Austin Riley walks it off in Game 1 as Braves win 3-2 over Dodgers

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In a Game 1 that felt incredibly crucial to the outcome of the overall series, the Braves found a way to overcome the LA Dodgers, winning 3-2 to take a 1-0 lead in the NLCS.

With Clayton Kershaw banged up, Trevor Bauer still inactive due to his off-the-field issues, and Max Scherzer needing more rest after coming off a recent start in Game 5 of LA’s NLDS, it was reliever Corey Knebel tasked with the first inning of last night’s contest. With a Jorge Soler-less lineup, the Braves mixed things up a bit by leading off Eddie Rosario (for just the second time this year). The shake-up evidently worked as Rosario started things off with a line drive single to right, and he later scored thanks to his swiping of second, a groundout by Ozzie Albies, and finally, a wild-pitch by Knebel.

But Atlanta’s lead wouldn’t last long…

In the second, Braves starter Max Fried quickly got the first two outs when he induced a flyout from Will Smith and a groundout by Albert Pujols; however, AJ Pollock provided LA with a crucial two-out double to keep the inning going. The very next batter, Chris Taylor, pulled a base-hit to left-center, scoring Pollock and tying the game at 1-1.

From there, both team’s pitchers traded zeroes in the third, with the Dodgers already on its third pitcher. But in the fourth, each offense would again add a score.

With Fried having looked good but not great through three, the Braves lefty made what was really his only mistake to start the fourth. After quickly pushing the opposing batter to an 0-2 count, Fried tried to sneak a 93-MPH fastball inside on LA’s catcher, but Smith was all over it as he launched it 415 feet for a solo-homer. It wasn’t a bad pitch, though; with two strikes, you’d like it to catch a little less of the plate.

But following the big homer by Smith, Fried appeared to settle in. The 27-year-old set down the next three Dodgers batters in order, including back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.

LA went to the bullpen again in the bottom half of the fourth, with Tony Gonsolin coming in to face Freeman, Albies, and Austin Riley. The first two of those Atlanta batters went down quickly, via a strikeout and a groundout, respectively, but with two outs, Riley delivered with a barely-fair line drive home run to tie things back up at 2-2.

From innings 5-8, both teams were locked in a pitching battle, and after six, Fried’s night was done. Tyler Matzek worked around a double in the seventh, with the go-ahead run at one point just 90 feet away. And Luke Jackson pitched a dominant eighth, setting down all three Dodgers batters in order.

With manager Brian Snitker calling on closer Will Smith to keep things where they were in the ninth, Atlanta received some much-needed luck when LA made a huge baserunning mistake. With two outs and Taylor on first base after working a walk, Cody Bellinger slapped a line drive to right that should’ve ‘probably put runners on the corners; however, the Dodger center fielder hesitated and was tagged out in a rundown between second and third.

The blunder by Taylor proved to be a critical error, for, in the bottom half of the final inning, the Atlanta lineup had one more push left in it. Freeman began the frame by striking out for the fourth time, but Albies reached first with a perfectly-placed bloop hit over second base off reliever Blake Treinen. Then, with everyone in the stadium fully aware of his intentions, the Braves’ second baseman stole second, putting Atlanta potentially a base-hit away from the win.

Fittingly, for the first time in his MLB career, Riley stepped to the plate and provided the Braves with his first walk-off RBI as he pulled a line drive to the left field wall. Albies scurried from second to home… and just like that… the Braves won.

As mentioned above, the Game 1 win is crucial for the Braves, who will no doubt have to face a gauntlet with Scherzer and Walker Buehler still on the docket. With the Dodgers ceding a bullpen game, it was absolutely critical that Atlanta take care of business given the pitching advantage (overall, LA used eight pitchers on Saturday).

After a revolving door of arms from the Dodgers side last night, Game 2 on Sunday will be a classic duel of starters. LA will send out Scherzer, and the Braves will go with Ian Anderson. First pitch is slated for 7:38 PM (ET).

 

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