When the Atlanta Braves acquired Adam Duvall at the trade deadline in 2018, they were hoping that he would give them a right-handed power option that could also handle himself in the outfield. However, he struggled mightily after the trade going 7-for-53 over the final 33 games. His struggles were so pronounced that their was thought that he could be non-tendered.
The Braves stuck with him but after he failed to show much improvement in spring training, he was sent to Gwinnett where he was tasked of rediscovering his All-Star form while in the minor leagues. Duvall’s power returned while at Gwinnett hitting .266/.364/.602 with 32 home runs in 101 games at Triple-A. Still, it took an injury to Nick Markakis to give Duvall the shot that he needed.
After an initial hot streak which saw him homer in five of his first six games, his struggles returned and he eventually ended up back at Gwinnett before being recalled once the rosters expanded. He finished strong riding a seven-game hitting streak to end the season.
However, his best work has come in the postseason as he has played a huge part with a pair of clutch at-bats in Atlanta’s Game 2 and Game 3 wins.
Game 2 vs. Jack Flaherty - 7th Inning
To set the stage for Duvall’s at-bat in Game 2 against Jack Flaherty, he stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter for Mike Foltynewicz with two outs and Brian McCann at first with Atlanta clinging to a 1-0 lead. Boos rained down from the crowd as they objected the removal of Foltynewicz who had pitched a gem of a game to that point and was sitting on just 81 pitches.
Duvall heard those boos and stepped into the box hoping to put together a good at-bat. Flaherty had held the Braves in check allowing just one hit, an RBI single in the first to Josh Donaldson.
Flaherty started Duvall off with a slider down that he swung and missed. Two four-seamers followed with both missing outside to run the count to 2-1. Flaherty then missed with a slider in the dirt to make it 3-1. Duvall swung through another slider in the lower half of the strike zone and then fouled off another in just about the same spot.
After seeing three straight sliders, Flaherty went back to his four-seamer. Yadier Molina slid outside just as the pitch was delivered but it rode back over he middle of the plate and Duvall was able to turn on it and drive it out to center for a two-run home run to put the Braves in front 3-0.
Results aside, Duvall reached his goal of a good at-bat as Flaherty was unable to finish him off with his slider. He got a pitch he could handle and then punished it.
Game 3 vs. Carlos Martinez - 9th Inning
Duvall faced a similar situation in Game 3. Dansby Swanson had just tied the game with a double and Duvall stepped to the plate with Swanson at second and Rafael Ortega at third against Cardinals’ right-hander Carlos Martinez. I didn’t mention this in at-bat against Flaherty but Duvall was a much better hitter against left-handed pitching during the season and in his career. He hit just .235/.279/.481 in 86 plate appearances against right handers this season. So that could explain his goal of grinding out a good at-bat as he stepped into the box against Martinez.
Duvall quickly fell behind as Martinez started him off with a 99 mph four-seamer up that he swung through from strike one. An 88 mph slider away made it 0-2. Martinez challenged Duvall with another 99 mph fastball on the inner half that he was able to foul off. Martinez went back to the slider down and away but Duvall was able to get enough wood on it to dump it in front of Harrison Bader in center for a two-run single that put the Braves in front 3-1.
Notice that Duvall didn’t pull off on the slider and was able to go down and get it to drive it to center.
I found it interesting that he talked about just wanting to put together a good at-bat in both games. Those above are the definition of good at-bats. He was able to fight off Flaherty’s slider and did the same to Martinez on Sunday after falling behind 0-2 in the count.
Postseasons are often filled with unlikely heroes and Duvall has played that part to perfection.