Brian Snitker was managing in Class-A in October 2001, so he had nothing to do with the success of the 2001 Atlanta Braves in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Houston Astros.
But Snitker and the rest of the Braves will be tasked with unloading the burden of one of the longest major league droughts in trying to reach a Championship Series when Atlanta hosts the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS on Wednesday afternoon.
The Braves were four outs away from a cathartic series victory Monday afternoon, but Yadier Molina looped a game-tying RBI single just beyond the glove of a leaping Freddie Freeman in the eighth inning before lofting the walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th that lifted the Cardinals to a 5-4 win.
Mike Foltynewicz (8-6, 4.54 ERA in the regular season) is scheduled to take the mound for the Braves against the Cardinals' Jack Flaherty (11-8, 2.75 ERA). It will be a rematch of Game 2, when Foltynewicz earned the win by allowing just three hits over seven scoreless innings as the Braves evened the series with a 3-0 victory. Flaherty took the hard-luck loss after allowing all three runs in seven innings.
On Wednesday, the Braves will once again try to extract themselves from a not-so-select group of six teams that haven't advanced to a League Championship Series since at least 2001.
But unlike the other five teams in the group, the Braves have had plenty of cracks at the postseason. This is Atlanta's ninth trip to the playoffs since 2002, just four fewer than the Seattle Mariners (zero), San Diego Padres (two), Cincinnati Reds (three), Pittsburgh Pirates (three) and Washington Nationals (five) have made combined.
Following Monday's loss, Snitker spent more time lamenting the Braves' ability to deliver an extra timely hit in Game 4 -- they left the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh -- than worrying about the history Atlanta is facing.
"For as long as my career goes, if you leave (runners on) in the fourth inning, the fifth inning or the sixth inning, it's going to come back and get you later in the game -- those spares that you need to get," Snitker said. "I was more focused on that part of it.
"This is my second postseason series. So I feel like we haven't won one in a year."
History portends far better things for the Cardinals, who have won four series this century in which they were a loss away from elimination (the 2004 NLCS, the 2011 NLDS, the 2011 World Series and the 2013 NLDS).
Molina has been a part of all four of those teams, which doesn't seem to be a coincidence to Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, who began working for the organization in 2004.
"This is what Yadier Molina lives for, this is what he trains for," Shildt said. "Clearly, he's going to have a lot of personal accomplishments, rightfully so. I'm sure they mean something to him. Yadier Molina is about winning and winning championships. Period."
--Field Level Media