ATLANTA — Joc Pederson gave the pearls again and Max Fried constructed another gem. This might not have been Joctober. But the final stages of the Braves’ 2-1 walk-off win over the Giants on Monday night at Truist Park certainly conjured memories of last year’s triumphant postseason.
“You had real energy and you had some nervous energy in the stands,” Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “Those are fun ones to play in. I think it’s good to prepare you for October and those kinds of moments.”
Orlando Arcia’s walk-off single provided a celebratory ending for the Braves, who have won 16 of their past 18 games. Atlanta spent the past few weeks streaking against teams with losing records. But with this series-opening win against a playoff-caliber club, the reigning World Series champs showed why they expect to extend their success through this more-challenging portion of their schedule.
“There were a lot of big moments,” said manager Brian Snitker, whose team improved to 39-29 and moved ahead of the Giants (37-29) and into the second of the National League’s three Wild Card spots.
What was the biggest moment of this game?
Well, you have to go with the game-ending single Arcia laced to the left field. As the infielder came out of the right-handed batter’s box, he began waving pinch-runner Phil Gosselin, who raced from second base to slide across the plate just ahead of Pederson’s throw from left field.
Pederson received his World Series ring before the game and he got a huge ovation before his ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance. But he didn’t prove to be the hero with his first trip back to the ballpark, where he led thousands of fans to wear pearls last October. That honor was given to Arcia, who has gone 9-for-21 since replacing the injured Ozzie Albies as Atlanta’s second baseman.
“Any time I’m potentially the last at-bat in a game, it feels like a World Series game,” Arcia said through an interpreter.
Speaking of World Series
As Fried limited the Giants to just two hits through the first seven innings, he looked much like he did when he tossed six scoreless innings during the decisive Game 6 of last year’s World Series. Pederson said the Braves were those “Mighty Fighters” or something like that during the championship parade a few days later.
Pederson drew a loud ovation on that November day, and the fans gave him another rousing ovation as he came to the plate with one out in Monday’s ninth. After drilling a long foul ball to the right of the right-field pole, the veteran outfielder singled through the vacated left side of the infield. One batter later, the Giants had runners at second and third with one out. But Kenley Jansen killed the threat with consecutive strikeouts of Thairo Estrada and Brandon Crawford.
Brave fans were able to show their respect for Pederson and still get the desired result.
“That was cool to see,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “He definitely deserved it for all the big moments he came up big for us last year. He changed the whole clubhouse environment.”
One of the clubhouse leaders is d’Arnaud, who began the second inning with his 10th homer of the season, which was his sixth within a span of 36 at-bats dating to June 1. He has the utmost respect of the pitching staff and he often spends time with the close-knit relief corps, which frequently chills in the clubhouse together after games.
Will Smith, who served as Atlanta’s reliable closer throughout last year’s postseason, certainly earned a chance to relax after Monday’s game. Fried was cruising before a bunt single, another single and a walk began the eighth inning. He exited with the bases loaded and watched Smith limit the damage to one run.
The threat ended when Matt Olson grabbed Mike Yastrzemski’s sharp grounder as it carried him into foul territory. Despite slipping in the grass, the two-time Gold Glove first baseman made an accurate flip that Smith grabbed before finding the bag just in time for the out.
“It was a really good team win tonight,” Fried said.