It was a classic pitching matchup of two really good pitching staffs. But, in the end, the Atlanta Braves broke it open, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 1 of the 2020 NLCS.
The Dodgers pitching staff was good until it really counted. But the offense was also flummoxed by the pitching staff of the Braves. They struck out 11 times and just couldn’t ever put together a string of good at bats.
The Dodgers made Max Fried work early, getting a hit and a walk in the first inning, with nothing to show but 28 pitches by the Braves starter. They left two stranded in the second also, as Mookie Betts flew out to end the inning, but worked Fried’s pitch count up to 45.
The Braves did the same to Buehler, or maybe he did it to himself. He allowed traffic most innings, aside from a 1-2-3 fifth inning. In the sixth, he surrendered back-to-back singles to start the frame and was eventually pulled in favor of Brusdar Graterol. The Bazooka came in and got the next three batters out on six pitches.
Buehler ended the evening allowing one run on exactly 100 pitches, alongside five walks and seven strikeouts. It wasn’t pretty, but he battled valiantly. Coincidentally, 100 pitches was the most by any Dodgers starter this season.
Fried settled down, and although the Dodgers were still working the pitch counts, he set down the next six Dodgers in order. Kiké Hernandez broke through, however, with a solo home run in the fifth to tie the game at one. Fried again settled in, not allowing another base runner after that.
Max finished his night with 96 pitches, going six innings allowing only four hits, and one earned run while walking only two and striking out nine. He was replaced by Chris Martin in the seventh, who set down the side.
Dustin May took over for Graterol in the seventh, taking only seven pitches to retire the side. He returned for the eighth, where he promptly gave up a leadoff double to Marcel Ozuna. May got the next two batters out, on a ground out and strikeout, and intentionally walked Dansby Swanson. The Braves countered with pitch hitter and old foe, Pablo Sandoval, who was grazed by a May fastball to load the bases for pinch hitter, and old friend Charlie Culberson.
Dave Roberts had brought in Victor Gonzalez, who struck out Culberson to bail out May and the Dodgers.
Blake Treinen came in to handle the ninth, and Austin Riley took him deep for a 2-1 lead. Treinen then gave up a double which resulted in another run.
Jake McGee, who hadn’t been used yet this postseason, subsequently took over for Treinen. He got the first out, but then gave up a two-run homer to Albies.
The Dodgers could muster nothing in the bottom of the ninth.
But, this is the Dodgers first loss since September 23rd, and Betts isn’t going to go 0-for-4 very often. While the Braves pitching staff is very good, and the Braves feel like they have momentum, Los Angeles is in it for the long haul and should be poised to bounce back tomorrow.