Braves' home-field edge enhanced by soggy conditions

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves are gaining an unusual home-field advantage this weekend in the form of intermittent rain.

Truist Park’s field remained soggy ahead of Saturday’s Game 4 of the World Series following periods of light showers. The rain hasn’t been strong enough to prompt any delays, but batting practice was wiped out for the second straight day. The infield tarp has kept the dirt in fine shape, but the outfield was again soaked Saturday, presenting potentially tricky plays for outfielders once again.

The conditions didn’t appear to cause any significant issues for outfielders in Atlanta’s 2-0 Game 3 victory Friday night, although both sides thought the Braves might have an edge knowing how the turf plays when wet.

“We’ve played enough rain games here to kind of know what little adjustments we need to make,” Atlanta center fielder Adam Duvall said.

“I’ll play different hitters in different spots, but you’ve got to be careful being super aggressive on maybe a line drive that’s going to one-hop to you because it is probably going to skip off. So you’ve got to be careful with that.”

Houston — which plays in a park with a retractable roof — hasn’t visited Atlanta since 2017, the year Truist Park opened. With batting practice canceled on consecutive days, Astros manager Dusty Baker expressed concerns that his outfielders wouldn’t have a chance to get a feel for the dimensions of the park and the way balls bounce off the outfield walls.

The wet grass adds another reason for Houston outfielders to approach plays with caution. They should be able to go through their normal outdoor pregame routine for Sunday night’s Game 5 without any precipitation in the forecast.

HAPPY RETURNS

Looking back at the start of 2021, Duvall says he “never thought in a million years” he would be back with Atlanta this season and playing in the World Series.

Duvall, the NL RBI leader this year, was a key cog in the Braves’ run to the NL Championship Series last season but was allowed to leave for Miami on a $5 million, one-year contract as a free agent. He returned to Atlanta on July 30 in a trade for backup catcher Alex Jackson.

“I was sitting on the couch, 12:30 on the trade deadline and got the call,” he said Saturday. “Next thing you know, I was back here. You just never know what the future holds.”

Duvall joined Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario in an outfield that general manager Alex Anthopoulos had begun replenishing nine days earlier with the trade for Joc Pederson after Ronald Acuña Jr. tore his ACL. The foursome has been pivotal in stabilizing the Braves’ lineup, hitting a combined .285 with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 158 at-bats this postseason.

“The group of guys that they brought in are unbelievable — unbelievable guys, unbelievable teammates,” Duvall said. “Then walking back into the clubhouse, obviously, I was familiar with everything, but the guys here did an unbelievable job of just bringing them in, trying to get them settled as quickly as possible so that they can be comfortable and make a difference.

“That shows. That shows what type of locker room we came into, and it’s awesome to be a part of this team.”

Duvall, whose 38 homers ranked second in the NL, hit .226 with 16 homers and 45 RBIs in 55 games with Atlanta this year.

UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Astros All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa wants to stay in the present and not speculate where he might be playing next season.

Correa is set to become a free agent when the World Series ends. The 26-year-old star, in his seventh year with Houston, said before Game 4 that he’s “living in the now” and not worried about where he will be playing next season.

“It’s really special to be here once again with this group of guys,” Correa said. “Like I said before, I don’t take any single second of this year for granted. It’s just special to share the locker room with that group of guys that we have in there. They show up every single day ready to work. They show up every day, and they work like champions. We’re here four wins away to become world champions once again.

“We want to go out there, make it special, and hopefully win it all.”

Correa is one of five Astros selected as Gold Glove finalists. Houston pitcher Zack Greinke, catcher Martin Maldonado, first baseman Yuli Gurriel and outfielder Kyle Tucker are the others.

SWEET DREAMS

Braves manager Brian Snitker said he was protecting Dylan Lee’s sleep when he waited until a few hours before Saturday night’s game to inform the left-hander he would start.

Lee, 27, made only two regular-season appearances, both in relief. His last start came on July 23, 2017, for Class A Greensboro.

Snitker said he knew if he announced the plan on Friday night, Lee would be bombarded with texts and phone calls.

“I didn’t tell him until this afternoon, just for his sake, I think, as much as anything, for what he would have encountered,” Snitker said. “He probably wouldn’t have gotten any sleep because people have been texting him and his phone would have been going off all night.”

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AP Sports Writer Charles Odum contributed to this report.

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