Okay — we’ve gotta talk about that tenth inning from last night. Before we talk about that tenth inning, we have to talk about what happened on Thursday night since that’s somewhat relevant to what happened on Wednesday night. It was just the usual late-game rally from this Atlanta Braves team where they found themselves in a six-run hole heading into the bottom of the sixth, only to see the offense suddenly wake up and embark on a furious comeback that saw them pull to within one run of the Chicago Cubs. That’s when Sean Murphy stepped up to the plate with two men on and two out and hit a fly ball that seemed harmless.
As it turned out, it ended up becoming a very harmful fly ball for the Cubs as Seiya Suzuki simply whiffed on catching the ball and two runs scored. Raisel Iglesias then entered the game in the top of the ninth and locked things down to give the Braves their 101st win of the season in dramatic fashion. I’m not going to sit here and blame Suzuki for that whiff (despite it being a nightmarish error, sure) but what I’m going to do is point out that it was incredible that the Braves were even in a position to benefit from that mistake in the first place. Again, Atlanta was down six runs with the final third of the game remaining against a Cubs team that is currently fighting for their Postseason lives. Atlanta could’ve easily just rolled over and let their dreams of clinching homefield advantage throughout the Postseason move on to another day.
However, that’s just not how this team operates. They haven’t been successful in every single comeback attempt that they’ve made this season but it always feels like this team is alive in every game as long as they have outs to play with. If they don’t get you with baseball’s top-ranked offense in the first inning, that’s just fine with this crew — they’ll get you eventually. This time, they got the Cubs in the sixth, seventh and eighth inning on their way to a comeback victory. They’ve been doing it all season and it also feels like they’ve been doing this for as long as Brian Snitker has been the manager. If there are outs left in the game, this lineup is going to battle out there.
That brings us to last night’s game. Once again, the Braves could’ve taken their foot off of the gas and been satisfied after having put themselves in position to benefit from fortune on Tuesday night. It once again would’ve been understandable to not match the intensity of the desperate Cubs. Instead, the lineup took advantage of a solid start from Darius Vines that kept them in the game long enough to eventually wake up again. Vines left the game in the sixth with the score being 3-1 Chicago — it was tied up by the time the ninth inning rolled around.
Despite a wobbly inning from Kirby Yates in the top of the ninth, there was still some hope. Atlanta still had three outs left to play with the middle of their order coming up. The major league leader in home runs was leading off the inning, a resurgent power hitter followed him and a productive hitter followed after that — those were going to be three extremely tough outs for Chicago to navigate. They got through one of them before Marcell Ozuna revived the Braves with a big fly to left-center to bring the Braves back off of the mat and back into the fight.
The same thing happened once the game eventually made it to the tenth inning — the Cubs pushed a run past the plate to go ahead and instead of feeling dread that this would be the moment when the Braves would finally go down for the count, I personally had a very patient outlook on things. My thought at that point was “Well, they should’ve scored twice because now a home run wins it for the Braves.” A walk-off dinger is always nice and that would’ve been a fun ending in its own right but instead we got something else entirely.
That brings us to the bottom of the tenth inning. While NL MVP favorite Ronald Acuña Jr. wasn't leading off the inning, it felt like this inning was still all about what he would do once he got his chance to leave a mark on the game. He did just that, as his knock brought home the tying run (after Orlando Arcia moved the runner over with a productive out to lead off the tenth) and gave him an opportunity to make history. Acuña had already gotten one step closer to 70 stolen bases with one very nice stolen base just two innings earlier. Now, he decided that even though history was on the line, something more important was also on the line — a chance to win a game.
It was a moment of glorious madness — yeah, this was a moment in history as we all witnessed Acuña put the finishing touches on his own personal wing of the 40/40 Club by becoming the only man in baseball history to go 40/70 in one season. It was also a crucial moment in the game as it set up Ozzie Albies to potentially win the game with a knock to the outfield. The first pitch of the at-bat saw Acuña take the history-making bag. It was good that Ozzie didn't forget that there was still a golden chance to send everybody home happy as he went ahead and took advantage and put one into right field. Acuña blazed from second place and into home plate and the Braves had once again battled their way into yet another victory.
The main reason why we had to talk about this is because I feel like these past two nights have been a perfect encapsulation of what this Braves team has been all about this season. It really does feel like this team just collectively has an incredibly relentless and resilient attitude about themselves. If they're down six, it may not be an ideal situation for anybody involved but that just means that the lineup will get it together and score seven to win it. There might be a pitch clock but there's still no game clock and you can't just run out the string against Atlanta — if you want to beat this Braves team, you're going to have to fight them tooth and nail for all 27 outs and possibly beyond.
There are some valid concerns lingering about how the pitching is going to hold up in the Postseason and it's understandable to be worried about that. We wouldn't be fanatics if we didn't let the heavy weight of high expectations start to seep in with the tournament looming on the horizon. With that being said, the way that this team has swung the bat ever since late-March and now heading into late-September and October itself has got me looking forward to the Postseason. It may get hairy at times in the near future but I'll have the memories of the past couple of nights fresh in my head as they enter into the playoff minefield. As long as they've got outs left to play with, the Braves are going to get up from the corner chair ready to deliver haymakers for another round.