Historic 1st sinks Braves: 'Still in a good spot'

October 15th, 2020

Instead of joining the 2014 Royals as the only teams to win eight consecutive games to start a postseason, the Braves became the first franchise to allow at least 10 runs in a postseason inning multiple times.

Everything about the Braves' 15-3 loss to the Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday night was ugly. The drama surrounding this battle quickly faded as recorded just two outs during Los Angeles' 11-run first inning.

"Obviously [Wright] wanted to go out there and have a great start," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It didn't work out. We're still in a good spot with four games left. Like I said, the whole team, we just turn the page and get ready to go tomorrow."

Joc Pederson, Edwin Ríos and Max Muncy all homered during the Dodgers' historic first. Never before had a team tallied 11 runs in any inning during a postseason game. And never before had a team hit three homers in the first inning of a postseason game.

Unfortunately for the Braves, this ugly development was familiar. This marked the second time within a span of nine playoff games they allowed 10 or more runs in the first inning.

But the landscape is different than when the Braves' 2019 season ended after allowing the Cardinals to score 10 first-inning runs in Game 5 of the NL Division Series. Atlanta will still return to Globe Life Field on Thursday with a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.

"At the end of the day, it's one game," Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said. "There are things to build off of for tomorrow. If I know one thing about this team, it's that we come back. We'll come back tomorrow and prepare to play. We'll go out and compete, because that's just what we do."

There's certainly no reason to panic, but for the first time this postseason, the Braves will need to use somebody other than , or Wright to start a game. They'll give the Game 4 start to , who made his only two starts this year over the final six days of the regular season.

Wilson hasn't started since Sept. 27, but he threw 88 pitches over six innings in a simulated game on Friday. The right-hander said he was under the impression he would have started Game 4 of the NLDS had the Braves not swept the Marlins, but the team never officially told him that was the plan.

Snitker said what occurs in Game 4 will affect who starts Game 5. might have been an option before he was forced to throw four innings (no runs on one hit and four walks with four strikeouts) on Wednesday.

So now Snitker will weigh his options. He didn't rule out the possibility of bringing Max Fried back on short rest, but that doesn't seem to be at the top of his wish list. Snitker also could give the ball back to Wright, who threw just 28 pitches before being chased from his second career postseason start after allowing seven runs on five hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.

"We're going to have to talk to [Kyle] and see what his mindset is tomorrow," Snitker said. "I know he probably physically could, but we'll just have to wait and see tomorrow and talk to him about all that."

The only other option might be to go to a bullpen game, even though the Braves are likely to lean heavily on their relief corps to get through Game 4. Two wins away from reaching the World Series, Atlanta is once again having to face the fact it has lacked rotation depth throughout this season.

The Braves found a third starter when Wright finally started to live up to expectations over his final three regular-season starts and while tossing six scoreless innings against the Marlins in Game 3 of the NLDS last Thursday.

But Wright's inexperience showed as the Dodgers pounded him in the first inning. The 25-year-old retired two of the first four batters he faced, but he unraveled just before Pederson hit a three-run homer and Ríos followed with a solo shot.

"Whatever I can take from it that will help me be better, I want to do so," Wright said. "You can either feel sorry for yourself or find a way to bounce back."

Wright joins Mike Foltynewicz (2019 NLDS Game 5), John Thomson ('04 NLDS Game 3), Steve Avery (1992 NLCS Game 5) and Bob Buhl ('57 World Series Game 3) as the only Braves starters to complete less than an inning in a postseason game.

If fans are looking for some optimism, the Braves ended up winning both the 1992 NLCS and the '57 World Series. To bounce back in successful fashion again, they will need to regain stability within the rotation and continue to count on their talented core of key relievers, most of whom weren't needed, primarily because Ynoa allowed just one hit while recording 12 outs.

's struggles in the eighth forced the entry of , who hadn't pitched since Game 3 of the NLDS. But still, the Braves should have essentially a full complement of relievers available for Thursday night's game. That includes and closer , both of whom had pitched in the first two games of the series.

"Ynoa did a great job extending the game, and we stayed away from all the guys that we normally go to," Snitker said. "So if you've got to lose the game, at least we didn't burn out the bullpen trying to stay close. That's probably the only good thing that came out of this."