Scherzer & Co. force de­cid­ing Game 5 >>> MLB PLAY­OFFS:

Yadier Molina hits walkoff sac fly to keep Car­di­nals alive in se­ries ver­sus Braves ... At­lanta laments its nu­mer­ous missed op­por­tu­ni­ties ... Man­agers lav­ish praise on Yadi

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - rlon­g­[email protected]

ST. LOUIS — If it is go­ing to be a Braves new world this post-sea­son, the first step to fi­nally steer them past a firstround exit will have to go the dis­tance.

And the next and most cru­cial turn to get them to the NLCS will be to score some big runs in a clutch sit­u­a­tion.

The Na­tional League East champs couldn’t put away the host Car­di­nals on Mon­day af­ter­noon at Busch Sta­dium, even­tu­ally pay­ing the price as they fell 5-4 in 10 in­nings.

So to avoid a 10th con­sec­u­tive play­off se­ries de­feat, the Braves will have to pre­vail in a win­ner-take-all show­down on Wed­nes­day back in At­lanta.

“Usu­ally, when you leave those spares out there, they seem to come back to haunt you,” said Braves man­ager Brian Snitker, re­fer­ring to his team leav­ing the bases loaded in both the sixth and sev­enth in­ning, then again fail­ing to score af­ter a lead­off Ron­ald Acuna Jr. dou­ble in the ninth. “We were a hit away from con­tin­u­ing to add on.”

In­stead, the Cards walked it off to end a dra­matic backand-forth be­tween the re­spec­tive di­vi­sion cham­pi­ons to force Game 5 at Sun­trust Park two days later.

In what has been a de­li­ciously en­ter­tain­ing se­ries — par­tic­u­larly late in games — the back-and-forth has been in­cred­i­ble.

“Two re­ally good teams, two teams that put ef­fort for­ward un­til the last outs are made,” said Car­di­nals pitcher Jack Fla­herty, who will get the start in Game 5. “There’s no easy outs. It’s been that kind of se­ries.”

A se­ries wor­thy of go­ing the dis­tance, thanks es­pe­cially to the hero­ics of the Car­di­nals’ ac­com­plished vet­eran, Yadier Molina. First to the bot­tom of the eighth in­ning, where a soft­struck Molina ball had just enough mus­tard on it to elude 6-foot-4 Braves first base­man Fred­die Free­man and drop for an RBI sin­gle.

Then with run­ners on first and third in the 10th, Molina hit a tow­er­ing fly ball to left field, eas­ily deep enough to bring home Kolten Wong from third via the sac­ri­fice.

“He just finds a way to do it, and that’s what makes him one of the great­est of all time,” Cards first base­man Paul Gold­schmidt, who got his team started with a solo homer in the first, said of Molina. “It’s not an ac­ci­dent. The suc­cess that he’s had, he re­ally works hard at it. It doesn’t go un­no­ticed. And it’s im­pres­sive.”

For At­lanta, it was a game — and a se­ries — there for the tak­ing, es­pe­cially given the mo­men­tum they were rid­ing fol­low­ing Sun­day’s come­back win. To ad­vance in the sec­ond year un­der their Cana­dian gen­eral man­ager Alex An­thopou­los, they’ll need to be more op­por­tunis­tic than they were on Mon­day when they went 0-for-9 with run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion.

“That’s base­ball,” said Braves right fielder Nick Markakis. “Post-sea­son, you get the best pitch­ers. It’s in­tense. It’s where you want to be. We just have to put this one be­hind us.”

And start get­ting some timely hits, es­pe­cially with men on base.

“The whole post-sea­son thing is tim­ing and we had the deck stacked pretty good in our favour,” Snitker said. “We just couldn’t get a hit.

“Those guys have car­ried us all year, but (the Car­di­nals) did a good job of pitch­ing to them.”

YADI, YADI, YADI

In the Car­di­nals or­ga­ni­za­tion since 2004, Molina has seen plenty of good times with the team that drafted him, but Mon­day’s sacfly win­ner was his first post­sea­son game-win­ning RBI since Game 7 of the ’06 NLCS.

“I just al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated how he com­petes and how he plays,” Cards man­ager Mike Shildt said. “And then you get the con­fir­ma­tion of just how spe­cial he is. This is ex­actly what Yadier Molina lives for. This is what he trains for. Yadier Molina is about win­ning and win­ning cham­pi­onships, pe­riod.”

Snitker echoes the sen­ti­ment.

“This guy’s a Hall of Famer and he hits to the sit­u­a­tion,” the Braves man­ager said. “He plays the game in front of I’m prob­a­bly about as good as any­body in the game.”

GAME ON

Be­fore the Molina hero­ics, the star of the show for the Cards was Mar­cell Ozuna, who had solo homers in the first and fourth.

“What I ap­pre­ci­ate about him is just the fact that he’s em­brac­ing it and en­joy­ing it and let­ting the game come to him,” Shildt said.

A would-be win­ning rally for the Braves would come in the fifth when a sharply struck liner by Adam Du­vall was bob­bled by Cards third base­man Matt Car­pen­ter, al­low­ing Dansby Swan­son to score. That was fol­lowed by a two-run Ozzie Al­bies homer to give the vis­i­tors their first lead of the game.

The Braves had a chance to break it open with the bases loaded in back-to-back in­nings but when Du­vall struck out to end the sixth and Adeiny Hechavar­ria flew out to left field to ter­mi­nate the sev­enth, it was cri­sis averted for the Cards.

The three homers al­lowed in his 3.2 in­nings of work were un­char­ac­ter­is­tic for Braves starter Dal­las Keuchel, who had al­lowed just five in his pre­vi­ous 56 in­nings of post­sea­son ac­tion. Mon­day marked the short­est of his 11 ca­reer post-sea­son starts.

Omi­nous stat for Wed­nes­day in Ge­or­gia: The Braves are 0-3 in their pre­vi­ous NLDS ap­pear­ances with all three of them com­ing at home. The Cards, mean­while, are 3-1 in their four fran­chise Game 5 NLDS ap­pear­ances.

GETTY IM­AGES

Car­di­nals catcher Yadier Molina cel­e­brates af­ter hit­ting a walkoff sac­ri­fice fly in the bot­tom of the 10th in­ning at Busch sta­dium yes­ter­day. The win tied st. Louis’ se­ries with At­lanta at two vic­to­ries apiece.

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