Josh Donaldson decided to turn the tables, though:
History tells us if the Braves fall down 0-2 and head to St. Louis for two games, the series is essentially over. Sure, miracles exist, but this game was a must-win for the Braves. They were further tasked with trying to score runs against one of the best pitchers in baseball right now. Don’t believe me? Flaherty had a 0.93 ERA in his last 16 starts, holding opponents to a .139/.203/.217 line. That’s not a small sample fluke, that’s a downright stud. They wouldn’t get another hit with runners in scoring position, going 1 for 5 on the game, but that first-inning knock by Donaldson was huge.
Folty deals with the pressure on
With the known bullpen issues the Braves had — which cost them Game 1 — a one-run lead was treacherous territory. Snitker pulled the correct lever.
Braves manager Brian Snitker decided to pull Foltynewicz with two outs and a runner on in the seventh. It was a good decision, as Adam Duvall came through with desperately-needed insurance in the form of a majestic two-run shot to center: All kinds of fail. Worse yet was Foltynewicz was on deck, so they had to lead off the next inning with him instead of turning the lineup over.
The Braves were 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position in Game 1 and left eight men on base. That was a lot more of the reason — along with the bullpen and a freak injury — that the Braves lost rather than Ronald Acuna not hustling on a single off the wall. In Game 2, Ozzie Albies sat at third base with two outs against Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty in the first inning and surely every Braves fan was thinking, “We’ve seen this movie before.”
Breathing room in seventh
Folty answered the call, giving up only three hits in seven scoreless innings while striking out seven without a single walk. He had everything working, particularly his slider, which he spun 23 times, the most used of his four-pitch arsenal. Overall, before the series started the Cardinals would have been happy to split the first two games, but stealing Game 1 with Flaherty waiting for Game 2 and then going 1-1 has to be a bitter pill to swallow. On the Braves’ end, it’s the opposite. They likely wouldn’t have been happy to split before the series started, but after melting down in Game 1 and taking down Flaherty in Game 2, they have to like their chances with Soroka.
What in the world play of the day
Saturday is a travel and workout day. Sunday, at 4:10 p.m. ET (3:10 local time), it’ll be Mike Soroka (13-4, 2.68) for the Braves against Adam Wainwright (14-10, 4.19) in a matchup that on paper favors the Braves. Then again, I think the matchup in Game 1 favored the Braves and Game 2 favored the Cardinals, so we already know “on paper” doesn’t really matter. You just can’t say enough about how huge this outing was. The man they had to send to the minors earlier this year saved the Braves’ season.
Series shifts back to St. Louis on Sunday
This … was sub-optimal by the Braves:
Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz was coming off a season in which he was so bad early he had to be demoted to the minors. He’s back to his old self, but this was still a tall order.