well as his early double that plated the winners' first run: "You just want to simplify everything (at the plate). Keep it as simple as possible. See the ball, hit the ball."
The Braves neither hit the ball nor pitched the ball well enough to win this one. Take away Sunday's 6-5 elimination game win and they scored two runs total in the other three contests. They also gave up eight home runs in the four games.
"They're a very powerful team," Snitker said of the Dodgers. "We're not built like that yet."
Yet for a few innings Monday, Atlanta looked every bit like the team built to come back from the brink.
Though the Dodgers got on board first, the Baby Braves — the youngest team in major league baseball — clawed back, taking a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth when Suzuki, pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, drove home Johan Camargo and Tyler Flowers.
Then they loaded the bases an inning later to chase L.A. starter Rich Hill and bring Dodgers reliever Ryan Madson to the hill with three aboard and one out. At the plate was Atlanta catcher Tyler Flowers. The veteran from Roswell, Georgia, popped out for the second out, bringing Ender Inciarte to the plate for a third time. Unfortunately he popped out, too, opening the door for Freese's two-RBI hit and Machado's blast an inning later.
Even then, the Braves mounted one last charge. In the bottom of the eighth both Inciarte and Charlie Culberson reached base in front of the 6-foot-4, 255-pound late-season acquisition Lucas Duda. With the crowd tomahawk chopping as long and loud as it had at any point all year, Duda sent a hard, high shot deep to right, a certain home run if it stayed fair. But just in front of the foul pole it curved foul.
Atlanta's last, best chance to rally ended with that foul ball.
"That was a big miss right there," Snitker said afterward. "If we could have gotten within one run "
His voice trailed off. Like Duda's foul ball. Like the Braves' postseason.
"I think we surpassed everybody's expectations," Snitker said. "Right now, it's just a little sad that we got this far and couldn't keep going."
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com.