The Braves make more lousy history, but this time all isn’t lost

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Braves manager Brian Snitker addresses who’ll be available in the bullpen and possibly lineup going forward after 15-3 loss to Dodgers.

Credit: Atlanta Braves

The Yankees beat the Pirates 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0 in the 1960 World Series. The Pirates won that World Series.

And that’s it. For what happened Wednesday, that’s the cheeriest thought I’ve got. The Braves, who last October yielded 10 first-inning runs to St. Louis in the decisive game of their National League Division Series, allowed their own ignominious record to stand for only one year and five days. They were touched – battered, more like – for 11 runs in the first inning by the Dodgers. They would lose 15-3.

ExploreAnatomy of Dodgers' 11-run first inning

For the record, the Braves still lead the series 2-1. If you’d told a Braves fan when the week commenced that their team would be ahead this far into the NL Championship Series, they’d have taken it and run with it. Well, that’s where this club is, as hard as it might be to remember after such a forlorn night.

Said Braves manager Brian Snitker: “These past four hours weren’t a lot of fun."

Thursday brings another day and another game. The Braves can lose twice more and still win the series. If it wasn’t over when they led 2-0 – and nobody thought it was – it’s not over because the Dodgers finally got around to winning. This is still do-able. It won’t, however, be easily done.

We knew all along that Game 3 would be massive for the Braves, who wouldn’t be able to use Max Fried or Ian Anderson, those young worthies having worked Monday and Tuesday. Game 3 would fall to Kyle Wright, who was excellent in the clinching Game 3 against Miami, but who also was demoted to the Braves' alternate training site seven weeks ago. The Marlins were a substandard hitting team. The Dodgers are among the greatest offensive teams ever.

Wright didn’t survive the first inning. He yielded five hits – two doubles, one single and two home runs – while managing two outs. (On the bright side, that was one more out that Mike Foltynewicz posted Oct. 9, 2019.) Wright had nothing. Grant Dayton was summoned. He had nothing, either, but at least he made it into the third inning. By then it was 15-nil.

Two ways of looking at this first inning: It was a case of Wright being wretched, or it was a carryover from the final three innings of Game 2, when the Dodgers scored seven runs. Maybe, probably, it was both, though the baseball truism about momentum being tomorrow’s starting pitcher has never been made more manifest than on this night.

The best offense in the big leagues didn’t manage a run against Fried until the fifth inning; it didn’t score against Anderson. Against Wright, the Dodgers – the “visiting” team in Game 3, thereby batting first – led 1-0 after two pitches. Mookie Betts legged out a grounder to third base that originally was deemed an out. Corey Seager doubled him home. Then it got bad, then worse, then worst.

Braves catcher Tyler Flowers pats relief pitcher Jacob Webb (71) as he is removed from the mound after loading the bases against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the eighth inning in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Will Smith, RBI double. Joc Pederson, two-run homer. Edwin Rios, homer on the next pitch. Seager again, run-scoring single, this off Dayton. Max Muncy, grand slam. The Dodgers had been outscored 13-8 over the first two games; after a half-inning of Game 3, they had seized a 19-13 lead in aggregate score.

Not that aggregate score means anything. Back to 1960: The Yankees scored more than twice as many runs – 55 to 27 – as Pittsburgh, but the Pirates won four games by a total of seven runs. Doesn’t matter how much you score if, four times in seven, the other team finishes with one more. And the difference between the 10-run inning of 2019 and the 11-run version of 2020 is that only the first meant elimination. For these Braves, there are more games to play.

The worrisome part is that Game 4 will be worked by a Braves pitcher making his postseason debut. Bryse Wilson has started seven well-spaced games over three big-league seasons; his career ERA is 5.91. The seven-games-in-seven-days series does no favors for either side, but the Dodgers have more capable starter/reliever hybrids than do the Braves. Oh, and depending upon how Clayton Kershaw’s back feels Thursday morning, the greatest pitcher of this generation could be the Dodgers' Game 4 starter. (That said, Kershaw’s postseason ERA is an inexplicable 4.23.)

Here’s what winning Games 1 and 2 did for the Braves: It means they cannot lose the series before Fried takes another turn, even if it’s not until Game 6. It’s possible they could win the NLCS before Fried works again, though that, it must be said, would be a stretch.

If a wipeout playoff loss can have a silver lining, Huascar Ynoa provided it. He took the ball with two on and two out in the third inning. He yielded it with two out in the seventh. He threw an astonishing 92 pitches, yielding no runs on one hit. What mattered more was that he lasted four innings.

The Braves made it through a game in which their starter was gone after nine batters without having to burn any of their first-tier relievers. With games 4 and 5 already looming as relief-heavy affairs, Ynoa’s bravura effort – he appeared gassed long before Snitker came to remove him – stamped the 22-year-old as the MVP of this lost night, and maybe, should the Braves contrive to win this thing, the series.

OK, so I lied. There’s a second cheery note: Huascar Ynoa saved the bullpen. And that really is all I have. Another crummy chapter in Atlanta sports annals has been written. There’s a Game 4 upcoming. Turn the page.

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