The Braves on Monday got off to the best start imaginable.
Key word: “Start.”
They didn’t finish, and lost to the Dodgers, 8-6, in the series opener at Truist Park.
1. When Eddie Rosario sent a three-run shot into the right-field seats, it gave the Braves a four-run lead in the first inning. They certainly couldn’t have scripted a better beginning to this game, as they jumped on Dodgers starter Gavin Stone.
The beginning is not the end.
The Dodgers roared back and eventually scored six runs over five innings against Charlie Morton, who inherited that four-run lead. They added two off the Braves’ bullpen.
“I don’t look back at that and think, ‘Man, I really didn’t step on it, I really didn’t get after it,’” Morton said. “I don’t look back at that and think that. Because there were times when I was younger especially, where I think I struggled to be aggressive. I don’t think I was struggling to be aggressive, I think I just got out of my delivery.
“They’re a good team. They can score. It’s not like (if) you get a four-run lead against me it’s the end of the game. But certainly I think that I could’ve done a lot better than I did.”
Meanwhile, the Braves’ offense hit a wall after the first inning. It had promising, momentum-filled moments, but nothing that swung the game for good.
“That’s a tough game to lose,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
2. Freddie Freeman walked toward the batter’s box and into it for his first at-bat of the night and, when he heard the ovation from Braves fans, stepped out for a moment. He took off his helmet and waved it in every direction of the crowd to thank the Atlanta fans.
And then Freeman went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, including a go-ahead, three-run homer off Morton in the fifth inning. Freeman finished a triple shy of the cycle.
“It felt good,” Freeman told reporters about the homer off Morton. “Just happy to get a hit with a guy in scoring position. Just trying to keep the line moving. Four curveballs in the at-bat, and luckily I was able to hit the fourth one.”
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
Morton threw Freeman a curveball down, but said he would’ve liked it to be below the zone because he had Freeman down, 1-2. He wanted to see if Freeman would chase it.
Freeman launched it to right field and kept it fair as it stayed inside the foul pole.
After Monday, Freeman is 10-for-18 with three doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs versus Morton.
3. In the second inning, Morton served up a solo home run to J.D. Martinez on a belt-high sinker.
In the fourth, the Dodgers scored two runs – one when Freeman barely beat Matt Olson’s throw to home after Olson fielded a grounder, and another when Martinez scored from first on David Peralta’s triple. Then Freeman homered in that three-run fifth inning.
“They have really good approaches,” Morton said of the Dodgers. “They don’t really chase very much. It wasn’t like they were greedy. They took what I gave them. They put a lot of good swings on the ball, even if it resulted in an out.”
4. “We had another one of our first innings and then kind of stalled out for a while,” Snitker said. “I don’t know what the gist of that is. It’s early. If you’re gonna score those four, you’d probably rather do it in the seventh or eighth when the other team doesn’t have so much time to come back. Or we gotta keep doing a better job of adding on.”
The Braves only added two runs – one in the fifth, another in the eighth. Stone recovered and gave the Dodgers four innings. Then Los Angeles used five relievers – and utilized them aggressively by inserting their best relief arm in the game in the fifth – to keep Atlanta quiet the rest of the way.
5. In a one-run game in the sixth inning, Joe Jiménez got two outs before giving up a double. Right then, Snitker went to lefty A.J. Minter, who has struggled this season, to face right-handed hitting Mookie Betts.
Betts hit a run-scoring single. And then in the seventh, Martinez homered off Minter for his second home run of the game.
“Over the past few years, he’s been really good on Mookie,” Snitker said. “I guess Mookie was due to get him. I’ve liked the matchup for the last few years. It’s worked. Didn’t work tonight.”
Before this, Betts was 0-for-6 with four strikeouts versus Minter, including the postseason. Betts was 0-for-3 with a strikeout versus Jiménez.
Stat to know
17-1 - Before Monday, the Braves were 17-1 in games in which they led by at least four runs at any point.
“He’s a really good player. I’ve been in his shoes before where you’re facing your former team and you want to have a good game, you want to post numbers and you want to kind of shine.” - Rosario on Freeman, through interpreter Franco García
Spencer Strider will face Dodgers right-hander Bobby Miller, who will make his MLB debut, in Tuesday’s game, which begins at 7:20 p.m.