Even with the Atlanta Braves taking the day off Thursday, they got the biggest hit of the season right when they needed it the most. Ironically, the assist came from a former Brave, now playing for their most hated rival.
Actually, the Braves can write "thank you" letters for two of their former players. With the New York Mets trailing the St. Louis Cardinals 6-2 in the ninth inning and the Braves' wild-card lead about to dwindle to one game, it was former Braves Willie Harris and Rafael Furcal that helped Atlanta extend that lead to two games over St. Louis.
It was the Cardinals shortstop Furcal who committed his fifth error in six games on a potential double-play grounder that started the Mets' rally.
New York's outfielder Willie Harris had previously walked to lead off the inning, and would eventually come to the plate again with the go-ahead run aboard.
The two-run, two-out single by Harris in the top of the ninth would send Cardinals fans home in shock, as their team lost a chance to put some real pressure on the Braves.
Any Braves fan with a Twitter account could hear the Braves nation jumping for joy when Harris' line drive landed in right field. In the matter of one inning, Atlanta's entire outlook on its postseason future had changed.
With only six games left, the difference between a two-game lead and a one-game lead is huge. Momentum in baseball can change dramatically after a game like this. Losing a four-run lead in front of your home crowd with a playoff berth at stake can be demoralizing.
Atlanta will have a great opportunity to gain another game Friday when it sends its most consistent and best big game pitcher, Tim Hudson to the mound. Hudson is coming off of a 10-strikeout performance last week against the Mets.
Another positive for the Braves is that with Hudson pitching Friday night, he would be able to start again against the Phillies, possibly in the season finale with the season on the line.
Atlanta will also be hoping the Chicago Cubs are determined to ruin their rival's playoff chances.
As bad as the Braves have looked in September, there is still hope. If the Braves do make the playoffs, Tommy Hanson is expected to make a return. A solid one-two punch like Hudson and Hanson can be pretty powerful in a playoff series.
Jason Heyward is finally starting to show signs of getting his swing back, and the same can be said about Martin Prado. As long as the Braves are able to hold off the Cardinals, there is still a chance Atlanta could return to form and make some noise during the postseason.