File this game as one of the Braves’ biggest wins of the season.
Trailing 3-0 at the start of the ninth inning Sunday night, the Braves erupted for three runs to tie the game and then beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-3, in the 10th inning when Brian McCann drew a bases-loaded walk.
“This one is up there (among special wins),” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “That is not what we wanted the first eight innings, just not a clean baseball game we played, but that is the beautiful thing about this team. We go until 27 outs.”
Or, in this case, 30 outs.
“Especially after (Saturday’s) game, that was a big bounce-back game for us,” said Freeman, alluding to the previous day’s 6-3 loss in which the Cardinals scored four runs in the eighth inning.
To put the Braves’ win Sunday into context: MLB teams are 3-423 this season when trailing by three or more runs after eight innings, according to ESPN Sports & Info. The Braves have two of those three wildly improbable wins — Sunday’s and an April 20 game at Cleveland in which they overcame a four-run ninth-inning deficit.
Freeman got Sunday’s ninth-inning rally started with a leadoff double against a 101-mph sinker from Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks. Josh Donaldson followed with a single to right field on a 103-mph pitch to score Freeman. Nick Markakis walked. Austin Riley singled to left-center to score Donaldson and pull the Braves within a run at 3-2.
With one out and runners on second and third, Ozzie Albies faced esteemed left-handed reliever Andrew Miller. Albies impressively fouled off five tough pitches, four after the count was full. Then he singled to right field, scoring Markakis with the tying run.
“That was awesome. Shoot, that’s what it’s about right there,” Donaldson said of Albies’ at-bat. “As a kid, that’s what you want. And he relished in that moment — and off a guy who has swing-and-miss stuff.”
Albies was caught in a rundown trying to stretch his hit into a double, and the inning ended with Ronald Acuna taking a called third strike with two runners on base. But a game that had appeared lost was tied.
“Just a huge inning,” Freeman said.
Then the Braves had another big inning. In the 10th, they loaded the bases on a one-out single by Freeman, a walk by Donaldson and a two-out intentional walk to Riley. McCann drew a five-pitch walk off Tyler Webb, the seventh of eight St. Louis pitchers in the game, to score Freeman with the winning run.
“This was a huge win for us,” Donaldson said.
The Braves had trailed 3-0 when starting pitcher Julio Teheran left after five innings. Two of the runs against Teheran were unearned, coming in a fourth-inning rally fueled by errors by left fielder Riley and third baseman Donaldson. In what would prove to be a pivotal development in the game, the Braves’ bullpen kept the 3-0 deficit from becoming any larger.
“Sometimes that’s the biggest thing, just to keep us in the game,” Freeman said. “As an offense, that’s all we can ask for from our pitching staff. Just keep us in it, because we know we can come back at any time.”
Four relievers — Touki Toussaint, Josh Tomlin, Jacob Webb and Luke Jackson — combined for five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit among them. Toussaint worked two innings, the others one inning apiece. Webb got the win and Jackson the save.
“Those young relievers just keep stepping up for us,” manager Brian Snitker said.
Snitker said without hesitation that he would rank the win among the team’s biggest of the season.
“It’s right there, especially (being) just kind of dead in the weeds for seven innings, eight innings,” Snitker said. “We’ve had some of those go against us, so it’s good to stay alive, grind out some at-bats, get a good decision for us.
“We actually shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times this last couple of days, and we were able to overcome it and pull it out. That does nothing but good things for a ballclub and their psyche and their confidence and where they’re at. Never stop and never quit. If you’ve got an out or a strike left, you’ve got a chance.”
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