Yesterday was great, wasn’t it? The Braves evened the series and there was so much to be excited about while watching the game. Mike Foltynewicz proved that his revival since returning from Triple-A wasn’t just a flash-in-the-pan deal. He pitched such a high-caliber playoff game for the Braves — one that hasn’t been seen since the days of Tom Glavine in 2001. Any time you’re being mentioned in the same breath as the 1995 World Series hero, you are in rarefied air.
The bullpen also had a great night as they kept the Cardinals off of the scoreboard once Folty left the game. Mark Melancon redeemed himself after getting shelled in Game 1, and Max Fried’s curveballs were NSFW to the point where I was concerned about TBS possibly pulling the plug since you can’t show such obscene things like that on Cable Television. It was still nervy, but the bullpen has now shown that they can handle a situation like that in the Postseason. That’s huge.
Finally, we get to the real flashpoint, which was Adam Duvall’s heroics that ended up putting the game away for the Braves. The entire series of events surrounding that moment were so fascinating. First, the fact that he was even in the game was a bit controversial. Mike Foltynewicz was in the process of pitching a postseason gem, but the Braves had a runner on and Brian Snitker decided to go for the offense instead of sitting on a precarious one-run lead. It clearly wasn’t a popular decision, as the ~42,000 managers in the seats and the countless others watching at home wanted to see Folty keep pitching and put the game away himself.
Speaking of the runner on base, that was Brian McCann. This was interesting because it was the seventh inning and if Snitker was indeed deciding to chase a run then the decision-making after McCann reached was a little curious. For starters, let’s go back to the Dansby Swanson at-bat. There’s one out and a man on, but the man on first is the slowest man in baseball. No, I’m not making a joke — Brian McCann had the slowest Sprint Speed in the big leagues this season. So Dansby goes up there and he’s squaring up to bunt. Sometimes you have to thank the baseball gods for what didn’t happen, so let’s give thanks that Dansby actually didn’t end up bunting with McCann up there.
Still, Dansby strikes out and Duvall comes up to swing. McCann is still on first base. At that point, it was a little mystifying to see McCann still out there. If there was a situation that called for the Braves to deploy pinch-runner extraordinaire Billy Hamilton, this would have been it. Instead, Hamilton was one of the guys sitting on the dugout rail and watching as Duvall would have his fateful at-bat. As it turned out, the credentialed media did ask Snitker about why he kept McCann in the game. Here’s the reasoning:
Snitker left it at, he didn’t want to lose BMac for the rest of the game. It went without saying why. https://t.co/XJUZFgZoPP— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) October 5, 2019
That’s still a curious decision given that he’s already got two other catchers ready to go and take McCann’s spot in that situation. In a situation where it seemed like Snitker was chasing a run,this just seemed like a strange way to go about doing so.
Fortunately, baseball is still a weird sport. While last night’s game wasn’t nearly as strange as Game 1 was, we got another example of how the game never plays out exactly how you expect it to. As the fans rained down boos in reacting to Snitker taking Folty out of the game, this apparently set a fire inside of Duvall.
#Braves' Duvall on hearing boos when he went out to pinch-hit for Folty: "The fans let me know that they wanted him to stay in. Which, we all did. I just wanted to have a good at-bat. I just wanted to go out there and try to make it worth it, because he was grooving out there."— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) October 5, 2019
Duvall went to the plate with the express intention of making sure that Folty’s great outing didn’t go to waste. He didn’t want to let down his manager, he didn’t want to let down the team and he didn’t want to prove the already-disappointed fans right by going up there and having a dud of an at-bat. Instead he went up to the plate, stared down the tiring-but-still-tough Jack Flaherty and hit the seventh pitch of the at-bat clear over the wall in center field for a two-run dinger that sent the stadium and fanbase into a frenzy.
You can absolutely argue and discuss the process that happened during that entire sequence of events that led up to the dinger, but you can’t argue the result. It all ended up going well. Brian McCann only had to hit a trot and Adam Duvall ended up becoming the man of the moment for the Braves in Game 2.
The Braves will now head to St. Louis or two games and they’ll be flying high after what happened on Friday. They got over an insanely-weird game on Thursday and bounced back with a win that actually looked kind of comprehensive on paper. You need moments like this where everybody is lifting everybody up, especially as you reach the inevitable valleys of a potential postseason run. Mike Foltynewicz, Adam Duvall and the rest of the team all did their best to lift each other up and it paid off with a big win on Friday.