‘Turn the page’ to Game 2 is all the Braves can do, and they have no choice but to do it

After battling a finger blister, Fried says he feels "healed and back to normal" ahead of Game 2 Monday. The Braves lost Game 1, 3-0, to the Phillies.

When they prepared to leave Truist Park after Saturday’s disappointment, the Braves tipped their caps to the Phillies, whose pitching shut them down. There was not much to say.

“Turn the page, come back (Sunday), get some work in and look forward to Monday,” Kevin Pillar said.

The elephant in the room is this: Monday’s Game 2 might be a must-win game. It is not an elimination game, but the climb becomes steeper and more difficult if the Braves lose both games at home.

Since 1995, when the wild-card format debuted, seven teams have come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a Division Series, according to a story written by USA Today after the 2017 Yankees became the seventh. The Braves, of course, don’t want to attempt to become the eighth.

“We certainly want to even the series, try and get some momentum back,” pitcher Spencer Strider said. “We do have the off day (Sunday), which is a little different, but I think that’s a good thing. Kind of regroup and come back on (Monday) and try and even it up. We are familiar with playing there, familiar with the families. You talk about a good environment, well that’s going to be a pretty incredible environment there. Unfortunately, they will not be cheering for us, for the most part.”

Citizens Bank Park is a difficult place to play and, if the Braves lose on Monday, the series might not come back to Atlanta.

In their 104-win regular season, the Braves won at least three games in a row 16 different times. They can do it again. They have the talent. The pitching, at its best, can give them a shot. Plus, a potential Game 5 would be at Truist Park.

But they don’t even want to think about this. The focus is on winning Game 2.

“We just gotta continue to do our thing, take the at-bats we normally take,” Matt Olson said after Saturday’s loss. “They threw well tonight. There’s no doubt about it.”

Since 2015, three teams who lost Game 1 of the Division Series still went on to win the World Series: The 2015 Royals, the 2019 Nationals and the 2021 Braves. (The Nationals won the Wild Card Game, so they didn’t drop their first postseason game like the Royals and Braves.) The Braves lost in Milwaukee, then won three in a row.

The situation here is different. The Phillies are a force, and so is their advantage when playing at home, where Games 3 and 4 will take place. But the Braves have reasons for optimism.

Max Fried will pitch Monday’s game. He has dealt with a blister, but on Saturday, he expressed confidence in how it healed during his pregame press conference. Fried is the Braves’ ace.

They’re confident in him, right?

“Yeah, of course,” Strider said. “He was dealing with the blister, but our training staff did everything they could to try to put him in a good position and get healed up. I think he’s ready to go, so got full confidence in him.”

It seems the Braves’ offense is too powerful, too dangerous, too deep to waste another terrific start. The Braves on Saturday were shut out at home for the first time since 2021. But this group scored at least six runs in 82 of its games this season, the most in baseball.

If you’re a Braves fan, there are plenty of reasons for optimism about Game 2.

Braves manager Brian Snitker used a different lineup for Game 1, one in which Austin Riley hit second and Ozzie Albies, who usually bats second, batted fourth. After the game, the Braves maintained this had nothing to do with the loss.

“No,” Riley said. “This lineup is so talented, it doesn’t matter — I’ve said it before today: If we play our game, it doesn’t matter what kind of lineup you throw out there or what the cause may be. I’ll take this squad. Didn’t capitalize on the few opportunities when we had guys in scoring position. Just gotta do better when those opportunities present themselves.”

Their track record tells us they often come through in these spots: This season, the Braves ranked 10th in baseball with a .266 batting average with runners in scoring position, and third with an .823 OPS in those spots.

They were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in Game 1. They left seven men on base. Trea Turner accounted for some of this. But the Braves missed opportunities. There’s no way around it.

The Braves were baseball’s best team in the regular season. They set records – both as a team and individually. Their pitching staff displayed its depth.

They aren’t some underdog who received a punch to the jaw. No, they are supposed to do the punching. They always talk about their ability to respond to adversity, and how they never let one day affect another.

Monday is their next test.

If they don’t pass that, then, well …

Let’s not go there yet.

“Just come into the next (game) and compete, and then we’re even, and then go up there (to Philadelphia) and do our best, too,” Marcell Ozuna said. “If we can split up there and bring it here, it’s gonna be easier.”

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