If TBS analyst Ron Darling knew that St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina swings at the first pitch 48 percent of the time, shouldn't the Atlanta Braves have known the same Monday afternoon?
Sure, Darling is a product of Yale. But these kinds of stats are floating around every clubhouse in the major leagues. If a TV talking head has them, you can bet the Braves have a dozen copies of them.
Yet two Atlanta relievers — Shane Greene and normal starter Julio Teheran — apparently both forgot that rather important bit of information before facing Molina in the eighth (Greene) and 10th innings (Teheran) of Game 4 of their National League Division Series on Monday.
Instead of attempting to make Molina chase a bad throw early in the count, both threw hittable pitches on their first offerings to him. Befitting his reputation for clutch hitting, Molina delivered a two-out RBI single on the first to tie the Braves at 4-all, then smacked an RBI sacrifice fly in the 10th to win it for the Redbirds by a 5-4 final score.
The two teams will now play a series-deciding Game 5 on Wednesday at the Braves' SunTrust Park to determine which team advances to the NLCS opposite the Los Angeles Dodgers-Washington Nationals winner.
"We've got a good group; we've got good people," said the 37-year-old Molina, often considered the best defensive catcher in the game today. "We've got a big game Wednesday. We'll see what happens."
It's not that the Braves lost this one only because of a faulty scouting report regarding Molina. They likely lost this game because of something they didn't do when they had the bats in their hands.
In that sense, everything you need to know about this Atlanta loss could be found next to the letters "LOB" (left on base) in the box score.
The Braves left nine aboard, including leaving the bases loaded in both the sixth and seventh innings and stranding Ronald Acuna Jr. at third in the eighth.
When you twice leave the bases loaded late, you usually pay for it with a loss.
"You know this whole postseason thing is timing," said Braves skipper Brian Snitker, whose team actually came from behind for 32 of its 97 regular-season wins, also claiming 20 last-at-bat victories. "We had the deck stacked, I thought, pretty good in our favor more than once today. And we just couldn't get a hit."
As Monday also proves, neither side apparently can gain momentum in this series from the previous day's game.
But having seemingly twice broken the hearts of Cardinals Nation in St. Louis with Sunday's dramatic ninth-inning rally and Monday's 4-3 lead after falling behind 3-1, this one has to hurt the Braves a bit, though how much won't be known until Wednesday evenig.
That's when Game 2 winner Mike Foltynewicz will once more face Game 2 loser Jack Flaherty in what could become a low-scoring classic on the order of Folty's 3-0 victory last Friday. Or it could also be a slugfest against two pitchers who gave all they had to give in their first appearances of this series.
Of course, the Cardinals seemed to have all they'd need to wrap this one up when they stunned the Braves 7-6 at SunTrust last Thursday. Instead, Atlanta won 3-0 on Friday, appeared to all but ice the series with their 3-1, ninth-inning comeback with two outs on Sunday, only to lose from ahead on Monday.
Said Snitker of this latest St. Louis comeback on the shoulders of Molina: "They've been through — they're battle-tested, been through the wars. They've got rings. (Molina's) a (future) Hall of Famer. And he hits to the situation, stays within himself, doesn't try to do too much. I mean, he's a ballplayer. He plays the game in front of him probably about as good as anybody in the game."
So with one game left in front of them to decide which team moves on to the NLCS, who has the advantage now?
Who knows? Both teams have played well enough at times to have already advanced. Both teams have also played poorly enough to have already headed for their favorite golf courses or fishing holes for the rest of the fall.
Of those nine stranded baserunners, Snitker said: "We're a hit away from — just some productive outs — from continuing to add on (to our lead)."
Instead, they're now a loss away from tying the Chicago Cubs for being the only franchises in major league history to lose 10 straight postseason series. Between now and Wednesday, the Braves might want to pick Darling's brain for any other Cardinals factoids they should already know but apparently don't.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com.