ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson held his right arm in the air as he floated around the bases. Excitement had been slowly building through the night as a sleepy Atlanta Braves lineup started to wake up. But after Swanson’s game-tying home run clanked off the right field wall in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the World Series, Truist Park erupted.
Moments later, Jorge Soler walloped a pinch-hit go-ahead home run just over the left field wall and the merriment doubled. Players bounced out of the home dugout. Swanson, who grew up a Braves fan outside of Atlanta, screamed, clapped and waved his arms as he watched Soler run. Eight outs away from defeat, Atlanta jumped ahead, moving within one win of a championship.
“I went more nuts for that than I did for my own,” Swanson, 27, said of Soler’s blast.
Trailing from the top of the first inning on Saturday, Atlanta snatched a 3-2 victory from the Houston Astros and took a three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series. Atlanta entered October with the fewest wins (88) of any of the 10 teams in the playoffs. Thanks to a magical run of spirited play and a 7-0 record at home this postseason, it is now one win away from claiming its first World Series trophy since 1995.
For a second straight chilly night in suburban Atlanta, the home team made the most powerful offense in baseball look feeble. On Friday, Atlanta had taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning and held Houston scoreless. A day later, Atlanta fell behind early but a cadre of pitchers did enough to keep the game close for its offense to save the day late.
“I’ve always said the team that has that little boy in them that comes out are the teams that do good in the postseason,” said Atlanta Manager Brian Snitker, who added later, “The team that just plays with emotion and enjoys what they’re doing and all in the postseason are really dangerous.”
Before the game, Atlanta fans were urged by the team to do the tomahawk chop, a tradition of chanting and waving that has been called offensive by several Native American groups. Among those doing it were former President Donald J. Trump and his wife, Melania. (He did it again during a sixth-inning rally by Atlanta.)
In April, Trump had called for a boycott of Major League Baseball after its commissioner, Rob Manfred, moved the All-Star Game from Truist Park because of a new voting law in Georgia, which established new voting restrictions and, according to Democrats and voting rights groups that have condemned the law, unfairly targets voters of color.
Atlanta’s chief executive, Terry McGuirk, recently told USA Today that Trump had called M.L.B. about wanting to attend World Series Game 4 and that the team was surprised, but it accommodated him by giving him his own suite.
In a statement released on Saturday afternoon, Trump thanked Manfred and Randy Levine, the Yankees’ president, for the invitation. Later, an M.L.B. spokesman clarified, “As previously reported, President Trump requested to attend.”
In all, 43,125 people packed Truist Park. They watched as both teams, with few reliable options to start Game 4, turned to pitchers with starkly different levels of experience.
Houston tapped Zack Greinke, a former Cy Young Award winner with 530 career regular-season games who had been relegated to the bullpen entering the postseason because of ineffectiveness. Facing the prospect of back-to-back bullpen games, Atlanta asked the rookie Dylan Lee, who had only two regular-season relief appearances this year, to start on Saturday.
Lee became the first pitcher to make his first major league start in the World Series. Unsurprisingly, he sputtered. He faced four batters, giving up a single and two walks, and notching only one out. His replacement, Kyle Wright, another pitcher who spent nearly the entire season in the minor leagues, provided a lift.
Wright surrendered five hits and three walks over four and two-thirds innings but just one run. Greinke, who had thrown only four and two-thirds innings this month and no more than 37 pitches in any outing, spun four scoreless innings on 58 pitches. Both teams’ offenses struggled to convert base runners into runs, particularly Houston.
“Kyle is the reason we won the game,” Snitker said. Added Wright, “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year. Just to be able to get back in a position where I could help the team was definitely pretty special.”
Wright helped Atlanta strand seven Houston base runners through the first three innings. His lone blemish: a fourth-inning solo home run by Astros second baseman Jose Altuve that gave Houston a 2-0 lead. It moved Altuve into sole possession of second place in career postseason home runs (23). Only the former Cleveland and Boston slugger Manny Ramirez (29) has more.
But as Snitker cycled through one stout reliever after another, it bought time for his team’s hitters. Said Altuve, “They have done a tremendous job. They haven’t given us many pitches to hit.”
When left fielder Eddie Rosario doubled with one out in the sixth inning, it was the first time Atlanta had a runner in scoring position on Saturday. It was Rosario’s 23rd hit of this postseason.
Rosario scored to halve his team’s deficit when third baseman Austin Riley singled to left field. It showed that Atlanta, a team that had already felled two National League teams with more wins (Milwaukee and Los Angeles), had more in store.
“Throughout the entire postseason, going all the way back to Milwaukee, we’ve had these at-bats and these hits that have sort of electrified and surprised the entire dugout, and they’ve energized us,” said Rosario, who also robbed Altuve of an extra-base hit with a dazzling backhanded catch in the eighth inning. (“I feel right now that I’m Super Rosario,” he later added.)
In the seventh inning, Atlanta electrified and surprised, again, by smashing its way into the lead. Not scored upon all postseason, Astros reliever Cristian Javier threw an 0-2 fastball over the heart of the plate to Swanson. Atlanta’s shortstop clobbered it to the opposite field for his first home run of this postseason.
Born in nearby Kennesaw, Ga. and raised in Marietta, Swanson said he had thought “a million times” while growing up about hitting a home run in the World Series. He said getting traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks to Atlanta in 2015 “was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, to be able to be back home and to be able to play for this city and to just grow this community.”
He credited his girlfriend, Mallory Pugh, a United States women’s national team soccer player who got to town on Friday night to see him play, with predicting he would hit a home run on Saturday.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t think homer was on my mind,” he said. “I was just trying to get on base and make something happen. Thankfully, it was a homer.”
One batter after Swanson, Soler, a key midseason addition, sent a pitch also down the middle over the fence and moved Atlanta one step closer to glory.