Atlanta on edge: Braves squander chance for hometown party

Oct 31, 2021, 9:22 AM | Updated: Nov 1, 2021, 8:39 am
Members of the Atlanta Braves watch during the ninth inning in Game 5 of baseball's World Series be...

Members of the Atlanta Braves watch 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/David J. Phillip)

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

              Members of the Atlanta Braves watch 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/David J. Phillip)
            
              Members of the Atlanta Braves watch 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/David J. Phillip)
            
              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/Ashley Landis)
            
              Atlanta Braves' Adam Duvall celebrates after 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/Brynn Anderson)
            
              Houston Astros' Jose Altuve celebrates in the dugout after scoring on a single by Carlos Correa during the eighth 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/David J. Phillip)

ATLANTA (AP) — The place was rocking, the pearl-clad fans sensing this truly was going to be a special night, the kind they’d been hopefully marking on the calendar for more than a quarter-century.

Surely after Adam Duvall launched one into the tabled seats in right field for a grand slam in the very first inning, the Atlanta Braves would be celebrating their first World Series title since 1995.

On their home field, no less, the 5-year-old stadium-slash-shopping mall where they’d been unbeatable through seven postseason games.

Then, Halloween took a frightening turn.

All tricks and no treats.

Now, an entire city is on edge again.

Needing one win to finish off the Houston Astros, the Braves squandered the early 4-0 lead provided by Duvall and lost 9-5 in Game 5 on Sunday night, a listless performance that left Truist Field so quiet you could hear a pearl drop.

The rookie starting pitcher couldn’t throw a strike. The defense looked shaky. The vaunted bullpen was lit up. Even the fashion craze sparked by Joc Pederson’s pearl necklace lost its luster.

“It’s a nine-inning ballgame,” Duvall said. “We got excited, and that’s what you do when you hit home runs, but it’s a long game. That happened in the bottom of the first. It’s a nine-inning game, and they didn’t quit. They kept fighting.”

By the end, Duvall’s first-inning slam seemed a lifetime ago. The night trudged to a merciless ending exactly four hours after it started, with Game 4 hero Jorge Soler whiffing on the final pitch.

The shell-shocked fans headed out into the Battery shopping mall in no mood to party like they had the previous two nights.

Check, please.

“We weren’t able to get it going again and keep the pressure on, and that’s hats off to their pitchers,” Duvall said. “They kept us there when they needed to.”

Atlanta still leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, can still wrap it up with one more win, but the teams are heading back to Texas for the final one or two games that will be needed to settle things.

No matter how it turns out, the A-T-L was denied the sort of hometown celebration that has been seen only one other time in the city’s tortured sports history.

The Braves finished the ’95 World Series over the Cleveland Indians in Game 6 at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, winning 1-0 on David Justice’s homer and a combined one-hitter by Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers.

That remains the lone championship an Atlanta big league team has captured in the four major American sports.

Another is still there for the taking, but it will have to come about 800 miles to the west, in a ballpark where the reception won’t be nearly as hospitable.

“It would have been great. You always love to do it here,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But I’ll take it anywhere. I don’t care where we’re at. If we win the World Series, it doesn’t matter where it is. I’d have loved to have done it in front of our fans. Hopefully, we can do it the next couple of days.”

These next 48 to 72 hours figure to be quite a nail-biter for the city’s snake-bitten fans, who are scarred by all the close-but-no-champagne moments that have kept the title count at 1:

— The Braves melting down in 1996 when a second straight championship seemed a foregone conclusion after they won the first two World Series games at Yankee Stadium. Jim Leyritz still causes nightmares in these parts.

— The NFL Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl and losing to Tom Brady and the Patriots in overtime.

— The Braves, again, wasting a 3-1 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in last year’s NL Championship Series.

Will Sunday night’s loss join that hall of heartbreak? Or will it be a mere bump in the road to a title that’s still just 27 outs away?

“They’re not going to quit. They’re not going to roll over,” Duvall said of the Astros. “We’re playing for it all. We’re playing for everything right now. We’re playing for the dreams that we’ve had as a little kid.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he added. “This time of the year, all throughout the postseason, it’s not going to be easy. You’ve got guys that are willing to run through walls for a win.”

Stay tuned.

Game 6 is Tuesday night in Houston.

___

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and find his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (24) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass duri...
Associated Press

Vikings hang on, again, for 27-22 victory over White, Jets

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Justin Jefferson’s touchdown catch with 8:33 left gave the Minnesota Vikings enough of a lead to hang on for a 27-22 victory despite a relentless rally by the New York Jets on Sunday. Camryn Bynum’s interception at the 1-yard line with 10 seconds left finally sealed it for the Vikings (10-2), who […]
2 days ago
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) calls a play at the line during the first half of a...
Associated Press

Watson rusty in return but Browns get 27-14 win over Texans

HOUSTON (AP) — Deshaun Watson struggled in a sloppy performance in his first game in 700 days but a punt return for a touchdown by Donovan Peoples-Jones and two defensive TDs were plenty enough to give the Cleveland Browns a 27-14 win over the lowly Houston Texans on Sunday. In the same stadium where he […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

No. 17 Michigan women deny Northwestern with closing run

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Emily Kiser and Laila Phelia scored 18 points each and No. 17 Michigan shut down Northwestern in the final minutes of a 77-66 victory for the Wolverines on Sunday. Leigha Brown added 10 points and 11 assists for Michigan, which won its Big Ten opener. An 8-0 run gave Michigan […]
2 days ago
Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the C...
Associated Press

Rodgers, Packers rally in 4th quarter to beat Bears 28-19

CHICAGO (AP) — Aaron Rodgers led three fourth-quarter scoring drives, receiver Christian Watson took an end-around 46 yards for a touchdown in the closing minutes after Jaire Alexander intercepted Justin Fields, and the Green Bay Packers rallied to beat the Chicago Bears 28-19 on Sunday. The Packers (5-8) looked like they were on their way […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Cohill scores 43 as Youngstown State tops Wright State 88-77

FAIRBORN, Ohio (AP) — Dwayne Cohill scored a career-high 43 points and Youngstown State took down Wright State 88-77 on Sunday. Cohill shot 16 for 19 from the floor (6 for 6 from 3-point range) and 5 of 5 from the free-throw line for the Penguins (6-3). Malek Green scored 15 points and added nine […]
2 days ago
England's Harry Kane celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the World Cup round of 16 soc...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: World Cup highlights from Day 15

Highlights from the 15th day of the World Cup in Qatar on Sunday. ___ AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
2 days ago
Atlanta on edge: Braves squander chance for hometown party