HOUSTON — As often is the case with the the Braves' offense, it was a matter of time.

Trailing 4-1 in the third inning, the Braves started chipping away, eventually pulling even just before Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson blasted homers in a six-run seventh that sank the Marlins 9-5 on Tuesday. The offensive eruption put the Braves up 1-0 in the best-of-five National League Division Series.

The game was held at Houston’s Minute Maid Park as part of MLB’s 2020 postseason bubble. The Braves were the “home” team, with their usual between-innings music, walk-up and warm-up music and sounds that normally play at Truist Park. They’ll likewise be the “home” team for Game 2 and for Game 5, if necessary.

It was the Braves' second consecutive Game 1 victory after losing seven consecutive postseason series openers. Teams that win Game 1 of a best-of-five go on to win the series 70 percent of the time. The Braves are 12-4 when taking the first game.

“It’s a great feeling (to take Game 1),” manager Brian Snitker said. “Especially when you can come back and win a game in the manner we did today. It’s big. It gives us confidence going into tomorrow with a really good pitcher starting for us also.”

The Braves entered the seventh down 4-3. Austin Riley and Ronald Acuna singled off starter Sandy Alcantara, who seemingly ran out of gas in the inning. Marlins manager Don Mattingly lifted him for Yimi Garcia, who gave up a game-tying single to former Marlin Marcell Ozuna.

Three pitches later, d’Arnaud crushed a homer to deep center – not easy to do in Minute Maid Park – and the Braves suddenly led by three. Ozzie Albies' ensuing single chased Garcia. Swanson then homered off James Hoyt to cap the six-run frame that gave the Braves a five-run lead. The Braves scored all six runs within four at-bats.

It was the second-most runs the Braves have scored in a postseason inning. The Milwaukee Braves scored seven runs in the first inning of Game 2 in the 1958 World Series against the Yankees.

After waiting 13 innings for their first run in their last Game 1, the Braves had one run in one at-bat Tuesday. Acuna led off the game with a homer, his sixth career leadoff shot against the Marlins. He became the youngest player in MLB history to launch a leadoff homer in the postseason.

The 22-year-old later galvanized the Braves when he was again hit by a pitch from a Marlins starter. It was one of several sequences of a busy third inning. The teams entered the five-run frame with the score knotted at 1-1.

In the top of the inning, Miami scored three runs on four hits off starter Max Fried, who made only one mistake – a Miguel Rojas homer – in the first two frames. The Braves responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning, ignited by Acuna’s hit by pitch.

Alcantara plunked Acuna, which prompted the latter to express further frustration with the Marlins. It was the fifth time Acuna has been hit by a Marlins pitcher, almost one-fourth of his total hit by pitches (21). Snitker left the dugout to talk with the umpires. Warnings were issued to both teams.

Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna is walked to first base by coach DeMarlo Hale after getting hit by Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara in the third inning in Game 1 of a National League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Houston. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

“I’d probably get in trouble if I tell you exactly what I think,” Snitker told the FS1 broadcast crew regarding Acuna. “They’ve hit this kid a number of times over the years.”

Snitker clarified after the game he didn’t think Alcantara hit Acuna intentionally, though he didn’t downplay his frustration. “In that situation, if you’re going to go in, you have to make sure you don’t hit him. It comes to a point that you keep dinging the kid, that middle of the plate is being taken away. It’s happening too much to him.”

After the game, Acuna said (via team interpreter Franco Garcia): “I definitely feel I have the support of my teammates no matter what the situation is. We’ve been in these circumstances before where we’ve taken exception to me being hit by a pitch. At this point, we’ve grown accustomed to it, we’re tired of it, but there’s nothing we can do. We’re focused on winning and trying to be the best we can be.”

Acuna continued, saying, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence because every time we play them in a series, I’ve been the one who gets hit. That’s why I can’t say it’s a coincidence. You look at the series, I’m the one who gets hit. I’m not going to give it any thought. I’m just focused on winning.”

Before meeting with reporters, Acuna posted a photo of his post-homer bat flip on Instagram with a caption reading, “I’d like to take this time to apologize to absolutely NOBODY.”

A common statement among Snitker and his players: When Alcantara hit Acuna, it provided a spark. Ozuna and d’Arnaud followed with consecutive two-out doubles, helping the Braves pull within a run after Miami built a 4-1 lead at the top of the inning.

The Braves had only one hit before Acuna was plunked, and that was Acuna’s leadoff homer. The hit by pitch loomed large.

“We know what happened throughout the regular year and years prior with Ronnie," d’Arnaud said. "That definitely woke us up, and we took advantage of that momentum.”

When the Braves signed Ozuna and d’Arnaud over the winter, even in their best-case scenarios they couldn’t have imagined what both have provided. They continued exceeding expectations Tuesday, driving in six of the nine runs.

As for Fried, the Braves' lefty ace pitched just four innings, allowing a season-high four runs on six hits. He threw only 70 pitches and could be available for a winner-take-all Game 5, should the series reach that point and the Braves feel compelled to go that direction.

“He didn’t have it,” Snitker said. “He’s an unbelievable pitcher. He’s been so good for us. But there are some days you go out there and maybe you lose a little feel, location, things like that. It’s just one of those days. He’ll bounce back and be even better the next time.”

Snitker said he didn’t know if 70 pitches meant Fried could return for a Game 5. Fried said he’d be “ready for whenever they need me to take the ball next.”

Relievers Darren O’Day, Tyler Matzek, Will Smith, Chris Martin and Mark Melancon held the Marlins to one run. Before Miami scored off Martin, the Braves' bullpen had pitched 12-2/3 scoreless innings to begin the postseason. Matzek has been particularly sharp, striking out seven of nine batters faced, including three Tuesday.

Martin threw the most pitches in Game 1 with 26. Matzek was the second highest with 11. Despite their starter covering only 12 outs, the Braves escaped Tuesday without overworking their bullpen.

It was a monumental win all around for the Braves, who overcame their ace’s worst start of the season and a three-run hole to win comfortably and avoid falling behind in the series. The Braves are 3-0 this postseason, and it’s the first time they’ve won three playoff games in one season in 19 years.

The Braves also forced the Marlins into a game they couldn’t win. Miami isn’t equipped to win shootouts, especially against teams like the Braves. They out-homered Miami 3-1 on Tuesday, continuing an MLB-wide trend in which no team has lost when out-homering its opposition this postseason.

Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, when Ian Anderson makes his second postseason start against Marlins righty Pablo Lopez.

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