Wow. That was exciting.
Never in my life have I seen a postseason Game 1 that invigorating, as the Braves kicked off the Wild Card Series with a pitcher’s duel of the century, literally.
The Reds arrived in Cobb County, riding the coattails of Cy Young contender Trevor Bauer, who was lights out early on. But, that seemed to be their only spark of life on the day. Max Fried silenced the Reds’ bats all-day. We saw the red-hot southpaw start to slip late in the game, giving up a single to Aquino followed by a ball to the elbow off Jesse Winker, but when Fried gets rattled, he isn’t down for long. The command of his breaking ball was astounding, and it got him out of trouble all afternoon.
Although, that last out was entirely Cincinatti’s fault.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 30, 2020
That’s some little league baseball if I’ve ever seen it before. The botched trick play kept the Braves alive, but the scoreless tie wasn’t anywhere close to coming to an end.
Today’s game wasn’t just a nerve-wracking nail-biter; it was also a historic one. As the Braves and Reds entered the 12th inning, the game became the longest scoreless playoff game in history, and it continued to the 13th until Freddie Freeman ended it with a walk-off single.
It was the first walk-off against the postseason Reds since the historic Game 6 home run by Carlton Fisk.
With that stomach-churning game now out of the way, the Braves are just one game away from their first postseason series win since 2001. Needless to say, it was one heck of a game.
How did the Braves get there, though? Well’ let’s take a look.
What Went Right
But really, today’s game featured a true battle of Cy Young candidates, with the two showcasing their talents and making their case as to why they deserve the prestigious award.
Fried rode his breaking ball all the way to a scoreless Reds 8th, while Bauer put on a strikeout clinic, breaking the franchise record for postseason punchouts in a single game. The previous record was set by Homer Bailey back in 2012.
After back to back hits in the first that led to runners in scoring position, Fried slowed his rhythm down and stranded the Reds on base to end the inning. It all seemed automatic after that, keeping Cincinnati off the board all the way through the seventh.
From records to breaking balls and everything in between, today’s game belonged to the pitchers.
Trevor Bauer vs. Max Fried is what Gerrit Cole vs. Shane Bieber was supposed to be.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) September 30, 2020
Jeff is right. I was fully expecting a clinic yesterday and definitely not a 12-4 finish.
Anyways, if today’s performance is any indication of what we’ll see from the pitching staff this postseason, then it’s safe to assume the Braves will be just fine.
What Didn’t Work
With every exciting pitching duel comes a disappointing day at the plate.
That goes without saying, of course. But, when records are broken, there’s a need to talk about it.
The bats were all but silent in both dugouts, with the only extra-base hit coming in the form of a double off the bat of Acuna.
Ronald Acuña Jr.'s 111.1 mph double is the hardest-hit ball off Trevor Bauer all year
— David Adler (@_dadler) September 30, 2020
If anyone was going to do that, it inevitably would be Acuna. It’s exciting but definitely not surprising. I mean, you’ve seen him play.
Anyway, while Max had the Reds in control all day, Bauer was the talk of the town, mowing down 12 Braves and coming up big whenever he needed an out most. The battle of Cy Young candidates limited the bats to only 8 hits combined going into the 9th.
Once the game entered extras, the Reds had an opportunity in every inning to take the lead but could never capitalize — thanks to an outstanding effort by Atlanta’s bullpen, who tossed six scoreless innings. The Braves didn’t have nearly as many chances. However, once they got their golden opportunity, they took advantage.
Enter your 2020 NL MVP, Freddie Freeman.
Freeman’s RBI single over the five-man infield secured the Braves’ win in a nerve-wracking, sweaty, historic game.
In any postseason Game 1, it’s expected to be tight with both aces on the mound. I just don’t think anyone expected it to be this tight. With nothing but silence at the plate until the very last moments, it’s safe to expect a few more hits and runs in the upcoming Game 2.