ST. LOUIS — The Braves acquired slugger Adam Duvall last trade deadline as an additional weapon in the pennant race. It took over a year, but the trade sure looks brilliant now.
Silenced by Adam Wainwright almost the entire day, Atlanta struck St. Louis closer Carlos Martinez for three runs in the ninth, stunning the Cardinals and taking Game 3 3-1 in St. Louis on Sunday. The Braves took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five National League Division Series.
The dramatic win moved the Braves within one game of advancing to the championship series. They’re one win away from that elusive postseason series victory, advancing in the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
It all started with their big free-agent addition. Josh Donaldson opened the ninth with a roaring doubled to left field. He was replaced by pinch-runner Billy Hamilton. Nick Markakis and Adeiny Hechavarria struck out, leaving Hamilton at third with two down.
Brian McCann was intentionally walked, setting up Martinez versus Dansby Swanson. The shortstop hammered the first pitch he saw off the left-field wall, evening the score at 1-1.
The Braves weren’t finished. Pinch-hitter Duvall, who blasted a key two-run homer in Game 2, laced a single that dropped in center field. It scored two more runs, giving the Braves the lead and an insurance run.
Two days after Mike Foltynewicz saved the Braves with seven magnificent innings, Mike Soroka equaled him with his a masterful first-career postseason outing. Soroka went seven frames, allowing two hits — both to Marcell Ozuna — and striking out seven.
Soroka retired 17 consecutive Cardinals between Ozuna hits in the second and seventh frames. He didn’t issue a walk, an accomplishment he achieved seven times in his 29 regular-season starts.
Ozuna’s first hit loomed large, when the former Marlins slugger perfectly placed a hit between first base and right field, resulting in a double. He advanced on a grounder and scored on Matt Carpenter’s sacrifice fly.
Wainwright slightly outdueled Soroka. The Georgia native dealt 7 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits. He departed in the eighth, after 120 pitches, after allowing a Swanson single and walking Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies.
Then came the Braves’ potential breakthrough. They had Freddie Freeman up with the bases loaded and two out against Andrew Miller, who the Cardinals paid for that very situation. Two pitches later, Freeman popped a slider out to center fielder Dexter Fowler, ending the inning.
The Braves and Cardinals play Game 4 Monday with Dakota Hudson set to start for St. Louis. The Braves haven’t yet announced their starter.