PHOENIX -- Down to their final at-bat and staring at the possibility that their bullpen had cost them another chance to add to their National League East lead, the Braves saw Ender Inciarte launch a ball into orbit and suddenly felt eons away from the deflating loss that preceded this
PHOENIX -- Down to their final at-bat and staring at the possibility that their bullpen had cost them another chance to add to their National League East lead, the Braves saw Ender Inciarte launch a ball into orbit and suddenly felt eons away from the deflating loss that preceded this trip.
Further damaging his former organization's fading postseason hopes, Inciarte added to closer Brad Boxberger's recent struggles with a go-ahead, three-run shot that was the first of the three ninth-inning home runs the Braves hit during Sunday afternoon's 9-5 win over the D-backs at Chase Field.
"This team never quits," Inciarte said. "It's a really important series for us. That's a tough team over there. They can score a lot of runs. They have a lot of good hitters. We're just always competing and trying to be in the game. The ninth inning doesn't mean it's over for us."
Since blowing a six-run lead during Wednesday's home loss to the Red Sox, the Braves have taken three of four against the D-backs and regained a season-high 4 1/2-game division lead over the second-place Phillies. Atlanta blew a ninth-inning lead during Thursday's series-opening, 10-inning win and then squandered an eighth-inning lead before Dansby Swanson saved the day with the defensive gem that concluded Saturday's 10-inning victory.
"We had our heart ripped out four days ago [against Boston], and then we come here against this really good ballclub and take a series," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "That's pretty good. This game today just epitomizes who these guys are."
With less than 20 games remaining for a team that has been buoyed by resiliency throughout the season, maybe it shouldn't have been surprising to see them erase Sunday's one-run, ninth-inning deficit and deliver yet another punch to the D-backs, who sit just 2 1/2 games back in the NL West despite losing 11 of their past 16 games.
"There is a lot of makeup in there, a lot of heart, a lot of intangibles," Snitker said. "They're a group of guys who really care for each other. They play hard for each other. As you've seen, they never give up. They never quit. They give it 27 hard outs. The results show."
Trailing by one run with two on and no outs in the ninth, Inciarte fouled a sacrifice bunt attempt and pulled his bat back on a called strike. The former D-backs outfielder then turned on a 3-2 fastball and watched his 433-foot home run sail toward the swimming pool beyond the right-center-field wall.
So during the final two games of this series, the D-backs were doomed by Inciarte and Swanson, the two key pieces they used to acquire Shelby Miller from the Braves prior to the 2016 season. They were also quieted during Sunday's first five innings by Touki Toussaint, Arizona's former first-round pick who they sold to Atlanta to rid themselves of Bronson Arroyo's contract in '15.
"The first year I was with the Braves, I was thinking a lot about the trade, and I wanted to do really good against [the D-backs]," Inciarte said. "But now, it's more about helping this team to win. That's over. That was a long time ago and I just want to be a part of playing in the playoffs with the Braves. This team is unbelievable."
As the Braves moved another step toward a potential postseason berth and enhanced the D-backs' challenge, they exited this four-game series in authoritative fashion. Lucas Duda welcomed Yoan Lopez to the Majors with his first home run since joining the Braves, and Johan Camargo capped the ninth-inning power assault with a two-run shot off Lopez.
"This is an amazing group of guys," Snitker said. "We had some good teams here in the past. Bobby [Cox's] last year [in 2010], we had a whole bunch of come-from-behind wins. It feels very similar to that club."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With at least three of his top relievers unavailable because of their recent workload, Snitker unsuccessfully gambled on Jackson with two on and two outs in the sixth. But the recently recalled Chad Sobotka worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings, and Sam Freeman provided the scoreless eighth that gave the Braves a chance to complete their ninth-inning rally.
Sobotka's recent demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett allowed the Braves to preserve a third option year for Kolby Allard. But now that the hard-throwing rookie right-hander has returned he can add to the bullpen depth that has been enhanced as a rejuvenated Freeman has provided 7 2/3 scoreless innings since returning from the disabled list.
"[The relievers] have been used a lot, and we had a bunch of them down today," Snitker said. "But they hang in there and hand it off to each other and do a good job. It's tough. A lot of them have logged a lot of innings and appearances. Probably every bullpen in the National League is tired."
Making his third career start, Toussaint made another good impression as he allowed two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings against the D-backs, who took him with the 16th overall pick in the 2014 Draft. The right-hander allowed one hit through the first five innings and then teetered near the end of his 105-pitch effort.
Toussaint surrendered a single and issued a walk before exiting with a 2-0 lead in the sixth. That advantage was erased when Nick Ahmed, David Peralta and Jonathan Jay recorded run-producing singles against Luke Jackson, who has allowed 10 earned runs over his past 12 1/3 innings, dating back to Aug. 12.
"It definitely added a little fire," Toussaint said, when asked about facing the D-backs.
Robbie Ray kept the Braves hitless until Toussaint notched his first career hit with a one-out single through the right side in the sixth. Ronald Acuna Jr. followed with an opposite-field, two-run shot that made him the seventh player in Major League history to hit 25 homers in a season before turning 21.
Sean Newcomb will attempt to get back on track when the Braves and Giants begin a three-game series on Monday at 10:15 p.m. ET at AT&T Park. Newcomb has posted a 5.91 ERA in 11 starts since the start of July. Opponents have hit .333 and reached base at a .421 clip over his past five starts. San Francisco will counter with National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate Dereck Rodriguez, who has a 1.85 ERA over his past 10 starts.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001