(East Los Angeles, CA) October 17, 2021 [From The Editor’s Desk]: The NLCS began in much the same manner as the NLDS, primarily with the Dodgers being on the road, and when it came to the weather, that was something else to consider. The temperature on the field was a very cold 58º for a Fall evening baseball game, quite a contrast from the weather played in during the last series. But, forget about the past and let’s move to the present. It was time to play ball and the 41,900 Braves fans were ready to view a good ball game, especially one that they believed they would win. And, as the saying goes, “one game does not make a series.” Dodgers fans know too well that there are six left.
(Game Recap): L-H/Max Fried started for the Braves and on-paper, looked to be a reasonable challenge to the Dodgers, based on his season numbers. The Studio City, Harvard-Westlake graduate came in with a very good (14-7) season record and an ERA of 3.o4. His postseason was record was (1-0) with an ERA of 1.50 in his two starts.
The Dodgers nearly scored in their first at-bat, after they saw Corey Seager line a long single and then turn it in to a double in the cavernous Truist Field. However, they couldn’t drive him in for a score.
Mgr. Dave Roberts decision was to repeat the success of the NLDS’ series concluding victory in which he started Corey Knebel. It had all the appearances of being a bullpen type of game. But things got off to a bad start for Knebel when the Braves managed to put up a run after he threw a wild pitch that allowed lead-off runner, Eddie Rosario to score. Rosario was in scoring position after he stole second, and advanced to 3B on a ground-out to 2B by Ozzie Albies. Braves (1-0).
In the Dodgers 2nd, they managed to tie the game when AJ Pollock got on base with a two-out double. Chris Taylor then singled to left-center driving in Pollock, tying the game at (1-1).
Moving to the Big Blue’s half of the 4th, Will Smith came up as the “lead-off hitter” and smashed his 3rd homer in post-season play to left. The 416 ft. four-bagger was a solo shot, making the score Dodgers 2, Braves, 1. However, inter half of the frame, the Braves matched Smith’s homer with one of their own. It was hit by 3B/Austin Riley tying the game at (2-2).
With the Dodgers pitching strategy very much in sync and per Mgr. Dave Robert’s vision, the game remained scoreless till the final inning. R-H/Phil Bickford and L-H Justin Bruihl came on for short stints in the 3rd and 4th. Next, and in the following order he brought in Tony Gonsolin (5th), Alex Vesia (6th), Joe Kelly (7th), and Kenley Jansen (8th). Treinen would get the call for the 9th.
Let’s now recap what happened to set the stage for the final outcome. As the millions of viewers witnessed the tied game at (2-2), it was anyone’s game depending on who could produce a “go-ahead” run and either hold it or finish it. The Dodgers led off with Albert Pujols popping up to 2B. Pollock followed with the same, but popped up to 1B. Chris Taylor then worked a masterful base-on-balls. Cody Bellinger was then called to pinch-hit for Jansen and he delivered once again by singling to right. But here is where it went awry for the Big Blue. On Taylor’s rounding of second, and on a great throw to second by their former teammate, RF/Joc Pederson, for some reason, Taylor slammed on his brakes, found himself in the “dreaded no man’s land,” and ultimately was tagged out in the “run-down” to end their potential game-winning 2-out rally.
Treinen obviously took the mound with high expectations of retiring the side and sending the game into extra innings. First, he got slugger, Freddie Freeman to strike out for the fourth time in the game, marking that as a historic occasion for the Braves first-baseman. Next, Albies looped a single to center. And to borrow a strategy so often seen in these types of games, Braves Mgr. Brian Snitker, one of the most successful in MLB, gave Albies the “green light” to attempt a steal. And so he did, after getting a huge jump on Treinen. With the winning run at 2B, Austin Riley, this time lashed a clean and powerful single to left, driving in Albies for the winning run. The “walk-off” hit came and it was over, Braves take Game 1, (3-2).