Just one division series this fall is truly a shock to the unlucky ones. The Milwaukee Brewers haven’t reached the World Series in nearly four decades and have never won a championship. Atlanta has spent 26 years without a title and hasn’t won any pennants in the 21st century.
Joc Pederson has a different perspective. Pederson, an Atlanta outfielder, has played in three of the last four World Series and scored all of them. The Los Angeles Dodgers let him go as a free agent after their title last season, and after signing with the also-run Chicago Cubs, Pederson joined Atlanta this summer through a trade. As usual, he’s making his mark in October.
With a faded blonde mohawk under his helmet and a necklace of white pearls – yes, pearls – around his neck, Pederson makes a strange Mr. October. But Mr. Joctober looks good on him. At Truist Park on Monday, he won Game 3 with a big blow, crushing a three-run homerun to take Atlanta to a 3-0 victory and two games to a best-of-five series lead.
“It’s funny because we saw it last year at the end,” said Atlanta starter Ian Anderson, referring to the 2020 NL Championship Series when the Pederson Dodgers beat Atlanta in seven games. “And to have him now on our team, we are all delighted with what he has been able to do, with his personality and the great positions in which he has developed. They say some guys are made for it. It is its quintessence.
Using the bat from Anthony Rizzo, a former Cubs teammate, Pederson connected in the fifth inning on a high 1-2 fastpitch from Adrian Houser, who also gave Pederson a homer in the first. series match. The home run, pulled deep into the right-field seats, scored Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson, who had greeted Houser with singles.
Houser replaced starter Freddy Peralta, who worked four white innings but was lifted for a pinch hitter with runners in the second and third and a start in the fifth. Swanson, the Braves’ shortstop, had just saved a run with a plunging backhand stop from a hard smash from Lorenzo Cain, looking at the runner in third and shooting first for the out.
If the Brewers had scored there, manager Craig Counsell said, he might have let Peralta hit. Instead, he turned to Daniel Vogelbach, a muscular slugger who could only hit a scorer until third. Austin Riley of Atlanta threw home to trap Luis Urias in a preview, and when a line ended the inning, Counsell had nothing to show for his bet.
“It’s a tough decision,” Counsell said. “Freddy was throwing the ball well, there’s no doubt about it. I think he could have gotten two more innings in an ideal scenario, but there was a way towards the end of the game, I thought, for us with our enclosure. We needed to score and there was a good opportunity to score, and we had Vogelbach in the squad for this situation there.
The score was pretty tough for the Brewers in the regular season. They averaged just 4.56 points per game, the fewest division winners, and hit just 0.233, tied for 27th among 30 teams. In the playoffs, the problem only got worse.
The Brewers are hitting .176 and have scored in just one of their 26 innings. Atlanta starters – Charlie Morton, Max Fried and Anderson – have an earned-run average of 1.06, with Morton allowing Milwaukee just two series runs.
The Atlanta hitters haven’t done much damage either, with just seven points in three games. But they won a series lead thanks in large part to Pederson, whose star turn was somewhat predictable, based on his track record.
His role as a fashion influencer was unexpected. Pederson bought his necklace on a whim, but fans get it.
“I just saw the pearls and I was like, ‘You know what? It looks cool, ”Pederson said. “I did the black chain and the gold chain and all these different and I think a lot of other players have done it. But I don’t know, it caught my attention. I texted the jeweler about it and pulled out a few, and they went crazy.
White pearls and clutch home runs – in Atlanta, that’s the formula for the perfect Joctober.