Jorge Soler's pinch-hit homer puts Atlanta Braves on cusp of World Series title

ATLANTA -- Jorge Soler has only made 11 plate appearances over the last three years as a pinch-hitter. While nine of those were in this season's playoffs, Soler was still unfamiliar with the concept. His strategy was to swing as much as possible.
Soler could be called upon at any time by the Atlanta Braves, who would use only relievers for Game 4 of Saturday's World Series. Soler was seen taking multiple swings in the bat cage from the beginning of the second inning.

He waited for his turn in the seventh inning. After looking at the scouting reports of Houston Astros right-hander Cristian javier, he stepped into the on deck circle and watched Dansby Swanson tie it with a fly ball from the brick wall. He told himself that he would look for something more. Soler struck out four pitches and got a slider to the plate that soared over the plate, scoring the Braves' first ever baseball championship.

After the Braves won a 3-1 series win over the Astros, Soler said in Spanish that it meant a lot to him and his family. "I was not there at the beginning of the team. I was somewhere else. They traded me here and gave me the chance to be here, part of this group."

Swanson, who was a.248/.309/.439 hitter at the beginning of the regular season, and Soler (pinch-hitting in the pitcher’s spot due to National League rules prohibiting a designated hitter), became the first Nos. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 8 and 9 hitters have hit back-to-back home runs during a World Series game.

Theirs came at an important time when the Braves were trailing by one run and down to their final eight innings and the Astros' high end relievers.

Soler's batted balls -- a 107 mph drive that flew just outside the reach of Astros left fielder Yordan Avarez and triggered a terrifying collision -- accounted to the first ever go-ahead pinch hit home run in the seventh inning of World Series history, since Ed Sprague of Toronto Blue Jays did it in Game 2 in 1992.

The current Braves became the third team in World Series history to hit back-to-back, seventh-inning-or-later home runs to tie a game or take the lead, joining Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981 and Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig for the New York Yankees in 1928. Javier, who gave up those homers on Saturday night, had not allowed a run in nine of his previous postseason innings.

Teams with a lead of 3-1 in a series have won a best-of-7 World Series 40 times out of 46. On Sunday night, the Braves will attempt to win at home -- at a venue where they are undefeated in this postseason -- and it is at home.

Brian Snitker (Braves manager) said, "I'm happy that our city can go through these, experience this." He has spent 44 years of his professional career with the Braves. "What an amazing time of the year. It's a win-win for both the Braves County and the city.

This latest win is not possible without Eddie Rosario, the NLCS MVP and the catch that changed Saturday's course.

With two outs, the Braves had taken their first lead in the eighth inning. However, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve lifted an Luke Jackson slider out of left field. It was a little too shallow for the sport, where Soler's ball landed. Rosario, 24 hours after watching the Astros' eighth-inning first hit drop in front of his face in the eighth inning, rushed back and felt the warning track under his feet. Rosario made the final catch, stunned by his teammates, as he approached the fence with his glove.

He was still high moments later.

"I feel right now I am Super Rosario," Rosario said. I don't see it. I catch the ball with my glove. Everyone is happy. It was unbelievable what I did tonight. Wow! What a catch.

Rosario was asked whether there was any strategic aspect to Rosario not sticking his glove out till the end. Rosario laughed at the question.

Rosario stated, "It just happened." Rosario said, "That was it."

The Astros opened Saturday's game by loading bases with one out against Braves opener Dylan Lee. Lee was a reliever, who in an effort not to sleepless nights, was not told he would be starting the game until he arrived at the clubhouse that afternoon. The Astros are a powerful offense, but they managed only one run in the first frame. Kyle Wright took over for Lee, getting Carlos Correa to bat a soft grounder. Kyle Tucker was struck out and Altuve only one homer in the four subsequent innings.

The Braves were unable to overcome Zack Greinke's skill, who plowed through four scoreless innings while not being stretched. Swanson, who was born about 20 miles from Atlanta, gave life to their offense with his seventh-inning homer. As his batted ball crossed the right-field fence, he was already close to second base. The roar of a sold out crowd prompted him to shoot his right index finger high in the air.

His Braves, an 88-win team that didn’t get hot until stretch run and has been counted ahead of each series this month, are now one win away to a championship.

Swanson said that he had played the homer over and again in his head, regardless of whether it was for this particular team or any other moment. "Obviously, there's been a lot that went into this moment and many dreams that have gone into it. I'm thankful for my parents and great family who have supported me and believed that I could get to this point.