But Atlanta must first reckon with a game that the Braves will remember for missed opportunities and debatable decisions, and both teams must deal with the fallout of an afternoon of wildly swinging emotions.
Dallas Keuchel, the former Cy Young Award winner who made his name as a playoff stalwart for the Houston Astros before joining the Braves in June, got two quick outs to start the game, which he entered on just three days’ rest. Then Paul Goldschmidt, the St. Louis first baseman whose weaponized bat had already tormented Atlanta this series, stepped in. He took four pitches, then the fifth, a changeup, became a souvenir for someone sitting just above the left-field fence.
Marcell Ozuna, the left fielder who batted right after Goldschmidt, took even less time and drove Keuchel’s second pitch, a cutter, even deeper into the stands. In the fourth inning, Ozuna sized up Keuchel’s slider and hit it out, too, for a solo homer. Keuchel’s day was done two batters later, his outing, at 67 pitches, shorter than his Game 1 outing that lasted into the fifth inning.
Dakota Hudson, St. Louis’s rookie starter making his first postseason appearance, lasted until the fifth inning, when Atlanta stitched together three runs from a ground ball, an error and an Ozzie Albies home run. Atop a sacrifice fly from Albies in the third, the Braves took a 4-3 lead.
But it would only last until the eighth inning, when, once more, Goldschmidt doubled. With Ozuna approaching the plate, Atlanta’s fielders played deep, the shadows by then covering almost all of the grass. Ozuna struck out, but Yadier Molina followed by lashing a drive into right over a leaping Freddie Freeman.