NLCS Game 1 at a glance: Braves 3, Dodgers 2

Braves third baseman Austin Riley celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning of National League Championship Series Game 1 on Saturday night at Truist Park. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com )
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Braves third baseman Austin Riley celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning of National League Championship Series Game 1 on Saturday night at Truist Park. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com )

Credit: Hyosub Shin

What you need to know about the Braves’ 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Truist Park on Saturday night:

Riley’s walk-off

The Braves won the game on a walk-off line-drive single to left field by Austin Riley with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. The dramatic hit came against Blake Treinen, the Dodgers’ eighth pitcher of the night. Ozzie Albies, who stole second base after a one-out bloop single, scored on Riley’s hit. Long before his game-winner, Riley tied the score 2-2 with a fourth-inning home run.

Braves third baseman Austin Riley reacts after hitting a walk-off RBI single, scoring second baseman Ozzie Albies.  Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com
Caption
Braves third baseman Austin Riley reacts after hitting a walk-off RBI single, scoring second baseman Ozzie Albies. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Different approaches

The teams used very different methods with their pitching staffs to get through the first six innings. The Dodgers opted for a bullpen game instead of pitching one of their superb starters on short rest and went through five pitchers – Corey Knebel, Phil Bickford, Justin Bruihl, Tony Gonsolin and Alex Vesia -- in the first six frames. The fivesome allowed two runs on four hits, struck out 10 and retired 11 consecutive Braves at one point. By contrast, the Braves started one of their aces, Max Fried. He allowed eight hits in six innings -- the most hits against him in any start since July 10 -- but limited the Dodgers to two runs. Manager Brian Snitker lifted Fried after 81 pitches at the start of the seventh inning.

Lots of relief

The Braves’ bullpen, with help from a Dodgers base-running blunder, kept the game 2-2 until Riley won it in the ninth. Relievers Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and Will Smith pitched three scoreless innings, one apiece. After Smith allowed a walk and a single with two out in the top of the ninth, the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor got caught in a rundown between second and third bases to end the inning with Mookie Betts on deck.

Power surge

The Braves and Dodgers were two of MLB’s top power-hitting teams this season, ranking third and fourth, respectively, in home runs. They showed that power in the fourth inning. In the top of the inning, Dodgers catcher Will Smith, who hit 25 homers during the regular season, blasted his third of the postseason against an 0-2 fastball from Fried to give L.A. a 2-1 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Riley, who hit 33 homers during the regular season, answered with a two-out solo shot, just inside the left-field foul pole, against Gonsolin.

Braves 3, Dodgers 2 (box score)

It had been a while

The game marked the first time in 20 years that an NLCS game was played at the Braves’ home stadium. The last time it happened before Saturday was on Oct. 21, 2001, when the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the Braves 3-2 in an NLCS Game 5 at Turner Field to clinch the best-of-seven series. That night, Randy Johnson was the winning pitcher and Tom Glavine the losing pitcher. The Braves finally got back to the NLCS last year, but all games were played at a neutral site in Arlington, Texas, because of COVID-19 protocols.

Notable

-- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman had four strikeouts in four plate appearances. As a team, the Braves struck out 14 times.

-- With Jorge Soler sidelined because of a positive COVID-19 test, the Braves moved Eddie Rosario to the leadoff spot in the batting order. He singled against Dodgers “opener” Knebel in the first inning, stole second, moved to the third on a groundout to the right side and scored on a wild pitch for a 1-0 lead.

-- Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, who won MVP honors in last year’s NLCS against the Braves by going 9-for-29 (.310) with five home runs and 11 RBIs, doubled in his first at-bat Saturday.

-- The Dodgers were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left runners on base in seven of the nine innings.

What’s next

It’ll be three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, 37, for the Dodgers and Ian Anderson, 23, for the Braves as the starting pitching matchup in Game 2 at 7:37 p.m. Sunday at Truist Park. The Dodgers acquired Scherzer from the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline in late July and have won 12 of the 13 games he has started since then. Anderson has a 0.76 ERA in five career postseason starts, dating to last year.

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