Atlanta Braves “Will” Themselves to Victory in San Diego

Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud celebrates with Will Smith after Smith recorded a save. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud celebrates with Will Smith after Smith recorded a save. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres squared off in San Diego on Sunday in a critical game to the Braves’ playoff chances.

The Atlanta Braves wrapped up their 2021 regular-season road schedule in beautiful San Diego, looking to win their third straight game against the Padres.

This game was uber important to the Braves’ playoff chances.   Atlanta entered play in the series finale with San Diego with a one-and-a-half game lead over the Phillies.

With a Phillies loss to the Pirates on Sunday, the Braves had an opportunity to push their lead to two and a half games in the NL East and put a lot of pressure on the Phillies to have to sweep the upcoming series in Atlanta to have any chance of controlling their own destiny in the race for the postseason.

Even though the Padres are not going to the postseason this year they looked to play spoiler and leave their fans happy in what was the Padres’ final home game of the season.

The Braves entered the ninth inning on Sunday with a one-run lead and — you guessed it — had Will Smith coming on to try to protect it.

Smith promptly walked Jake Cronenworth and Manny Machado to start the inning, putting the tying run into scoring position and the winning run on base.

The Padres went to their bench and brought up MVP candidate, Fernando Tatis, Jr.  Tatis homered off Will Smith on Friday to win the conclusion of the suspended game and he was looking to be the deciding factor in this game as well.

Smith got his revenge on Tatis as he got the benefit of a borderline strike three call for the first out of the inning.

Tommy Pham came up next and walked on 4 pitches, loading the bases.  The Padres were now one single away from winning the game, without even putting a ball in play in the ninth inning up to this point.

After a mound visit from Braves pitching coach, Rick Kranitz, Trent Grisham stood in, looking to win the game for the Padres.  Once again, Will Smith got a borderline call as Grisham took a 2-2 fastball for strike three that appeared to be off the plate inside.

Ha-Seong Kim was the sixth hitter of the inning.  After falling behind 2-0, Smith battled back to even the count at 2-2.  And with all of Braves Country holding their collective breath, Smith struck Kim out, ending the game and saving a huge Braves win.

The Atlanta Braves held on to beat the San Diego Padres 4-3 on Sunday to cut their magic number to 5.

The ninth inning of this game showed two things:  (1) “too close to take with two strikes” was a real thing in the ninth inning on Sunday and (2) Will Smith continues to put the Braves in compromising situations almost each and every time he comes into a game.

And while it is probably too late in the season to expect Brian Snitker to mix up roles in the bullpen this year, it is something that absolutely must be evaluated in the off-season.

But that is a conversation for another day.

This was a really good road trip for the Braves.  A 7-4 record on a western swing in San Francisco, Arizona, and San Diego is pretty impressive.

By winning seven of their eleven games the Braves shaved their magic number to five and are heading home for a pivotal series with the Phillies with a two and a half-game lead in the NL East.

After an off-day on Monday the pitching matchups for the Phillies series are as follows:

The Braves can clinch the NL East with a sweep of the Phillies.  Even if the Braves are able to take two of three it would all but put the proverbial nail in Philadelphia’s postseason hopes as the Braves would have to lose out and the Phillies win out for the Phillies to win the East.

The one thing to remember as we head into the final week is that the Braves are, as of now only scheduled to play 161 regular-season games.

If at this time next week the Braves are either a half-game up or down in the division then the rained-out game against the Rockies will need to be played on the following Monday to decide the fate of the division.

Next. Get ready for a gut-wrenching final week of Braves baseball. dark

Enjoy the day off on Monday, Braves Country!  The biggest series of the season to this point is right around the corner.