ATLANTA – In an unpredictable sport, the Atlanta Braves were once a sure thing. With nearly brutal efficiency, they’ve won their division 14 times in a row, a streak that began before Dansby Swanson was born and ended when she was almost a teenager.
By then, Swanson had charted her career path. Ga., as a kid in Marietta, only dreamed of playing baseball – and with luck, he might even do it for his favorite team. He got his wish in a surprise deal to Atlanta in 2015, just six months after the Arizona Diamondbacks first selected him from Vanderbilt.
“Being traded here, possibly being able to come home and play for this city and grow this community, was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Swanson said late Saturday night. He helped move Atlanta to the edge of a World Series championship. “That moment means a lot. It really does.”
Swanson’s moment came at the end of the seventh inning of Game 4 against the Houston Astros at Truist Park. A quick ball from Cristian Javier over the right-court wall to level the score, and Jorge Soler with a forward pinch shot led Atlanta to a 3-2 victory and a three-game lead in a series. . Atlanta could take the title at home at Game 5 on Sunday night.
“I’m happy for our city that they can experience this, that they can experience this,” said manager Brian Snitker. “What a wonderful time of the year.”
Atlanta hasn’t been this close to the title since 1995, the only season in a streak of league titles with a happy ending. Earning them all can be absurdly difficult; In the modern era of baseball, the franchise has triumphed once in Boston (1914) and once in Milwaukee (1957) before its only title in Atlanta.
On Saturday, Swanson and Soler had an equally rare feat. He had only managed to tie and score back-to-back goals in the World Series twice before, with teammates Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, most recently in 1981.
These players shared the most valuable player award for that series (with teammate Ron Cey), but Swanson did not remember their names in the negotiation room after Game 4. He remembered the others who had done this.
“Man, they were saying this was the third time on MLB Network, and the other two, one was Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1928,” Swanson said, as awestruck as a six-year major league veteran. .
“Baseball has been around for a long time, and it’s pretty special that it’s the third time. In that moment and between the lines, I feel like the only thought is winning. So it’s kind of hard to wrap your mind around what just happened.”
What happens is that an 88-win team comes to the top just in time, making big plays and critical pitches that defy description.
Atlanta’s Game 4 starter Dylan Lee has played just two games in the majors this season, as Kyle Wright relieved him with an out and filled the bases on the first inning. The Astros, with their formidable offense, had few chances to win the game in a bang. Instead, Wright finished fifth with just 2-0.
“Kyle is the reason we won the game,” Snitker said, but the kickers and fielders had to do enough to make that possible.
Of course they did, because this season-ending Snitker’s team is almost doing nothing wrong. After doubling and scoring Atlanta’s first run for sixth, Eddie Rosario landed a race, backstroke, on the left field wall to rob Jose Altuve for eighth. If you haven’t seen Sandy Amoros in 1955 or Joe Rudi in 1972, you’ve probably never seen a better catch by a left fielder at the World Series.
“When Eddie turned to look at the fence, we thought to ourselves—or at least I thought to myself—the ball either hit the fence or it went away,” Soler said, describing the scene from the bunker through a translator. “Then he kept running and threw the glove out and managed to catch it, and we all looked at each other in surprise, ‘Did this really happen?’ It took us all by surprise and it was really straight out of the movie.”
Soler started this multi-part epic with a Game 1 homer as the first hitter of the World Series. No one had done this before – but at that time it is believed that no team lost their Game 1 starter. to a broken leg or on the third hit. This has also happened to Atlanta with Charlie Morton, and Snitker will force him to use another bullpen game to try to close the title in Game 5.
That sounds daunting, but Atlanta overcame worse issues in July, such as the rupture of its top player, Ronald Acuña Jr., in the anterior cruciate ligament. They traded in four outfielders, including Rosario and Soler, to fix this problem, and Snitker also has a steady problem solver in the bullring.
The Atlanta relievers have a earned run average of 1.61 in the first four games, and the Astros have been particularly quiet after the fourth inning. In Atlanta’s three wins—Games 1, 3, and 4—Houston scored just one run from the fifth inning.
“I can’t say enough about our Bullpen,” Snitker said. “God, I’ll talk to the owner when we’re done and send them all to Hawaii for a week.”
The way things are going can be a rite of passage along the way.