The Atlanta Braves put three runs across in the final frame, thanks to Dansby Swanson and Adam Duvall to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 to win Game 3.
Game 3 of the 2019 NLDS between the visiting Atlanta Braves and the hometown St. Louis Cardinals was almost entirely a pitchers’ duel before the Atlanta bats came to life in the top of the ninth inning.
St. Louis held a slim 1-0 lead over Atlanta off a gem of a pitching performance by Adam Wainwright. He pitched 7.2 innings of shutout baseball, allowing four hits and only walking two Braves, striking out eight in the process.
Wainwright was paced by Atlanta ace Mike Soroka, who pitched brilliantly in his own right. Soroka allowed one earned run over seven innings, allowing only two hits and striking out seven. Runs were going to be hard to come by, as the only run through the first eight frames came on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Matt Carpenter to plate Marcell Ozuna in the bottom of the second.
Both Atlanta and St. Louis had their opportunities to put additional runs on the board in the first eight innings but were unsuccessful. With a one-run lead, St. Louis would turn to closer Carlos Martinez to shut the door on the Atlanta offense to take a 2-1 series lead. What we got instead was late-inning heroics off the bats of shortstop Dansby Swanson and left fielder Adam Duvall.
Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson would have a leadoff double at the top of the ninth. The speedster Billy Hamilton would pinch run for Donaldson at second. Right fielder Nick Markakis would strike out and so would Adeiny Hechavarria pinch-hitting for the pitcher Sean Newcomb. Hamilton would swiftly steal third base on the Hechavarria punch out in a heads up play.
Down to one final out, Martinez would intentionally walk the slow-footed veteran catcher Brian McCann, who would be pinch-run for by Rafael Ortega. Then, the magic happened for Braves Country, something that hasn’t happened often enough in 21st century Octobers.
Swanson would double down the left field line to plate Hamilton easily. Ortega would make it to third and Swanson found himself at second with the game all tied up at one. Hitting in the ninth spot, Duvall would deliver his second clutch hit thus far of the postseason. He singled to center to score both Ortega and Swanson to make it 3-1, Braves.
Closer Mark Melancon might have surrendered a one-out double to Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to make things interesting, but he would retire the final two batters in Ozuna and catcher Yadier Molina to slam the door on St. Louis in this ball game.
This was the type of win that the Braves don’t get in October. This is a team that has not advanced in the postseason since 2001. They shut out the Cardinals 3-0 at home on Friday afternoon, their first postseason shutout since also 2001. With this win over St. Louis, Atlanta has its first postseason series lead since 2002. If they win one of the next two games, it’ll be NLCS time.
Losing the series opener back in Atlanta on Thursday 7-6 certainly put the Braves in a rough spot. However, taking the next two, including the first one of the series in St. Louis gives the Braves all the momentum heading into Game 4.
Every time the Braves are good in the regular season, we somehow convince ourselves that October will be different. Now, they’ve only won two of three games thus far, but the early returns look good. Atlanta is in a rare spot where the Braves can clinch a series victory on Monday afternoon. Can they do it? Well, if tonight was any sign of that, then very well maybe.