The three playoff battles that have been waged between the Braves and Cardinals have delivered on the intensity and drama that a theater such as postseason baseball normally promises to bring. Game 3 was no different and it was clearly the most dramatic of both the NLDS and the entire postseason so far.
You can’t beat a ninth-inning rally at any point in during a baseball season, and you can’t beat it whenever it happens in October in the middle of a knotted-up playoff series and the team that you’re rooting for is the one making the rally happen. It’s especially sweet since the Braves have had such an awful run of luck in October while the Cardinals seem to have a litany of amazing postseason moments to look back since they’ve spent the better part of this decade and the previous decade making deep playoff runs on a regular basis.
On Sunday at least, both teams were finally on the other side of things — it was the Braves who were making the late-game comeback to steal a victory while the Cardinals were the ones who were wondering where it all went wrong. But before we talk about the fateful inning that gave the Braves another road victory, you have to give a shout-out to the two players who dominated this game for the vast majority of it.
As frustrating as it was to watch, you have to give credit to Adam Wainwright for putting together such a high-quality start against an offense like Atlanta’s. He’s only reached that level of excellence a couple of times this season and unfortunately, the Braves ended up running into him when he was up to the task and ready to help carry St. Louis to a victory. Even when the Braves had a shot at sticking some earned runs on his box score for the day, Andrew Miller entered the game and forced Freddie Freeman to harmlessly hit a pop fly and end the inning with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. At that point, it truly felt like this was gonna be Another One of Those Days for both teams.
It also felt like it was going to be a wasted start from Mike Soroka. After Mike Foltynewicz delivered an absolute gem in Game 2, Soroka matched him as he lived up to his billing of being an excellent pitcher on the road — even as he was making his playoff debut in a hostile postseason environment. He threw seven innings, struck out seven, didn’t walk anybody and only gave up two hits. Unfortunately, both of those hits came from Marcell Ozuna, and Ozuna’s blooper double got manufactured into what was the only run of the game for eight innings. Soroka only made one mistake and it cost him.
You could argue that Wainwright made a few mistakes that should have cost him — according to Statcast, there were four barreled balls in this game. All four of those balls were barreled up by the Braves and two of those were fly balls from Ronald Acuña Jr. and Nick Markakis that died an untimely death at the warning track. Instead of making it a comfortable day at the park for the Braves, things got frustrating and Soroka was starting to become an afterthought in spite of his dominance.
We were one inning away from seeing Mike Soroka’s great outing go down as a footnote to The Adam Wainwright Show and yet another moment of Cardinals postseason history. That changed once the ninth inning rolled around. Remember when I said that the Braves had the only four barrels of the day and I told you about the first two? The other two came from Dansby Swanson. Two of them were doubles, and the second one was the one that brought the Braves from the brink of a painful defeat and put them back on their feet for some more baseball battles.
I’m going to be honest, I was so excited about Dansby’s double that I nearly forgot that the situation was still primed for the Braves to take advantage. After all, Adam Wainwright was out of the game and an agitated Carlos Martinez was in the game. It was a whole new world! I only thought about that in retrospect, because Adam Duvall didn’t give me much time to think about the possibilities. Once again, Duvall came up huge in a pinch-hit situation and drove in both Dansby and pinch-running Rafael Ortega to complete the rally and cause the people over in Cobb County to set off pyro. Seriously, they were setting off pyro over at The Battery. That place is wild, huh?
This was really one of those situations that seemed scarcely believable for the Braves as they’re currently in a midst of such a long drought when it comes to playoff series wins. St. Louis had been in (tenuous) control of the entire game and it all came crashing down when the other team pulled a comeback on them. It was a stunning role reversal and really one of those moments that you’ll never forget — especially if the Braves can take care of business and finally advance in the postseason.
Also, this proved that a lot of stuff that we saw from this Braves team during the regular season was concrete and based in reality. Mike Soroka is the real deal and he proved it against the NL Central Champions in their own ballpark. The Braves were the best team in the National League playing away from home, and they’re currently 1-0 in the postseason on the road. Most of all, the Braves continued to show that they will never quit. They didn’t quit in Game 1 after losing a game they didn’t trail in until the ninth inning. They didn’t quit in Game 2 when they were up against a starter who had been nearly untouchable since the All-Star break. They didn’t quit when they were down to their final out on the road and facing a possibility of having to play an elimination game on the road.
This team hasn’t quit at any point of this season, so it would be foolish to think that they’ll quit any time soon. They just keep on going, no matter what the circumstances are. The team’s spirit of perseverance now has them on the cusp of a berth in the NLCS. Whether they close it out or not, they’ve already given us plenty of drama and reason to hope that things can finally change when it comes to the Braves and the postseason.