If you were looking for that Game 1 tone-setting victory for the rest of the series… this was not it. In spite of all of the optimism going in to this game from the players and beat writers (and most of us, too), the Braves did what the Braves do best in playoff games in recent memory. Lose.
In a cruel moment of hope, Kris Medlen struck out the side in first and looked dominant, working his curve in with a nasty changeup and fastball and making the Dodgers look pretty hapless. Turner Field was rocking.
Justin Upton put up a good at-bat in the bottom of the first, fouling off several pitches before he grounded out weakly to Kershaw, but extending the hope that was kindled in the top of the inning that we may actually be able to get to Kershaw eventually and win this game. But it was not to be.
The Dodgers plated two runs in the second on some rough defense by Simmons, Heyward, and Gattis. While no errors will show up in the box score, we were treated to several Prados due to some weird defensive infield shifts and having a catcher in LF with a right fielder in CF. Thanks, BJ, for being wholly incompetent at your job and putting us in the position of having an out-of-position rookie catcher as a starting outfielder in the postseason.
For good measure, Adrian Gonzalez added a two-run shot in the third. Medlen should have been out of that inning before that homer, but Elliot Johnson had pitched in with a Prado of his own (which really should have been an error) to extend the frame, and the Dodgers once again took advantage of it. At least you can count on consistency from this franchise: when the calendar turns to October, the Braves defense turns to crap. The Dodgers picked up insurance runs in the fourth and sixth to remove any remaining suspense from the game.
The Braves got on the board in the bottom of the fourth on a Chris Johnson two-out RBI that scored Freddie Freeman, which got a rousing chant started. Simmons quickly put an end to that nonsense with a strikeout, stranding runners on the corners. Kershaw then retired the next six in a row and left the game after seven innings in which he struck out twelve Braves. His line score looks like the dominating pitcher we all know he is, but in reality, he actually looked almost vulnerable. The Braves had a chance to beat him when he was not really on his game, but they could not take advantage of the opportunity.
Medlen’s final line was 4IP 9H 5R 1BB 4K, but it could have looked better with a little help from the official scorer (and a lot better with a little help from his defense). He was removed after hitting Puig with his 74th pitch of the evening in the fifth. Ayala relieved him and got out of a bases loaded jam with back-to-back strikeouts. Even with Kris’s performance tonight, if we can make it to a fourth game and are facing elimination, I think you have to hope he is back out there.
Other lowlights from tonight include Gattis being doubled off of first on a routine fly out in the second, BJ striking out to the surprise of absolutely no one in a “pinch hit” appearance in the fifth, Jordan Walden proving that he still cannot pitch, the Braves playing right into the national media script of “the mighty Dodgers can’t be stopped” and the TBS crew following that script right down to the letter, Hanley Ramirez playing a more impressive shortstop than Simmons, and Puig being on base three times which gave us ample opportunities to hear his prowess extolled. The Braves have now lost 17 of the past 22 playoff games played at Turner Field. As a franchise, the Braves have won exactly one World Series title in each of the three cities they have played in. They may soon need to consider the desperate measure of finding a new home if this streak of playoff futility continues.
If you look hard enough, you can actually pull some positives from this game. We did not get shut out. The bullpen (outside of Walden, who is on the roster for reasons not easily discerned) looked impressive. McCann had some good at-bats against a tough lefty. Gattis seemed to settle down after his mishaps early in the game and had some quality at-bats and made a nice running catch, so hopefully he has his playoff nerves under control. Jose Constanza did not get the chance to show off any of the “skills” that got him on this postseason roster. We still have Freddie Freeman on our team.
Tomorrow is a new day. Let’s beat the snot out of Zack Greinke in Game 2, and then go to LA and win a couple and celebrate on their turf.