Two teams that hadn’t lost yet this postseason kept going Monday night, playing with a determination to keep that streak alive.
In the Braves’ stacked lineup, even the No. 9 hitter is dangerous, cue Austin Riley. The second-year utilityman delivered his biggest career hit, smashing a no-doubt homer in the ninth inning at spacious Globe Life Park for the go-ahead run in a 5-1 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS.
The Dodgers had won nine consecutive games overall, including five straight to begin the postseason. Now the longest winning streak belongs to the Braves, with six straight victories this postseason as they attempt to reach the World Series for the first time since 1999.
With the score tied 1-1 in the ninth, Riley homered leading off against Blake Treinen, who had been unscored upon in his four previous appearances this postseason. The Braves weren’t finished. Marcell Ozuna followed Ronald Acuna Jr.’s double with an RBI single before Ozzie Albies delivered the Braves’ third homer of the night.
The Braves had squandered a chance to go ahead in the eighth, after Ozuna’s leadoff double against Dustin May, who with two outs clipped pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval with a pitch. Victor Gonzalez replaced May, who struck out pinch-hitter Charlie Culberson to end the threat.
For most of the night the Braves wasted opportunities, leaving 10 runners on base through the first eight innings.
Max Fried labored early, throwing 28 pitches in the first inning. He needed another 17 pitches to get through the second, but then settled into a groove that allowed him to survive six innings.
Overall, the left-hander allowed one run on four hits with nine strikeouts and two walks. Fried had struggled in his previous start, allowing four earned runs over four innings against the Marlins in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Walker Buehler lasted into the sixth for the Dodgers without recording an out, departing after Travis d’Aranud and Ozzie Albies singled in succession to begin the inning. Brusdar Graterol entered and recorded three quick outs to keep it 1-1.
The right-hander Buehler allowed three hits and five walks with seven strikeouts over the five-plus innings, departing at 100 pitches. It followed a four-inning performance against the Padres last week in which Buehler allowed one earned run.
Kike Hernandez jumped on a hanging curveball from Fried leading off the fifth and launched a homer to left field that tied it 1-1. The blast was the seventh of the utilityman’s postseason career, which included a three-homer barrage against the Cubs in the Dodgers’ NLCS clincher in 2018.
The Braves lineup sustained a hit in the second inning, when Adam Duvall grimaced in pain on a swing. Duvall departed the game with a strained left oblique — replaced during his at-bat by Cristian Pache — and Braves manager Brian Snitker hinted during an in-game interview on Fox that Duvall could be lost for an extended period. The veteran Duvall hit 16 homers for the Braves during the regular season.
Freddie Freeman homered against Walker Buehler in the first inning for the game’s first run. Freeman, a strong National League MVP candidate, posted a 1.102 OPS during the regular season. The homer was the third in the postseason of Freeman’s career and his first this year.