Atlanta gains lead over Dodgers.
On Thursday night in San Francisco, the Los Angeles Dodgers advanced to the National League Championship Series with a final, passionately disputed pitch.
Its last-pitch luck — or magic, folly, or whatever your baseball allegiances lead you to call it — did not last.
Instead, in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday, Atlanta’s Austin Riley hoisted Blake Treinen’s pitch into left centre, converting a slider into a starting gun for Ozzie Albies. Albies raced home from second base, which he had stolen minutes before, to give Atlanta a 3-2 victory in the best-of-seven series.
It was the franchise’s first N.L.C.S. victory in this venue since 1999.
“I was just trying to get a base hit and luckily it came through,” Riley said, recalling his home run against the Dodgers in Game 1 of last season’s National League Championship Series.
“As a kid, you dream about that,” he stated on Saturday.
The antics were an exciting conclusion to a game that featured two of baseball’s most swaggering offences but turned out to be more of a defensive exhibition. There were some running catches, as well as a rundown. There were a total of 21 strikeouts between the two teams. Max Fried of Atlanta pitched six innings and allowed two runs on eight hits in his sixth postseason start.
“They hit some balls hard and were seeking for pitches in specific locations, which is what successful teams do,” Fried explained. “It’s a really tough game, so coming out there and keeping us in it was basically my goal today, and I was glad to be able to do that.”
The Dodgers considered starting the series against Atlanta with three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. However, after earning his first professional save on Thursday night in San Francisco, when he threw the ninth inning, Scherzer and Manager Dave Roberts agreed that he would start for Los Angeles in Game 2, which will be played in Atlanta on Sunday.
Instead, Corey Knebel was named the Dodgers’ “opener” for Game 1. There are seven more pitchers in Los Angeles.
“We just ran into a tough pitcher tonight,” Chris Taylor, the Los Angeles centre fielder caught up in the ninth-inning rundown, said of Fried. “He’s been the league’s top pitcher in the second half.” We were able to get a few runs in on him. We blew a few of chances, and they took advantage.”
Corey Seager doubled to right-center in the top half of the eighth, beating out a diving Albies. Fried, who had two outs on four pitches to begin his night, outlasted Justin Turner in a seven-pitch at-bat with a strikeout on a checked swing.
Then it was the time Atlanta gains lead over Dodgers. Eddie Rosario singled down the first base line off Knebel in place of Jorge Soler, who tested positive for the coronavirus during the division series. Rosario stole second and advanced to third on Albies’ ground ball. Riley was hit by a pitch after four pitches. But the first pitch, a 97-mph fastball, was wild and bounced behind home plate. Rosario snuck in from third to score the game’s opening run on Saturday.
Atlanta’s lead did not last long. Fried got two outs quickly again in the second, but A.J. Pollock, who entered Saturday’s game with a.183 postseason hitting average, swung at a curveball and blasted it deep into right. Taylor, a postseason hero in Los Angeles for his walk-off home run in the wild-card game against St. Louis, reached a full count before his single into left allowed Pollock to score.
Will Smith, the Los Angeles catcher, broke the tie as the fourth inning’s first batter. Before Fried’s fastball, he promptly took called strikes on a pair of curveballs.
It was Los Angeles’ turn to see a lead evaporate quickly. Tony Gonsolin entered as the Dodgers’ fourth pitcher of the evening with one out in the fourth. With a fly ball from Albies, he recorded the inning’s second out. Riley, Atlanta’s cleanup hitter, was, however, lurking around the on-deck circle. As he approached the plate, a smattering of chanters urged that he be named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Riley fumbled a slider. He took another, this time at the same speed, 87 miles per hour, but a little further off the plate. Then came a fastball, a crack, a growing roar, and a solo home run to left. The scoreboard toggling came to a halt, with the most recent tie extending half of the game.
The Atlanta lineup in the ninth inning, on the other hand, promised danger. There was Freddie Freeman, the first baseman whose eighth-inning home run on Tuesday gave Atlanta the win in Game 4 of their division series against the Brewers. He didn’t find any such magic on Saturday, when he became the 14th Atlanta strikeout.
Albies, who sprang for a grab in the sixth inning to end one of Los Angeles’ most dangerous scoring chances, swung at the first ball he saw from Treinen. The ball was thrown toward the outfield, near the grass etching honouring Atlanta slugger Hank Aaron, who died in January.
As Riley approached the plate, the M.V.P. cheers resurfaced. Albies was on the run in no time. The chop chant grew louder hours after Richard G. Sneed, the principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, yelled “play ball” in front of a sold-out Truist Park. Atlanta fans swung their right arms in unison. Treinen turned to face the batter and delivered his pitch on a 0-1 count.
Riley swung at the pitch, hitting it in the bottom half of the strike zone. The ball landed in the outfield and hopped toward the left-field corner. Albies sprinted across home plate, helmet off and arm lifted in delight. The entire event lasted about seven seconds.
Albies later stated that he had never doubted Riley’s ability to deliver. After all, he had met Treinen in a draw Game 1 of the N.L.C.S. last year. His home run in the ninth inning of that game sparked a four-run rally for Atlanta, which was playing as the visitor club on a neutral field in Texas due to the coronavirus outbreak.