Braves eye clinch in 6: 'There's no pressure'

November 2nd, 2021

HOUSTON -- As Braves manager Brian Snitker spoke to media members on Monday afternoon, you could almost hear him say the word “pressure” much like longtime NFL coach Jim Mora once famously voiced “playoffs.”

“The pressure is getting here,” Snitker said. “We're in the World Series right now. There's no pressure. Like I say, it's pressure in the [National League Championship Series] when you're trying to get here. We all want to finish this off, but there's no pressure.”

That is a wise message being delivered by a manager who is sick of his team being linked to a Falcons team that blew a 28-3 lead to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, or to former Braves teams, like the 1996 club that blew a 2-0 World Series lead to the Yankees.

Max Fried was 2 years old when Mark Wohlers hung a slider to Jim Leyritz in Game 4 of that 1996 Fall Classic. Fried certainly will not be haunted by memories of that game when he starts Game 6 of the 2021 World Series against the Astros on Tuesday night. Instead, he’ll be looking to create his own big moment and help the Braves win their first World Series championship since 1995.

“To be able to be here, in this moment, I'm just extremely thankful, and honestly, ready to go,” Fried said.

While the Braves would have loved to have ended the World Series in front of their fans at Truist Park in Game 5 on Sunday night, they have come to Houston still sitting in good position. Fried will be on regular rest for Game 6 and Ian Anderson will also be fully rested for Game 7 (if necessary) on Wednesday night. Plus, a taxed bullpen will be at full strength following Monday’s off-day.

“We're in a really good spot,” Braves reliever A.J. Minter said. “We're up 3-2, going back to Houston. If you told us that at the beginning of the Series, we'd be happy with that.”

Atlanta should be pleased about needing to win just once more during this best-of-seven Series. But at the same time, history shows it would be best for the Braves to prevent Game 7 from being played.

The Astros were the 47th team to be down 3-1 in a best-of-seven World Series. On 26 of those previous 46 occasions, it ended in Game 5; it ended in Game 6 in another 12 instances. The Fall Classic went to a seventh game just eight times.

On six of those eight occasions a Game 7 was forced, the team that had trailed 3-1 completed the comeback to win the World Series. The most recent team to do so was the 2016 Cubs.

In other words, teams that led 3-1 before losing Games 5 and 6 are just 2-6 in Game 7. The only two winners are the 1967 Cardinals and 1972 A’s, both of whom clinched the Series on the road.

So maybe the Braves should feel some pressure to make sure this year’s Fall Classic doesn’t go the distance.

“It's not going to be easy,” Braves outfielder Adam Duvall said. “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.”

One thing the Braves have going for them is fresh memories of blowing the 3-1 lead they held over the Dodgers in the 2020 NLCS. They prevented a repeat this year, when they once again won three of the first four games against the Dodgers, then bounced back from a Game 5 loss to clinch the NL pennant with a Game 6 win.

“What we went through with the Dodgers, having a 3-1 lead [in 2020], I think it taught us to never take our foot off the gas, and everybody in that clubhouse understands that," closer Will Smith said. "We obviously love the position we're in, but we definitely know there's still a bunch of work to do.”

After spending the summer overcoming significant injuries and absences, the Braves need to win just one of two potential games. They haven’t suffered consecutive losses since Sept. 18, and they have the benefit of having a manager who will do all he can to keep his players relaxed.

“They're having fun playing this thing,” Snitker said. “They're in the World Series. My God, like I told them, 'You're never guaranteed this, so enjoy it.'"