EditorsNote: update 2: adds quotes
Marcell Ozuna’s two-run double highlighted a four-run, ninth-inning rally that propelled the visiting St. Louis Cardinals to a 7-6, come-from-behind victory Thursday over the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
The Cardinals never led until their ninth-inning heroics against reliever Mark Melancon (0-1), who had blown the save an inning earlier.
With one out and the bases loaded in the ninth, Ozuna slapped a two-strike pitch down the left field line to break a 3-3 tie. An intentional walk and an out later, Kolten Wong doubled down the right field line to produce two more runs and stun the sellout crowd at SunTrust Park.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said of Ozuna’s approach, “You can tell he didn’t get a pitch he liked first pitch, chased on the breaking ball, and then you could see him kind of reset, not try to do too much, just put a swing on it. And he got awarded with a nice double down the line with two runs — big swing, good at-bat, great approach.”
The Braves made it close by scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth off Carlos Martinez (1-0), via a two-run homer by Ronald Acuna Jr. and a solo shot by Freddie Freeman. Martinez then got Josh Donaldson to ground out and struck out Nick Markakis.
“It’s so important to get the first one,” Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina said of earning the series-opening victory.
Game 2 will be played on Friday evening in Atlanta. St. Louis will send Jack Flaherty (11-8, 2.75 ERA) to face Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz (8-6, 4.54).
St. Louis starter Miles Mikolas overcame a rocky start and worked five innings. He allowed one run — coming in the first inning — on three hits, two walks and two strikeouts.
Atlanta starter Dallas Keuchel was lifted after throwing 4 2/3 innings, having allowed one run on five hits and three walks with no strikeouts.
The Braves got a run in the first inning when Ozzie Albies scored on Donaldson’s fielder’s choice. The first three batters had reached via two walks and a single.
The Cardinals evened the score at 1-1 in the fifth. Harrison Bader reached on an infield hit, was sacrificed to second by Mikolas and stole third — the first base stolen against Keuchel all season. Bader scored when Dexter Fowler rolled out to second.
The Braves took a 3-1 lead in the sixth when Dansby Swanson lined an infield single off the shoulder of third baseman Tommy Edman. One run scored on the hit, and another came home on the play when shortstop Paul DeJong committed a throwing error after the ball ricocheted to him.
Atlanta reliever Chris Martin left the game with left oblique tightness while he was warming up to start the eighth. Luke Jackson took his place and immediately allowed a long homer to Goldschmidt. Matt Carpenter tied the game with a single to left against Melancon, but Wong was retired at the plate on a nice throw by Adam Duvall to end the inning.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said of the impact of Martin’s injury, “We had the whole thing set up right where we wanted it. It’s exactly what we were working towards throughout the whole game was to get us to those two guys. And that was a big blow.”
Melancon wound up charged with four runs on five hits in one inning.
Snitker said, “I wish we’d gotten started a little earlier. We still came back and had the tying run at the plate when the game ended.”
—Field Level Media