(Photo credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
The Atlanta Braves could secure home-field advantage through the World Series with another win on Thursday night, while the visiting Chicago Cubs need a victory to keep pace in the National League wild-card race.
The two teams will complete their three-game series on Thursday night. Atlanta haswon the first two games in dramatic fashion, overcoming a six-run deficit on Tuesday and scoring twice to emerge victorious in 10 innings on Wednesday.
Atlanta (102-56) needs one win or one Baltimore loss to guarantee home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The Braves have won 50 games at home for the second straight season.
"It's big," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "We want to play as many games as we can here -- it doesn't matter who you play -- and now we've secured that opportunity."
Chicago (82-76) is two games behind Arizona for the second wild-card spot and is tied with Miami (82-76) for the final playoff position.
"Guys are laying it all out there," Cubs manager David Ross said. "This is a really good team. Got to figure out a way to win baseball games."
Atlanta's Ronald Acuna Jr. made history on Wednesday when he became the first major leaguer to steal 70 bases and hit 40 homers in a season. He drove in the tying run, stole second - his second steal of the game -- and scored the winning run in the 10th inning on a single by Ozzie Albies.
"I'm super happy to have created the 70-40 club," said Acuna, who began digging out the second-base bag seconds after stealing the record-setting base.
Snitker said, "That's about as good as it gets. I thought it was great the way he picked the bag up. I loved that. We all loved that. He may be the only human that can break his own record."
The Braves also hit a pair of home runs on Wednesday, giving them 303 and leaving them four away from matching the record of 307 hit by the 2019 Minnesota Twins.
The starting pitchers for Thursday's game will be Chicago's Marcus Stroman (10-8, 3.88 ERA) against rookie AJ Smith-Shawver (1-0, 4.57).
Stroman will make his fourth appearance and second start since he came off the injured list. He was sidelined from Aug. 2-Sept. 15 with right hip inflammation. In his last start on Saturday against Colorado, Stroman recorded a no-decision after allowing three runs on five hits in six innings.
"I felt like my mechanics just kind of came and went at times," Stroman said. "But overall, I felt a little better than I thought I would feel."
Stroman will make his eighth career start against the Braves. He is 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA, including 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in four starts in Atlanta. He has allowed three or fewer runs in all of his starts against the Braves. He has not faced them this year.
Smith-Shawver was recalled from Triple-A to make the start, his first in the major leagues since July 30. He has never faced the Cubs.
--Field Level Media