The Atlanta Braves offense came alive just in time in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.
Shut down all afternoon by Adam Wainwright, the Braves mounted a ninth-inning rally to stun the St. Louis Cardinals and secure a pivotal 3-1 victory.
Veteran Josh Donaldson started the winning rally with a lead-off double against Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez. After two outs and a questionable intentional walk to catcher Brian McCann, Dansby Swanson tied the game with a ringing double to left field. Adam Duvall, who entered as a pinch hitter one inning earlier, followed with a go-ahead two-run single that proved to be the difference.
Up until the thrilling conclusion, this had been a game dominated by starting pitching.
Braves rookie right-hander Mike Soroka limited St. Louis to one run on two hits while striking out seven in his postseason debut. The Cardinals only tally came in the second inning after Marcell Ozuna led off with a double and scored on Matt Carpenter’s sacrifice fly.
The Cardinals’ Wainwright was shaping up to be the story of the afternoon until Atlanta’s ninth-inning breakthrough. The 38-year-old right-hander turned back the clock to his days as a lockdown ace, keeping Braves batters off balance with his four-pitch repertoire. Wainwright racked up eight strikeouts over 7 2/3 scoreless innings.
Wainwright only ran into trouble once his pitch count reached 100. Clearly tiring, he allowed a single and two walks to load the bases in the eighth inning. He exited to a standing ovation, and then watched as Andrew Miller retired Freddie Freeman to escape the jam.
Unfortunately for Wainwright, he also watched Martinez let the game slip away in the ninth.
Mark Melancon, who struggled in Games 1 and 2, bounced back with a scoreless ninth to notch the save for Atlanta. With the win, the Braves are now one victory away from securing a spot in the NLCS.
WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE
• Dansby Swanson: The Braves shortstop was the best player on the field in Game 3. Swanson kept the Braves in the game early with his defense. Then he helped steal the crucial victory by delivering a two-out, game-tying double in the ninth inning. He finished with three hits, while the Cardinals managed only four all game.
• Adam Duvall: The veteran has shined in a bench role during the NLDS. After slugging a pinch-hit home run in Atlanta's Game 2 victory, Duvall was a hero again when he smoked the game-winning two-run single in the ninth inning.
• Marcell Ozuna: The Cardinals’ only run of the game was manufactured by Ozuna. He greeted Soroka with a double leading off the second inning, and eventually made his way around to score. The Cardinals managed only two hits against Mike Soroka. Ozuna had both of them.
Dansby Swanson’s defense is on another level. The former No. 1 overall pick was all over the field in Game 3, flashing his leather on multiple good-to-excellent plays. It was this bare-handed snag to retire Kolten Wong that stole the show though.
WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT
Twice this postseason we've seen managers intentionally walk the potential winning run in the ninth inning. It worked for Washington Nationals manager Davey Martinez in Game 2 of the NLDS. On Sunday, it backfired on Cardinals skipper Mike Shildt. Big time. The decision to walk McCann, whose offense this season was subpar at best, to face Swanson, who was clearly swinging the best bat in Game 3, is one Cardinals fans will be talking about for a long, long time if they lose the series.
The Braves will look to end the series in Game 4 on Monday at 3:07 p.m. ET. Starting pitchers for the game have yet to be announced.
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