With a win, Braves can overlook the torrent of strikeouts

The zeros kept replicating, like the world’s most basic computer code. The strikeouts kept coming and coming, at a record pace. There was about as much actual contact as at your last virtual staff meeting.

“That was fun to watch,” Braves starter Max Fried said of Wednesday’s 1-0, 13-inning wild-card playoff win over Cincinnati. As a pitcher and author of a modest five of the day’s 37 whiffs, he would say that.

But what about the hitter’s view? How much fun was that stirring up such a mighty and sustained breeze?

“It was all worth it in the end when you get the W,” said Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose single in the 13th, one of only six Braves hits for the day, drove in pinch-runner Cristian Pache for the day’s only run. “I don’t care if we struck out 40 times as long as we win.”

The best that can be said is that the Braves did fall well short of 40 Ks. They did strike out a season-high 21 times, though. Tack on 16 more by the Reds and these two teams smashed the all-time postseason record for strikeouts – 37 bettering the 34 set by the Dodgers and Red Sox in an 18-inning 2018 World Series game.

Welcome to baseball in the 2020s.

The Braves have struck out 15 or more times in a game five times this season. Their record in such ordeals now 2-3.

Still, one of the benefits of winning is not having to apologize for failing to put a ball in play so many, many times.

“The (pitchers) that you’re facing have a lot to do with that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Those guys are rough, man. Everyone one of them were on their game, too, just like we were.

“We’re a big-swinging team. We slug. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. (Hitters) in this situation get a little antsy and whatever, it’s kind of who we are. We weathered that storm a number of times this year.”

Every player in the two starting lineups struck out at least once. For the Braves, the frustration was led by Adam Duvall with four strikeouts. Three other Braves – Marcell Ozuna, Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson – had three Ks.

They were facing the probable NL Cy Young Award winner in Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer, who did the hard work, hanging 12 strikeouts on the Braves. A parade of five relievers, all throwing gas, did the rest.

In a way, it seemed to almost buoy Freeman to endure such a trial and come out with an important opening victory in a best-of-three series.

“You’re going against potentially the Cy Young Award winner of the league this year, you knew going in you were going to have a battle on your hands,” he said.

“He went out there and dealt,” Freeman said. “Then you got into that great bullpen. Everyone’s throwing three or four miles per hour than they normally do – 98 (mph), 99, 100, it seems like, even on our side. It’s just kind of how it is, it’s postseason baseball. You’re going to have to win these games to get to the end. I’m just glad to be able to come out on top.”

The man Freeman victimized for the walk-off, game-winning hit was Amir Garrett, who as Snitker pointed out, “is as tough as nails against lefties.” In fact, Freeman’s hit was only the second given up to a lefthander in 24 at-bats by Garrett this season. Lefties came in hitting just .043 against him.

“We had our best leftie up there against their best left-handed reliever, kind of like they’re going 1-on-1, and Freddie won that battle,” Snitker said.

And, so did baseball’s second highest-scoring team, the one that supposedly was going to need to bludgeon its way to a first playoff series win since 2001, survive a day that was historically unfriendly to hitters.

“We flipped that narrative real quick,” Freeman said.

As for Thursday’s Game 2 against Reds starter Luis Castillo, Freeman said, “Might be the same narrative.”

Although the manager would appreciate it if the strikeout total was not quite so majestic.

“I hope,” Snitker said. “I don’t want it to go up, I know that.”