Late-inning plate magic puts Atlanta one win away from World Series title
The Braves just keep on perfecting their postseason formula for success.
Work in and out of trouble on the mound, stranding runners and squelching opponents’ chances. Use their bullpen early and often, leaning on a group that has affectionately nicknamed themselves the “Nightshift.”
Then — especially in games at Truist Park — wait for some late-inning magic at the plate.
Hank Aaron’s legacy has taken center stage at the World Series, where players and managers have been paying homage to the baseball legend.
And on Saturday night, in front of the largest playoff crowd in their ballpark’s history, it worked against the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the World Series, too.
After trailing for the first six innings, the Braves surged in front in the bottom of the seventh on back-to-back home runs by Dansby Swanson and Jorge Soler, holding on to win 3-2 to move one victory from their first championship since 1995 with a three-games-to-one lead in the series.
“I just want to win tomorrow,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I’ve been around too long to get ahead of myself.”
Still, in the same way the Braves suffocated the Dodgers in the NLCS — knocking off a team with more playoff experience and a seemingly more talented roster — they’ve stifled the Astros through four games of this series.
Like most of the Dodgers losses last week, the Astros had chances to pull away early in Saturday’s game.
Braves rookie opener Dylan Lee loaded the bases in the first. But reliever Kyle Wright was summoned and allowed only one run. The Astros had the bases loaded again in the third, but elected to let pitcher Zack Greinke hit with two outs. He hit a grounder that retired the side.
In this series, the Astros are just four for 31 with runners in scoring position. Overall this postseason, Braves pitchers are holding opponents to a .172 batting average in such situations — which was also a key to knocking off the defending champions.
“I can’t say enough about our bullpen,” Snitker said. “I’m gonna talk to ownership and send them to Hawaii for a week when we’re done.”
For the Astros, Greinke was sharp in a scoreless four-inning outing — his first scoreless postseason start since a 2014 NLDS game with the Dodgers — and exited with a 2-0 lead after José Altuve hit a solo homer in the top of the fourth.
The Dodgers harnessed Joc Pederson’s October energy on the way to winning the World Series last year, and he’s doing the same for Atlanta vs. Houston.
But, in yet another similarity to the Dodgers in the NLCS, the Astros bullpen couldn’t finish it off.
The Braves cut the deficit in half in the sixth on an RBI single from Austin Riley.
An inning later, Swanson and Soler put a charge through the 43,125-person crowd, Swanson tying the score at 2-2 with an opposite-field blast before a pinch-hitting Soler sent a 107-mph laser just over the short fence in left.
The back end of the bullpen took it from there, completing the team’s October script to perfection once again to put the Braves on the verge of a title.
“It’s just such a cool moment for this city,” Swanson told Fox postgame. “But we’ve got one more.”
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