The Atlanta Braves’ hopes of going to their first NLDS appearance since 2013 got sunk with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. The AL Championship Series saw some ugly defeats, and Game 5 saw ugly one, too.
Marwin Gonzalez legged out a perfectly executed safety squeeze in the ninth inning to give the Houston Astros a 4-3 victory over the Braves on Saturday night.
“It stinks to lose,” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. “You take every game seriously. You take every one, but you take this one particularly hard.”
With runners on first and second and nobody out, Gonzalez worked a two-out walk to seemingly put his team on the verge of victory. When Trevor Story swung and missed at a sinker with runners at second and third, Gonzalez made them pay.
Jensen threw him a breaking ball and Gonzalez came off the bag quickly and scored with a slide on a play upheld on video review.
“What a comeback win by our boys,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “The big two plays in the ninth inning were non-calls. The safety squeeze, in my opinion, should have been ruled out. Obviously, the home run that Marwin hit was a pretty tough one to defend. In that situation, no one was covering the plate, and (Matt) Kemp was back in left-center. But, still, we found a way to put two on there, and then the walks there at the end.”
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The Braves blew another lead in the ninth inning and nearly blew a chance to send the game to extra innings.
Cameron Maybin beat out an infield single, but Ender Inciarte’s hard slide into second base didn’t look intentional. Maybin had been called out on the previous play when Dee Gordon got a break while sliding into the bag.
Hinch and third base coach Gary Pettis were ejected for arguing with the umpires.
“We felt the decision was incorrect,” Hinch said. “The replay, in our opinion, was inconclusive. The doctor’s room looked at it and came back to us that it was an unsafe slide.”
Faced with the winning situation, Flowers struck out swinging.
“You feel bad for the guys down the line,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “You have a chance to win a game, and this particular night in the eighth inning, it would have been a heck of a time to do it.”
The Braves’ run began with back-to-back doubles by Flowers and Brian McCann in the sixth. They added an unearned run in the seventh, but Charlie Culberson was thrown out at the plate by catcher Gonzalez after doubling to center.
Noah Syndergaard struck out 11 in 7 1/3 innings and Willy Garcia hit a two-run homer for the Mets, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-1. The Braves now head home for their final series at SunTrust Park.
“We had opportunities, and we let them all down,” Snitker said. “Obviously, there’s got to be more than just taking one out of two.
“I’m not losing sleep because it’s going to be a do-or-die game on our home field. We just got to take care of business.”