The Braves powered up late against the Dodgers to take Game 1 of the NLCS by a score of 5-1 (box score). As a result, they're now three wins away from their first pennant since 1999.
Freddie Freeman got the Braves on the board early with a first-inning solo home run off L.A. starter Walker Buehler. The Dodgers, who have yet to be shut out this season, were held scoreless until an Enrique Hernandez solo home run in the fifth off Atlanta starter Max Fried tied the score at 1-1. That score held until the top of the ninth, when Austin Riley connected off Blake Treinen for a go-ahead solo home run. Later in the inning, the Braves added an insurance run when Marcell Ozuna singled home Ronald Acuna Jr., who had doubled earlier. Then came an Ozzie Albies two-run shot to give Atlanta a four-run lead. In the bottom of the ninth, Braves closer Mark Melancon closed out the favored Dodgers.
For the Braves, the win came at a cost. In the second inning, Braves outfielder Adam Duvall was forced to leave the game after suffering an injury on a swing. The club later announced that he'd been diagnosed with a strained left oblique. Oblique injuries typically take some time to heal, and the expectation is that Duvall will be replaced on the Braves' NLCS roster. Cristian Pache is likely to take his spot in the starting outfield mix. Duvall during the regular season was a reliable power source for Atlanta, as he hit 16 home runs in 57 games.
Game 1 of the NLCS on Monday night also occasioned the return of fans to the ballpark. MLB in late September announced plans to allow a limited number of fans -- roughly 11,500 -- to attend NLCS and World Series games. Those games are being held in the state of Texas, which is in Phase 3 of its reopening from the COVID-19 shutdown. Prior to Monday's Game 1, no fans had attended any MLB games during the 2020 season. Estimated attendance for NLCS Game 1 between the Braves and Dodgers was 10,700.
Now for some takeaways from NLCS Game 1.
Atlanta's pitching dominated (again)
Absent a hung Fried curveball to Hernandez in the fifth, the Braves' pitching was the story. Fried allowed one run in six innings of work, and then three Atlanta relievers took it the rest of the way. In all, Braves pitching registered 11 strikeouts against just two walks.
Such dominance comes against the best offense in all of baseball. During the regular season, the Dodgers led MLB in runs scored despite playing their home games in run-suppressing Dodger Stadium. Count their road games in San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle, and Dodgers played 41 of their 60 regular season games in notable pitchers' parks. Little wonder that they also led the majors in park-adjusted OPS. Just twice during the regular season was that Dodger offense held to one run, and Game 1 marked the first time all year that they were held to one run while logging double-digit strikeouts.
Maybe you dismissed the Braves' pitching in the NLDS because it was against the relatively punchless Marlins. On Monday, though, the Braves suffocated the best offense in baseball like no other team has.
The Braves are the last undefeated team in October
The Braves and Dodgers each came into the NLCS with 5-0 records this postseason. The Braves swept the Reds in two games in the Wild Card Series and then prevailed over the Marlins in three games in the NLDS. The Dodgers swept the Brewers in the opening round and then swept the Padres -- arguably the second-best team in the NL during the regular season -- in the NLDS. With the Game 1 win, the Braves are now 6-0 in these playoffs.
Looking (probably too far) ahead, the 2005 White Sox came the closest to running the table in the era of the expanded postseason, as they went 11-1 en route to winning the World Series. They suffered their only loss of that postseason in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Angels.
History favors the Game 1 winner
Throughout the sprawling history of best-of-seven series in the MLB postseason, the team that wins Game 1 on the road (the Braves were the road team even though it's a neutral site) goes on to win the entire series 59.2 percent of the time. Heavy underdogs coming in, at least by LCS standards, the Braves will certainly take those odds. The trap game, however, comes Tuesday -- teams that win Game 1 of a best-of-seven on the road go on to win Game 2 just 36.8 percent of the time.