With Walk-Off Win, Atlanta Snags an Early Edge Over Dodgers

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ATLANTA — The Los Angeles Dodgers reached the National League Championship Series with a closing, bitterly contested pitch on Thursday evening in San Francisco.

Its last-pitch luck — or sorcery or absurdity or no matter your baseball loyalties lead you to name it — didn’t final.

Instead, with Game 1 of the N.L.C.S. tied within the ninth inning on Saturday, Atlanta’s Austin Riley lifted Blake Treinen’s providing into left area, reworking a slider right into a beginning gun for Ozzie Albies. Racing from second base, which he had stolen moments earlier, Albies crossed residence plate to offer Atlanta a win, 3-2, within the best-of-seven sequence.

It was the franchise’s first N.L.C.S. win right here since 1999.

“I was just trying to get a base hit and luckily it came through,” mentioned Riley, whose residence run had devastated the Dodgers in Game 1 of final season’s N.L.C.S.

“You dream of that as a little kid,” he mentioned on Saturday.

The theatrics have been an exciting coda to a game that featured two of baseball’s most swaggering offenses however proved to be extra of a defensive showcase. There have been working catches, and likewise a rundown. The groups mixed for 21 strikeouts. In his sixth profession postseason begin, Atlanta’s Max Fried went six innings and allowed two runs on eight hits.

“They hit some balls hard and were looking for pitches in certain areas and that’s what good teams do,” Fried mentioned. “It’s a really tough game, so to be able to come out there and keep us in the game was basically my objective today and I was happy to be able to do that.”

The Dodgers weighed utilizing Max Scherzer, the three-time Cy Young Award winner, to begin the sequence in opposition to Atlanta. But after Scherzer earned the primary save of his skilled profession on Thursday evening, when he pitched the ninth in San Francisco, he and Manager Dave Roberts determined that he would begin for Los Angeles in Game 2, which might be performed in Atlanta on Sunday.

Instead, the Dodgers named Corey Knebel as its “opener” for Game 1. Seven different Los Angeles pitchers, solely one in all whom labored longer than 15 pitches, adopted.

“We just ran into a tough pitcher tonight,” Chris Taylor, the Los Angeles heart fielder who obtained caught up within the rundown within the ninth inning, mentioned of Fried. “He’s been the best pitcher in the league the second half. We were able to get a couple runs across on him. It was one of those games. We squandered a couple of opportunities and they took advantage.”

Both groups threatened within the first. In the highest half of the inning, Corey Seager despatched a slider previous a diving Albies into right-center for a double. But Fried, who had earned two outs on 4 pitches to begin his evening, outlasted Justin Turner in a seven-pitch at-bat with a strikeout on a checked swing.

Then got here Atlanta’s flip. Eddie Rosario, within the leadoff spot as an alternative of Jorge Soler, who examined optimistic for the coronavirus through the division sequence, singled down the primary bottom line off Knebel. Rosario stole second after which, helped by a floor ball by Albies, moved to 3rd. Riley struck out after 4 pitches. But the very first one, a 97-mile-an-hour fastball, was wild and bounced behind residence plate. Rosario slid in from third to attain Saturday’s first run.

Atlanta’s lead didn’t linger. In the second, Fried once more swiftly obtained two outs, however A.J. Pollock, who entered Saturday’s game with a .183 batting common in his postseason profession, swung at a curveball and drove it deep into proper. Taylor, a hero of this Los Angeles postseason for his walk-off residence run within the wild-card game in opposition to St. Louis, reached a full rely earlier than his single into left gave Pollock sufficient time to attain.

Will Smith, the Los Angeles catcher, broke the tie after he stood within the batter’s field because the fourth inning’s first hitter. He rapidly took known as strikes on a pair of curveballs earlier than Fried went to his fastball. Smith despatched it surging 416 ft into the left-field stands for a house run, his third of the postseason.

It was Los Angeles’s flip for a result in vanish quick. With one out within the fourth, Tony Gonsolin entered because the Dodgers’ fourth pitcher of the night. He obtained the inning’s second out with a fly ball from Albies. Riley, Atlanta’s cleanup hitter, lurked across the on-deck circle, although. As he walked to the plate, a smattering of chanters demanded that he win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award.

Riley missed a slider. He took one other, that one on the identical velocity, 87 miles an hour, as the primary however only a bit farther off the plate. A fastball got here subsequent, adopted by a crack, a rising roar and a solo residence run to left.

The scoreboard toggling stopped, the most recent tie stretching half of the game.

The Atlanta lineup within the ninth inning, although, promised perils. There was Freddie Freeman, the primary baseman whose eighth-inning residence run on Tuesday gave Atlanta simply sufficient to beat the Brewers in Game four of their division sequence. He discovered no such magic on Saturday, when he turned the final of 14 Atlanta strikeouts.

Albies, who levitated within the sixth inning for a catch to extinguish one in all Los Angeles’s most menacing scoring alternatives, swung on the first pitch he noticed from Treinen. The ball lobbed towards the outfield, close to the etching within the grass honoring the Atlanta slugger Hank Aaron, who died in January.

A trio of Dodgers closed in. The ball dropped onto the sphere. The successful run was on the basepaths with one out.

The M.V.P. cheers returned as Riley got here to the plate. Albies was off working quickly sufficient.

Hours after Richard G. Sneed, the principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, cried “play ball” earlier than a sold-out Truist Park, the chop chant swelled. Atlanta followers rhythmically swung their proper arms. Treinen seemed towards the plate and fired his pitch on an 0-1 rely.

Riley swung on the pitch, on the underside half of the strike zone. The ball slammed into the outfield, hopping towards the left-field nook. Albies, helmet off and arm raised in celebration, dashed throughout residence plate. The whole sequence took maybe seven seconds.

Albies mentioned afterward he had by no means doubted that Riley would come by. Last 12 months, in spite of everything, he had confronted Treinen in a tied Game 1 of the N.L.C.S. His residence run in that game’s ninth inning began a four-run rally for Atlanta, which was enjoying because the visiting group on a impartial area in Texas due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That evening, Atlanta proved to want solely his swing to safe a win late — a lot because it went once more on Saturday evening in Georgia.

Scott Miller contributed reporting.



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