ARLINGTON, Texas – The Atlanta Braves are the only baseball team with an undefeated playoff record. They got their last win with a magical ninth inning and a massive homerun from their ninth batter.
A year after being ruled out of the playoff roster, Austin Riley, stationed at the bottom of the Braves roster, crushed a 448-foot shot that sparked an offensive deluge and led to a 5-1 victory over Los Angeles. Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field.
Going into the opener, neither the Braves nor the Dodgers had lost in the playoffs, and Los Angeles, coming off the best regular season record of 60 games, was heavily favored. The Braves didn’t care. In Game 1, they followed their proven formula of dominating throws and sufficient attacking.
Of course, it took over three hours for the offense to trigger. With the game tied at 1, Riley led the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen and took a 98 mph fastball, two hits to left center field to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. A brace from Ronald Acuña Jr., a single from Marcell Ozuna and a home run from Ozzie Albies – all like Riley’s shot, after 0-2 count – sank on insurance runs, and Mark Melancon pitched a ninth inning 1-2-3 to secure the game.
“We’re like an NBA game,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “You don’t want to go. Because a lot of things happen in the last third. ”
Riley, 23, rose to star in the first month of his big-league career in 2019, only to collapse badly in the second half and find himself spending October at home. A 6-foot-3, 220-pound third baseman and outfielder, Riley has the ability to kick the ball away, and when he sent it to a handful of fans in the outfield on Monday, chants and chops from tomahawk accompanied him as he took his victorious turn.
“I didn’t feel my legs when I was running around the bases,” he said.
Everyone felt it on a Braves team that had gone scoreless since the first inning, when star Freddie Freeman hit Dodgers starter Walker Buehler.
“He’s a really good 9 hole hitter that we have, eh?” Freeman said.
Buehler lost but never broke over the next four innings, walking five and striking out seven. He was outmatched by Braves starter Max Fried, who lasted six innings and knocked out nine, but allowed a draw at home in the fifth by Dodgers No.8 hitter Enrique Hernandez.
The bullpens got into a fight, with Brusdar Graterol working on a jam created by Buehler in the sixth and Victor Gonzalez putting out a Dustin May fire in the eighth. No one could save the Dodgers in the ninth – not Treinen, who gave up the first three hits, or Jake McGee, who allowed the Albies home run that gave the Braves some leeway and made Texas really felt like Atlanta.
“We didn’t hear anything other than false crowd noises,” Freeman said. “It was really necessary. The 11,000 people really felt 50,000 people for us. “