During Game 3 of the National League Division Series Monday at Truist Park, those among the sellout crowd for the hometown Atlanta Braves chanted “Let’s go, Joc” in the bottom of the fifth inning.
It should have been “Let’s go, Brian,” as in Brian Snitker, as in the best manager in baseball that nobody talks about.
OK, OK. At the very least, the overwhelming majority of those 41,479 folks — including the hundreds of others who were around The Battery, which is the $1.1 billion village the Braves completed four years ago that houses Truist Park, as well as restaurants, shops and other money-making ventures for the franchise — should have alternated chants for Brian and Joc.
That’s Joc, as in Joc Pederson, the Braves’ pinch hitter during that fifth inning. With the crowd chanting “Let’s go, Joc,” he walked to the plate in his pearl necklace (um, I’ll explain later) before he ended a scoreless game against the Milwaukee Brewers by clobbering a three-run homer deep beyond the wall in right-center field.
Final score: 3-0, you know, for the team of the guy inspiring a slew of Braves fans to wear their own pearl necklaces to the ballpark.
Why the pearls?
“I think I just saw the pearls, and I was, like, you know what? That looks cool,” Pederson said after the game. He was acquired by the Braves from the Chicago Cubs in a July trade as a replacement for Ronald Acuna Jr. after the outfielder suffered a season-ending torn right anterior cruciate ligament.
Pederson added, “I’ve done the black chain and the gold chain and all those different ones, and I think a lot of other players have. But I don’t know, kind of caught my eye. I was, like, you know those look good. And texted the jeweler about it and got some out. And they kind of went crazy. So I don’t know. It is what it is.”
According to purepearls.com, the average price of, say, Hanadama Akoya Pearls could range between $350 to beyond $10,000. Which means Pederson is inspiring Braves fans to become the best-dressed fans in Major League Baseball.
“Let’s go, Joc,” indeed.
Then again, if it weren’t for Snitker, Pederson and his pearls wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to help push the Braves to a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five series and another win away from reaching the National League Championship Series for the second consecutive year.
Snitker had a choice to make as Braves manager during the bottom of that fifth inning, with the score 0-0, runners at first and second, nobody out and pitcher Ian Anderson up next at the plate.
Those choices for Snitker . . .
- Stick with Anderson for the sixth inning. After all, against the Brewers, Anderson was continuing his postseason magic that began the year before during his rookie year, when he went 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA (2 earned runs in 18.2 innings) and 24 strikeouts.
- Give Anderson the bunt sign. Chances are, Anderson would have bunted well enough to move both runners up a base, with one out for the top of the Braves’ order that began with the clutch likes of Jorge Soler, Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies.
- Go with the guy in pearls. Not only did Pederson hit a pinch-hit homer earlier in the series against the same Adrian Houser on the mound this time, but during his postseason years with the Los Angeles Dodgers before joining the Cubs, Pederson jacked nine postseason homers.
Snitker went with the guy in pearls.
“He’s a guy that attracts people. I mean, his persona and all,” Snitker said of Pederson, 29, in his eighth Major League season. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him. He’s something else (laughter) in a good way. You see him interact with his kids. He’s an awesome guy. Awesome guy.”
Sounds like Snitker. After he spent much of his 65 years on earth working for the Braves in their minor league system, he won his fourth consecutive division title this season in his sixth year as Braves manager.
This was the toughest of those years.
For much of the season, Snitker operated without his No. 1 starting pitcher (Mike Soroka), his starting catcher (Travis d’Arnaud) and his best player (Acuna), all due to injuries. Then, courtesy of a legal matter, Snitker was without his cleanup hitter (Marcell Ozuna).
The Braves spent much of the spring and early summer trying to rise above .500, while struggling to win back-to-back games.
Now look at them.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Snitker said. “I told people even in June, in the first of July. I mean, if you would have told me we’re going to be sitting here right now like this, just where we were. Like I said, I don’t know if we were treading water. We had a straw going up through the base sucking air. We weren’t even at the top.
“I always believed in the guys. And I’ve said many times over the last six months that just keep waiting for when we’re going to have our run because I knew we would at some point in time. And then we had it, and we got to first place, and we kept it.
“I’m so proud of these guys.”
So, can we expect to see Snitker in pearls sometime during the rest of the Braves’ postseason run?
“I won’t show up in pearls,” Snitker said.