That old Devil Magic: Cardinals make Braves’ home-field advantage disappear

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ATLANTA-Welcome back that old Cardinal Devil Magic.

St. Louis hasn’t been in the postseason in almost half a decade, and yet the Cardinals worked their sorcery in Game 1 of the NLDS Thursday night like they’d never been gone.

The hometown Braves held St. Louis in check in the early innings, took advantage of Cardinal errors midway through, and nearly staged a historic rally in the bottom of the ninth. But the night ended with the Cardinals on top 7-6. “Magic” doesn’t do this effort justice, but it’s a lot more poetic than “opportunistic hitting and strategic small-ball engineering” … so we’ll go with “magic.”

You’ve seen the Cardinals do this before. Yadier Molina rallied St. Louis past the Mets in 2006 with a ninth-inning Game 7 NLCS homer, a run that ended in a world championship. You saw the wild-card-winning Cardinals dispatch these Braves and then fight their way back from Game 6 elimination against the Rangers-literally down to their last strike-to win the World Series. They scrapped their way to three more championship series and a World Series appearance only to go quiet after 2014. But maybe they weren’t dead, only sleeping.

This was a game of three acts, and much like a magician making us believe he’s just sawed his lovely assistant in half, the Cardinals suckered in the Braves, making them believe they had control of this game when St. Louis was lurking all along, waiting to drop history on Atlanta’s beleaguered heads.

“[We have] the expectation to win, confidence in ourselves,” third baseman Tommy Edman said after the game. “We have that confidence, our coaches have that confidence, having a bunch of veteran guys who’ve been around forever-those guys set the tone, and the young guys follow suit.”

Atlanta’s Dallas Keuchel opened up with four-plus innings of pitching that showed why the Braves picked him up midseason: to give Atlanta a stable start to October. Keuchel set down the Cardinals in order in the first, allowed one baserunner in the second, and induced two separate third-to-first double plays in the third and fourth. But by the fifth, he was laboring in the Georgia heat-94 degrees at first pitch-and Braves manager Brian Snitker brought out the hook.

That was Act I, the Braves’ missed opportunity. Atlanta could only manage one run through the first five innings despite running up Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas’s pitch count early. The Cardinals manufactured a run in the fifth-single, sacrifice, steal, score-and the game hit the turn knotted up.

Act II gave the Braves enough false hope to keep the sellout crowd of 42,631 chanting and chopping. A two-run play in the sixth-Dansby Swanson hit a screamer to shortstop Paul DeJong, who forced a bad throw to second, allowing two runs to score-gave Atlanta some breathing room.

And then came Act III. Much like in Houdini’s famed water tank, Atlanta’s breathing room didn’t last long, and the Braves didn’t realize they were chained up until it was too late. Luke Jackson came on to open the 8th for Atlanta, …read more

Source:: Daily times

      

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