ATLANTA — Could a string of pearls lead to a string of Atlanta Braves postseason victories?
If Monday afternoon at Truist Park is any indication, it just might.
For the second time in two National League Division Series games against the Milwaukee Brewers, Braves pinch-hitter Joc Pederson came to the plate with a string of pearls around his neck and promptly knocked a pitch from Brewers reliever Adrian Houser out of the park.
On Monday there were two aboard in the bottom of the fifth when his three-run blast accounted for all the Atlanta runs in this 3-0 victory. He also arrived at the plate in Friday's Game 1 with the Braves trailing 2-0 and lined a solo homer off Houser to cut the deficit in half.
Although the Braves failed to muster another run beyond Pederson's in that game, thanks to Pederson's Monday heroics, the Braves are now within a single win of reaching their second straight league championship series heading into Tuesday's Game Four at Truist Park.
"That guy's got no heartbeat at all," said Braves skipper Brian Snitker of Pederson late Monday afternoon. "It's like he's on a playground."
The chubby-cheeked Pederson — who played for the defending world champion Los Angeles Dodgers when they ousted the Braves from last season's NLCS in seven tough games — began wearing the pearls a couple of weeks ago.
"I've had black chains, gold chains, why not try pearls?" said the 29-year-old California native with a shrug after swatting the 11th postseason home run of his career. "Yes, they are real pearls. I take them off when I sleep. I just saw them somewhere, thought they looked cool and called my jeweler to order some."
The Braves ordered up Pederson from the Chicago Cubs in a July 15th trade after losing All-Star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr.. to a season-ending knee injury. The Braves sent the Cubbies minor league prospect Bryce Ball in exchange for Pederson.
It didn't take long for the ex-Dodger to charm his new teammates.
"He's such a joy," said shortstop Dansby Swanson, who scored on Pederson's homer. "No environment dictates who he is."
Added winning pitcher Ian Anderson, "To have him on our team, we're all ecstatic."
Said Snitker, "He's something else — in a good way. I've really enjoyed getting to know him. He's been on the big stage and he's performed at a high level. Guys respect that. When he's in that batter's box, it's game on."
It hadn't been "game on" before a packed crowd at Truist for a playoff game for 733 days before Monday. And the stadium was still known as SunTrust Park for that 13-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2019 division series.
After that, COVID-19 hit and crowds were on hold for a bit. Then the Braves seemed to be on hold a wee bit longer, not climbing above .500 for good until mid-August before finishing the regular season with an 88-73 record that was just good enough to win the East.
Said Snitker on Monday of his team's late, late charge: "We weren't even treading water for so long. It's like we had a straw in the water, sucking air. I knew we'd have a run, but would it be enough?"
But in the pathetically pedestrian NL East — Philly was the only other team above .500 and the Phillies finished 82-80 — it was enough to reach the postseason. And now the Braves are within one victory of the NLCS.
"A game away," said Snitker, gently shaking his head. "I'm so proud of these guys."
Even against a Milwaukee team that has now failed to score a run over its last 19 innings, a single win with two chances to get it is not a lock.
As Brewers catcher Omar Narvaez said, "At the end of the day, it's baseball. You never know what is going to happen."
Yet the Braves certainly did all they could to make a win happen on Monday. They had the matchless Timothy Miller sing both the National Anthem before the game and God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch in his trademark tuxedo. John Schuerholz, the front office mastermind who built the Braves' 1990s dynasty, addressed the crowd of 41,479 just before the first pitch. Chipper Jones was in the house, though he dropped a foul ball.
What Snitker says he won't do on Tuesday is copy Pederson's fashion statement.
"No, I won't be in pearls," he said with a smile.
But it says a lot about Pederson that the usually reserved Braves are enthusiastically embracing Pearl Power.
Or as Swanson said when asked about his new teammate wearing pearls, delivering a pearl of wisdom if ever there was one: "As shocking as it was, it wasn't shocking."
The only thing shocking now will be if the Braves aren't facing the Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS this time next week. And if they do, may a Pearl Jam song be suggested for a theme song? "Come Back" perhaps?
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.