The Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals entered on Wednesday with the expectation that they'd play a tight, thrilling contest -- the way they had throughout the series. Whomever won, thereby advancing to the NL Championship Series to play for the pennant, would have earned it the hard way. That expectation proved wrong -- and proved wrong about as quickly as it possibly could within baseball's confines.
By the time the top half of the first inning had concluded, the Cardinals led by a 10-0 score. To repeat: by the time the top half of the first inning had concluded, the Cardinals led by a 10-0 score. St. Louis's win expectancy was roughly 98 percent before Atlanta even got a chance to hit, according to FanGraphs.
Obviously what happened in Atlanta on Wednesday was about as unusual as it gets. In fact, it marked the first time in postseason history that a team scored 10 runs without homering (h/t ESPN Stats and Info). The 10 runs matched a postseason record for most runs in an inning and set a record for most runs scored in a first inning (h/t STATS).
Let's break down what exactly happened in that record-setting half-inning, one batter at a time.
PA No. 1: Dexter Fowler walked
You have to feel bad for Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz, who will be remembered as the pitcher who permitted the boat race to begin by walking the leadoff batter Dexter Fowler. Foltynewicz got ahead of Fowler, working a 1-2 count, but threw three consecutive noncompetitive pitches to put a runner on board to begin the afternoon.
PA No. 2: Kolten Wong bunted
Even so, the Cardinals decided to play for one run -- not expecting their offensive windfall. Kolten Wong got the bunt down and moved Fowler over 90 feet in exchange for the out.
PA No. 3: Paul Goldschmidt singled
Paul Goldschmidt is not someone who can be described as "fast" -- he ranked in the 44th percentile during the regular season in sprint speed -- but he was able to reach via infield single, advancing Fowler over to third base and putting runners on the corners with one out.
PA No. 4: Marcell Ozuna singled, scoring Fowler to make it 1-0
With the exception of Fowler's leadoff at-bat, the common theme for the top of the order was quick at-bats. Wong saw one pitch, Goldschmidt two, and Ozuna singled to right on his third, plating the first -- but, obviously, not last -- run of the afternoon.
PA No. 5: Yadier Molina reached on an error
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is one of the better players in the game, you just wouldn't know it based on the series. He turned at least one out into zero, permitting the Cardinals to load the bases. This would prove important almost immediately since ...
PA No. 6: Matt Carpenter walked, scoring Goldschmidt to make it 2-0
… Foltynewicz walked Matt Carpenter on six pitches, extending the Cardinals' lead, keeping the bases loaded, and setting them up for an imminent deluge.
PA No. 7: Tommy Edman doubled, scoring Ozuna and Molina to make it 4-0
And here we go. Tommy Edman isn't a household name, but he's going to become one if he keeps playing like he has this year. He had a 120 OPS+ during the regular season, and he entered Game 5 hitting .286/.375/.429 in the series. Take a look at how much plate Foltynewciz's pitch caught:
That ain't going to work.
PA No. 8: Paul DeJong was intentionally walked
Foltynewicz would be tagged with one more baserunner before departing, as the Braves opted to loaded the bases again with the pitcher's spot due up. What could go wrong?
PA No. 9: Jack Flaherty walked, scoring Carpenter to make it 5-0
Ah. Fair enough.
In Max Fried's defense, he was inserted in a tough spot and was trying to get a double-play ball. Nevertheless, you can't walk the pitcher to score a run -- and you especially can't do it on five pitches, all fastballs that missed low.
PA No. 10: Fowler doubled, scoring Edman and DeJong to make it 7-0
Fried tried throwing his curveball to begin Fowler's at-bat, perhaps to reset his release point, but he missed with it. He then threw a fastball that Fowler pulled to left for a double.
PA No. 11: Wong doubled, scoring Flaherty and Fowler to make it 9-0
Wong then doubled on the first pitch he saw -- a fastball down the middle -- and the rout was very much on.
PA No. 12: Goldschmidt flied out to right
Fried did get Goldschmidt to line out on a fastball up and in for the second out in the inning.
PA No. 13 Ozuna reached on a dropped third strike, scoring Wong to make it 10-0
And Fried did strike out Ozuna to end the inning … except it was on a curveball that bounced and got away from catcher Brian McCann, allowing the 10th run to scamper across.
The Braves literally just gave up a run on a strikeout.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 9, 2019
In what could be related news, the Braves are down 10-0 in the first inning.
PA No. 14: Molina grounded out to third
A handful of pitches later, Fried put an end to the inning by coercing a groundout.
Phew. To recap:
Cardinals 1st Inning— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) October 9, 2019
• Sacrifice Bunt
• RBI Single
• Safe on E3
• RBI Walk
• 2-RBI Double
• RBI Walk (to the pitcher)
• 2-RBI Double
• 2-RBI Double
• Fly Out to RF
• Dropped 3rd Strike, Safe at First, Run Scores
• Groundout to 3B
For those wondering, Foltynewicz ended his start after one-third of an inning while having thrown just 23 pitches. He permitted seven runs (six earned) on three hits and three walks. He didn't generate a single swinging strike. Fried, meanwhile, coerced two on 21 pitches. He gave up two hits and a walk and allowed three earned runs.
The Cardinals as a team, then, scored 10 runs on five hits and four walks. All in the first inning, all while intentionally giving up an out with the second batter of the game. Ridiculous.