Dansby Swanson's game-tying double and Adam Duvall's go-ahead single with two outs in the top of the ninth inning propelled the Atlanta Braves to a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Sunday in Busch Stadium.
Swanson hit the first pitch he saw—an 87 mph slider from closer Carlos Martinez—to the left-field wall to score pinch runner Billy Hamilton.
The shortstop had three of the Braves' seven hits.
Martinez got Duvall into an 0-2 hole with runners on second and third, but the left fielder came through in the clutch once again with a two-run single to score Swanson and pinch runner Rafael Ortega.
Duvall hit a two-run homer off Jack Flaherty in Game 2 of the NLDS to give the Braves a couple of insurance runs in a 3-0 win Friday.
Swanson and Duvall spoiled an excellent outing from Adam Wainwright, who twirled 7.2 shutout innings and struck out eight while scattering four hits.
Marcell Ozuna was the only Cardinal to record a hit until the eighth inning. He scored the Cardinals' lone run in the second inning after hitting a double and coming home thanks to a Yadier Molina groundout and a Matt Carpenter sacrifice fly.
The Cardinals brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth after a Paul Goldschmidt double, but Braves closer Mark Melancon struck out Ozuna and induced a harmless flyout off Molina's bat.
The Braves now have a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five matchup.
Braves SP Mike Soroka: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, ND
Braves SS Dansby Swanson: 3-for-4, 2 2B, R, RBI
Braves LF Adam Duvall: 1-for-1, 2 RBI
Cardinals SP Adam Wainwright: 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, ND
Cardinals LF Marcell Ozuna: 2-for-4, 2B, R
Cardinals RP Carlos Martinez: 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, L
Braves' Bats Heat Up Just in Time
The Braves are stacked with talented and versatile hitters who helped the team earn a 97-65 record and the NL's No. 2 seed, but they've been ice cold for the majority of this series.
Atlanta has scored just two runs in the first five innings of its first three postseason games. And in Game 3, the Braves only put one runner into scoring position through seven frames.
However, Atlanta is simply too deep to be kept at bay for long.
That sentiment revealed itself in the ninth inning after Swanson's third hit and Duvall's continued pinch-hit magic led the Braves to victory despite Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis combining to go 0-for-11 with three strikeouts while leaving eight runners on base.
The Cardinals' issue is that they need to pick their poison with the lineup.
Martinez walked catcher Brian McCann to get to Swanson and earn the righty-righty matchup, but the shortstop made the Cards pay with his third hit of the night.
As for the rest of the lineup, the Braves simply ran into a buzzsaw in Wainwright, who put forth a clutch start that outshone Braves right-hander Mike Soroka's fantastic efforts. But variance finally seemed to swing the Braves' way in the ninth after it failed to do so for much of the series.
The question now is if and when the rest of the Braves bats can get going. For example, it's unlike Freeman, who's gone hitless in his past two games, to leave five runners on base in a single day.
However, it wouldn't be surprising to see Freeman and others heat up starting Monday.
As Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported, this is the first playoff series lead the Braves have experienced since 2002:
Atlanta has lost all seven of its completed playoff series (and one NL Wild Card Game) during that span.
But if the bats get hot, then that cold spell will break shortly. At that point, the sky would be the limit for a well-rounded team that can match up with anyone.
Adam Wainwright's Brilliant Once Again in October
Wainwright became a household name when he caught New York Mets slugger Carlos Beltran looking with a curveball to end the dramatic 2006 National League Championship Series.
The right-hander's iconic moment was a sign of things to come in his postseason career, as he'd registered a 3.03 ERA and 96 strikeouts over 89.0 playoff innings entering Sunday.
Derrick S. Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offered some statistical insight into his postseason starts:
More of the same occurred Sunday as Wainwright shut down the team that drafted him in 2000 (and traded him in 2003) for 7.2 innings.
Impressively, the 38-year-old did so against a franchise that finished third in runs in the National League.
He also made a little history along the way, per Baseball Reference:
Coming through in big games is nothing new for Wainwright, who once tossed a complete-game gem in the NLDS-deciding Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013.
He also threw 9.2 scoreless innings in relief during the Cards' 2006 World Series run.
If Wainwright is exhibiting that form, then the Cardinals simply become much harder to beat.
Granted, the ending wasn't the outcome St. Louis wanted, but either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Washington Nationals certainly won't be looking forward to facing playoff-tested Wainwright in the NLCS if the Cards can come back versus Atlanta.
The Braves and Cardinals will return to Busch Stadium for Game 4 on Monday at 3:07 p.m. ET.
A Braves win will end the NLDS, while a Cardinals victory will extend the series to a winner-take-all Game 5 on Wednesday in Atlanta.
The Braves have not made the NLCS since 2001.