For the Atlanta Braves, it’s a simple, yet deflating case of Choose Your Misery.
In their first two games of the National League Division Series, the Braves could neither score nor defeat the Dodgers out in Los Angeles, enduring a pair of back-to-back shutout losses.
Friday’s setback, a 3-0 loss to the Dodgers, wasn’t a total surprise, since Los Angeles had three-time NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw on the mound.
That said, Atlanta fans must have been stunned by the lack of aggression at the plate, or on the base paths, as the Braves collected just three hits off Kershaw and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The Braves didn’t have any answers or patience on this night, failing to work the count in just about every situation.
How so? Well, Kershaw may be a lock for the Hall of Fame someday, but until Friday, he had never pitched eight full innings during the postseason.
Yes, the southpaw required only 85 pitches to retire 24 of 26 batters faced, walking none and surrendering just two hits; and with the 63 strikes … it was quite possibly Kershaw’s most proficient playoff outing during his decorated career.
As such, Atlanta has fallen into an 0-2 hole … where only a sweep of the final three games (Sunday/Monday in Atlanta, Wednesday in Los Angeles) could propel the Braves to their first playoff series triumph since 2001.
The game actually started on a decent note, with leadoff hitter Ronald Acuna Jr. rocketing a Kershaw offering to deep left-center field and cruising into second base for the double.
After landing safely, Acuna even flexed the muscles of his right arm for the Atlanta dugout, seemingly indicating the Braves would play strength, energy and passion on this night—a departure from the squad that appeared nervous and tentative for most of Thursday’s defeat.
However, Acuna’s heroics merely served as a momentary ripple along the tranquil waters. From that point, Kershaw would retire the next 14 Braves hitters, without incident.
On the pitching side, Anibal Sanchez fared slightly better than his Game 1 teammate (Mike Foltynewicz), walking just one hitter over 4 2/3 innings.
However, like Foltynewicz, Sanchez was ultimately ruined by the long ball—surrendering a two-run blast to Manny Machado in the first inning (the first 3-0 homer allowed in Sanchez’s entire MLB career) and a solo shot to Yasmani Grandal (a fastball right down the middle).
Given the offense’s lack of firepower, that 3-0 deficit must have seemed like a 10-run hole to Braves fans; and in some ways, it might have rung true.
Especially when pondering the following stat:
Through two games, the Dodgers are in a battle to collect more steals (five) … than the Braves’ cumulative tally for hits (eight).
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