The Atlanta Braves are now just one win away from the franchise’s first MLB championship since 1995, after winning Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday.
Highlighted by back-to-back 7th inning home runs from shortstop Dansby Swanson and a pinch-hitting Jorge Soler, the Braves edged the visiting Astros 3-2 to take a commanding 3-1 lead.
Atlanta can capture the crown in front of their home crowd on Sunday night.
“I just want to win tomorrow. I don’t know how confident I am,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said when asked how he felt being 3-1 up.
“I’m glad we are, quite honestly. I’d rather be up three than down three, I guess. But I’ve been around too long to get ahead of myself.”
Houston had most of the momentum in the game’s early innings but failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
The Astros stranded 11 baserunners and its hitters were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Atlanta starter Dylan Lee registered just a single out, handing the ball over to Kyle Wright with the bases loaded in the first inning.
But Wright allowed only one of his inherited runners to cross and gave the Braves a solid 4.2 innings of work in relief.
A solo shot by Jose Altuve in the fourth inning was Wright’s sole significant miscue, as Houston held a slim 2-0 lead through five innings.
Star third baseman Austin Riley got the Braves on the board in the 6th with an RBI single to left. The 24-year-old also turned in a key defensive play in the second inning, robbing Altuve of an RBI on a hard-sinking liner.
After Swanson and Soler’s homers in the 7th, Altuve was again victimized by the Braves defense, as left fielder Eddie Rosario ran down a blast at the warning track in the top of the 8th to preserve Atlanta’s 3-2 lead.
Braves closer Will Smith pitched a perfect 9th inning, forcing Yordan Alvarez to ground out to first baseman Freddie Freeman for the final out of the night.
Atlanta reliever Tyler Matzek earned the victory for the Braves, while Houston’s Cristian Javier – who allowed both Swanson and Soler’s homers – suffered the loss.
“They’ve been playing us tough. Been playing us real tough. We got to win tomorrow,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker.
“We’ve had our backs to the wall before so our guys know what to do. There’s not a whole lot to be said. We know what we have to do. We have to win tomorrow.”
Former President Donald Trump was in attendance at Game 4 and participated in the controversial “Tomahawk chop” on Saturday.
The chop – a stadium-wide chant and longtime tradition at Braves games – has been under renewed scrutiny as part of a national discussion about racism and racial imagery in professional sports.
Several advocacy groups and observers have accused the chant of mocking Native American groups and decried it as racist. But many Braves fans, including Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, have dismissed the criticism, and the stadium has led the fans in doing the chant in both Games 3 and 4 of the series.