Freeman blasts Braves past Brewers, Dodgers stay alive

Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves reacts after hitting a home run during the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers in game four of the National League Division Series at Truist Park on October 12, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Freddie Freeman crushed the winning home run as the Atlanta Braves defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 to book their place in Major League Baseball's National League Championship Series on Tuesday. 

After a roller-coaster battle at Truist Park, veteran first baseman Freeman slammed a two-out homer into centrefield in the bottom of the eighth inning off Brewers closer Josh Hader. 

Braves reliever Will Smith then had Kolten Wong caught by catcher Travis D'Arnaud after a bunt pop out to start the ninth before striking out Willy Adames with an 82mph slider.

Smith then dismissed Brewers star Christian Yelich with three strikes to spark wild celebrations and send the Braves back to the NLCS for a second straight year. 

"I just tried to get a good swing on it," Freeman said afterward of his winning blast against Hader, one of the best closers in baseball who had not conceded a home run since July 28. 

"There's no rhyme or reason to it," Freeman said. "I was feeling good all game, worked on some stuff before the game and it worked out." 

The Braves will face either the San Francisco Giants or the Los Angeles Dodgers for a place in the World Series.

Dodgers force decider

The Dodgers forced a decisive game five in San Francisco on Thursday after Mookie Betts and Will Smith homered to set up a series-levelling 7-2 victory at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

The Dodgers bats had been scoreless in a 1-0 defeat in game three on Monday, but came alive in game four.

Trea Turner and Chris Taylor got early hits to put the Dodgers 2-0 ahead before Betts drilled a two-run shot off Jarlin Garcia in the bottom of the fourth for a 4-0 lead.

The Giants pulled one back when Darin Ruf ground out to score Evan Longoria in the top of the fifth, but Betts' sacfly allowed Bellinger to come home in the fifth inning to make it 5-1.

After the Giants closed to 5-2 in the eighth, Dodgers catcher Smith made the game safe with deep fly ball to center field to seal victory.

Dodgers ace Walker Buehler, coming off short rest, bottled up the Giants offense early on, striking out four in 4.1 innings. 

"I felt great, probably the best the second half of the year," Buehler said afterwards. "We'll see how I feel tomorrow, but tonight I felt pretty good."

In other playoff games Tuesday, Jose Altuve blasted a three-run home run as the Houston Astros routed the Chicago White Sox 10-1 on Tuesday to reach the American League Championship Series for a fifth straight season.

The game four win sealed a 3-1 series victory and sends the Astros into a best-of-seven ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, with game one set for Friday.

It is repeat of the 2018 ALCS where the Red Sox won 4-1 before going on to win the World Series.

In a game four postponed from Monday due to bad weather, Gavin Sheets raised hopes for the White Sox in the bottom of the second inning, lashing a home run into center-field off Houston ace Lance McCullers to put the hosts 1-0 up.

But the Astros took the lead at the top of the third after Carlos Correa doubled into left field to score Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman to make it 2-1 and the visitors never looked back.

Martin Maldonado, Bregman and Michael Brantley all kept the scoreboard ticking over before Altuve pounded a fly ball into the left field stands to score Kyle Tucker and Chas McCormick to complete the scoring.

Astros starter McCullers meanwhile struck out five through four innings with the only blemish Sheets' early home run.