AUSTIN RILEY and Ozzie Albies hit ninth-inning home runs and the Atlanta Braves opened the National League Championship Series with a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday at Arlington, Texas.
On a night when runs were hard to come by, Riley got into a 1-2 sinker from Dodgers right-hander Blake Treinen to break a 1-1 tie in the ninth with a leadoff shot to left-center. It was the first home run of the postseason for the Braves’ No. 9 hitter after he hit eight in the regular season.
The Braves jumped in front 3-1 on a Ronald Acuna double and a Marcell Ozuna RBI single to knock out Treinen (0-1). Two batters later, Albies hit a two-run shot off Dodgers left-hander Jake McGee, his first of the postseason.
The runs came in the top of the ninth with the Dodgers serving as the home team by finishing the regular season with the best record in the National League.
In a battle of teams that entered with perfect 5-0 records in the playoffs, the Braves once again leaned on their pitching while getting home runs from Freddie Freeman in the first inning in addition to the late Riley and Albies blasts.
Atlanta left-hander Will Smith (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning to pick up the victory. Braves starter Max Fried gave up one run on four hits over six innings with two walks and nine strikeouts. Atlanta pitching entered with four shutouts in the club’s first five postseason games.
The Dodgers received a home run from Enrique Hernandez while starter Walker Buehler gave up one run on three hits over five-plus innings with five walks and seven strikeouts.
In a ballpark not known for giving up an abundance of home runs, the Braves took a 1-0 lead two batters and five pitches into the game when Freeman took a 97 mph fastball from Buehler over the wall in right-center. It was his first home run of the postseason after he hit 13 in the regular season.
Fried was getting the better of the starting-pitcher matchup against Buehler until Hernandez went deep to left field to tie the score 1-1 in the fifth inning. Hernandez was making his first start of the postseason.
Buehler gave up singles to Travis d’Arnaud and Albies to open the sixth before he was replaced by hard-throwing right-hander Brusdar Graterol, who prevented any further damage. Atlanta also loaded the bases in the eighth but failed to score.
Braves left fielder Adam Duvall left the game in the second inning when he injured his left side after hitting a foul ball. He was replaced during the at-bat by Cristian Pache. — Reuters