Blythe Hastings ’23
The Atlanta Braves squashed the Dodgers chances at winning Game 1 of the National League Championship Series with a walk-off base hit. The Dodgers, heavily favored to make it to the World Series, successfully countered Atlanta’s Max Fried with a mix of relievers to give themselves chances against a weak Atlanta bullpen. All the Dodgers needed to take Game 1 was some life from a lineup with obvious star power.
But the offense didn’t produce for the final five innings, costing them a 3-2 walk-off loss at Truist Park. Moments after Dodgers Chris Taylor made mistakes on the base to squash a two-out rally in the top of the ninth inning, Atlanta’s Austin Riley went to the plate to face Blake Treinen with one out after Ozzie Albies singled. Albies then stole second base on the first pitch to Riley to get into scoring position, leaving first base open. A year ago, Riley hit a home run off Treinen in the ninth inning in Game 1 of the NLCS in the Texas bubble.
On Saturday, Riley, who emerged as a surprise most-valuable-player candidate this season, batted a solo home run in the fourth inning to tie the Braves’ first NLCS game at home in 20 years. After the game, Dodger’s manager Dave Roberts said he considered intentionally walking Riley. But he chose to have Treinen pitch to him with former Dodger Joc Pederson, a lefty, on deck because he liked the matchup against Riley better.
The decision backfired. Treinen left a slider over the plate, and Riley lined it down the left-field line for a single to give the underdog Braves a 1-0 series lead. Ultimately, despite compiling 10 hits, the Dodgers scored fewer than four runs for the fifth time in seven games in these playoffs. They went one for eight with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base. The Braves, who have advanced this far without All-Star Ronald Acuña Jr. since early July, struck out 14 times against eight Dodgers pitchers. Freddie Freeman, the National League MVP, had four of the strikeouts. They put just two runners in scoring position, but both scored.
The Dodgers, who rallied from a series 3-1 deficit to beat the Braves last year, squandered their chances to take the lead in the seventh and ninth innings. Taylor led off the seventh with a double and advanced to third base on Austin Barnes’ sacrifice bunt for the top of the Dodgers’ lineup. But Mookie Betts popped out in foul territory and Trea Turner struck out against left-hander Tyler Matzek to strand Taylor. Two innings later, Taylor worked a two-out walk against Braves closer Will Smith before Cody Bellinger hit a single to right field. Taylor raced around second base as if he was headed to third base but stopped a third of the way there as Pederson threw to second base.
After a brief rundown, shortstop Dansby Swanson tagged out Taylor to end the inning. The Dodgers, obviously frustrated, walked off the field in defeat. But the series is long and LA fans are hoping that they can rally again in the coming games.