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Atlanta Braves' Adam Duvall celebrates his grand slam home run during the first inning in Game 5 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

OK, so maybe that 4-0 start the Atlanta Braves got off to in Sunday night's first inning thanks to Adam Duvall's grand slam was too perfect an ending to what's been about as perfect an autumn ride as Braves Country has witnessed since the worst-to-first season of 1991.

Maybe that the Braves ultimately lost to Houston on Sunday at Truist Park to force a sixth game in this best-of-seven World Series is a good thing. Build some character, not that this team has ever been found lacking in that department.

Nevertheless, as long as they ultimately win the Series either Tuesday night or Wednesday night in Houston, think of the property that may have been spared inside the Big Peach without all that crazy, sometimes dangerous, generally senseless celebrating. Sofas might have been burned right out on the edge of a city street. Drunk and disorderly conduct citations might have set a record. Unexcused work absences — well, unexused unless your boss was a Braves backer — might have made buying anything to celebrate with the day after all but impossible to purchase.

Now, as long as they ultimately prevail, they have a chance to spare Houston the same bit of zaniness that the Astros spared Atlanta.

Still, if you're a Braves fan you have to be a bit nervous moving forward. What if Sunday's collapse kickstarts a swoon rather than a boon? What if the bats slumber and the arms stumble?

What if, let's be honest, the Braves return to being like every other professional sports team from the Big Peach over the last 25 years? In other words, what if they once more snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in spectacularly embarrassing fashion?

You know it's out there. Fear. Dread. Anxiety.

If the Falcons can blow a 28-3 Super Bowl lead, no championship is safe until the trophy's been presented.

But let's try to focus on the bright side, the positive side, the reasoned side.

Let's try to look to Tuesday night starter Max Fried and probable Wednesday starter, if necessary, Ian Anderson.

Think Houston has a reasonable counterpart for either one of those guys, guys who are rested and ready to lead a parade down Peachtree? It doesn't.

Instead, it has this from Astros manager and long ago Braves player Dusty Baker regarding Astros pitcher Luis Garcia's expected Game 6 start: "We realize that he has a short leash, but then everybody out there has a short leash and operating on low rest or not full rest.

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Atlanta Braves pitcher Drew Smyly leaves the field during the ninth inning in Game 5 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

There was also this from Baker during a Monday press conference when asked about facing Fried: "I can't brag on him, you know what I mean, because we got to — I can't pump him up too much because we've got to beat him. It's no secret that the guy's got good stuff. Outstanding breaking ball, good fastball, good change-up."

Just as important, Braves skipper Brian Snitker is feeling the same about Fried.

"I think he's been off a little bit the last couple times, hasn't been himself," Snitker said of the 27-year-old lefty with one of the best breaking balls in the game. "I expect to see Max on top of his game tomorrow. I expect that every time he goes out. I mean, this guy probably, since the All-Star break, is one of the best pitchers in the game. So that's kind of the version of Max that I expect to see tomorrow."

If that version appears, let the celebration begin.

And if not, there's still Anderson — who hasn't pitched since throwing five innings of no-hit ball last Friday — for Wednesday's decisive Game 7, if necessary.

It's a formula for success. It's a formula to make that Sunday collapse from a 4-0 advantage disappear from the fragile psyche of Braves Country.

There's also Snitker, who would get my vote for Manager of the Year if I had such a vote. Snitker is everything that makes sports good. He's a Braves lifer who said a few days ago that he used to visit Hank Aaron's office 20 years ago just so he could be around the Hammer, soaking up both the Hall of Famer's greatness and goodness.

When they honored Aaron prior to Friday's game at Truist Park, Snitker gave Aaron's wife Billye a big hug. Attempting to discuss that moment later, his voice cracked, leading to a long pause. Maybe it was allergies, but something closely resembling a tear or two seemed to briefly make their way into Snit's eyes at that moment.

Whether you're a Braves backer or not, how could you not, assuming the Braves win, say of Snitker "Good for him"?

Someone asked the Atlanta manager on Monday about pressure. As expected, he dismissed it, saying, "The only time I hear about that is in this (interview) room. In that (locker) room out there, I never hear it."

Perhaps not. But if Game 6 leads to a Game 7, he may not hear it, but all of Braves Country will feel it, including the 26 players on Atlanta's postseason roster.

The Big Peach has been disappointed too many times in too many sports to have it any other way. And losing Sunday's 4-0 lead figures to only make that worse.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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