ATLANTA (AP) — Joc Pederson credits his postseason success to “not making any moment bigger than it needs to be.”
With another jolt, Pederson put the Atlanta Braves on the verge of advancing in the playoffs.
Pederson kept enhancing his “Joctober” nickname with a three-run, pinch-hit homer and the Braves shut down Milwaukee once again, beating the Brewers 3-0 on Monday to take a 2-1 edge in the NL Division Series.
“It was pretty special,” Pederson said of the fifth-inning drive. “To come up big in a moment like that was pretty cool.”
In a matchup dominated by pitching, Ian Anderson and the Braves bullpen combined on a five-hitter and won by a 3-0 score for the second straight game.
Boosted by shortstop Dansby Swanson’s athletic defense, Atlanta can try to reach its second straight NL Championship Series when it hosts Game 4 on Tuesday.
Pederson’s homer was his second of the series, both as a pinch-hitter against Adrian Houser. Pederson singled as a pinch-hitter in his only other at-bat in this series, and has driven in four of Atlanta’s seven runs.
Pederson has hit 11 postseason home runs overall and helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series last year with his longballs. He then signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs in the winter and was traded to Atlanta in July.
“He’s been in the big moment, the big stage, and he’s performed and guys appreciate that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Since winning the opening game of the series, the NL Central champion Brewers have not scored in 19 consecutive innings. They were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position in this loss.
Asked about the poorly timed offensive slump, manager Craig Counsell said, “We’re in it. I thought we swung the bats better today. … We’ve got to catch a break, frankly.”
Anderson was dominant for the NL East champion Braves, allowing three hits over five innings with no walks and six strikeouts. Will Smith, the fourth Braves reliever, pitched a perfect ninth for his second save of the series.
Milwaukee starter Freddy Peralta pitched four scoreless innings and was pulled for a pinch-hitter when the Brewers threatened in the fifth.
Houser gave up singles to Travis d’Arnaud and Swanson to open the fifth. Pederson, hitting for Anderson, pulled a high, inside fastball deep into the right-field seats for a 3-0 lead.
“It didn’t look like a bad pitch to me, but give him credit,” Counsell said.
Asked how he pulled the high pitch for the homer, Pederson shrugged and said, “I guess I’m a pretty good player, I don’t know. I knocked it out of the yard.”
Adam Duvall made a crucial baserunning mistake when he tried to advance from first to second as Austin Riley tried to score from third on d’Arnaud’s flyball in the second. Left fielder Christian Yelich nailed Duvall for the third out before Riley crossed the plate, costing Atlanta a run.
The Brewers hit only .183 in the first two games of the series, including a 3-0 loss in Game 2. Counsell made one lineup change, inserting Luis Urías at third base for Eduardo Escobar.
The Brewers couldn’t score in the fifth after putting runners on second and third with no outs. Urías, hit by a pitch, moved to third on a double by Omar Narváez.
Anderson escaped when Lorenzo Cain’s sharp grounder was stopped by a diving Swanson, who held the baserunners before throwing to first. Urías was caught in a rundown on pinch-hitter Daniel Vogelbach’s grounder to third base, and Kolten Wong lined out to Freddie Freeman at first base to end the inning.
Swanson turned an acrobatic double play to end the eighth after Luke Jackson walked Jace Peterson and gave up a one-out single to Willy Adames.
PEARLS OF WISDOM
Pederson still wore the pearl necklace in his postgame news conference that became part of his uniform late this season. He said the pearls are real and were ordered from his jeweler.
“I think I just saw the pearls and thought that looked cool,” he said, adding the necklace “kind of caught my eye.”
Brewers CF Cain, running at full speed, crashed into the wire fence as he tried to catch Duvall’s drive in the fourth. Cain held the ball in his glove before hitting the ground and losing control. Cain stayed down as Duvall raced to third with the two-out triple.
Cain remained in the game after a visit from Counsell and a trainer. Peralta struck out Eddie Rosario to end the inning.
“He was fortunate he just jammed his shoulder,” Counsell said. “It’s probably going to be a little sore tomorrow, but I’m optimistic.”
Snitker said he visited with Hall of Fame former manager Bobby Cox on Sunday. Cox, 80, has made only infrequent visits to Truist Park since suffering a stroke in 2019.
“He’s excited,” Snitker said. “He’s excited and watching all the games.”
Snitker said Cox is “hanging in there” and said his visit “was good. He was all excited and jacked up about everything, that’s for sure.”
E-5 AS A FAN
Braves Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones probably didn’t expect to have a ball come his way when he settled into his box seat near the Atlanta dugout.
Jones should have brought his glove.
The TV cameras caught the action when Jones dropped a pop foul hit by Urías in the second inning.
Following the game, Snitker and Counsell would not announce starting pitchers for Game 4 on Tuesday at 5:07 p.m. Snitker said “everybody is in play” including Game 1 starter Charlie Morton, who would be pitching on short rest. A possible option for the Brewers is LHP Eric Lauer. Counsell said his Game 1 starter, Corbin Burnes, would not be his choice.