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Led by d'Arnaud, Braves 'do damage' in G1

@mlbbowman
October 7, 2020

Five years after helping the Mets make a magical run to the 2015 World Series, Travis d'Arnaud is ready to help the Braves enjoy what would be their most satisfying postseason in nearly two decades. The intimidating strength of the Braves’ powerful lineup is immediately seen, with Ronald Acuña Jr.,

Five years after helping the Mets make a magical run to the 2015 World Series, Travis d'Arnaud is ready to help the Braves enjoy what would be their most satisfying postseason in nearly two decades.

The intimidating strength of the Braves’ powerful lineup is immediately seen, with Ronald Acuña Jr., Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna filling the first three spots. But the depth of this bunch comes from the presence of such guys as d’Arnaud, who hit a go-ahead homer in a six-run seventh that resulted in a 9-5 win over the Marlins in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

“We’ve got a lot of weapons,” d’Arnaud said. “I’ve been on some very talented offensive teams. This team is very talented. One through nine, we can all do damage to all fields. It’s pretty incredible.”

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 ATL 9, MIA 5 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 7 ATL 2, MIA 0 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 8 ATL 7, MIA 0 Watch

Even though ace Max Fried lasted just four innings, the Braves once again proved mighty enough to erase an early deficit, hitting three home runs in a playoff game for the first time in 19 years and winning the opening game of an NLDS for the first time since 2001. (Coincidentally, that most recent Game 1 win also came at Minute Maid Park.)

Box score

The Braves entered this series having lost eight straight NLDS openers. If they win two more times during this best-of-five series, they will advance to the NL Championship Series for the first time since 2001, when Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were still headlining their postseason rotations.

“It’s a great feeling, especially when you can come back and win a game in the manner we did today,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s big. It gives us confidence going into tomorrow.”

Acuña provided an early boost when he became the youngest player to hit a leadoff homer in the postseason. But Acuña's biggest spark might have come in the third, when Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara bruised his left hip with a 97.5 mph fastball.

After their young superstar was plunked for the fifth time in his career by the Marlins, the Braves staged a rally in a two-run third that pulled them within one at 4-3. The runs came courtesy of consecutive RBI doubles tallied by Ozuna and d’Arnaud, who would also team up to construct the decisive rally four innings later.

“Obviously, all of us knew what was going on,” d’Arnaud said. “They woke us up, and we were able to score a couple huge innings and come out with a win, which was the most important thing.”

After Ozuna delivered a game-tying RBI single off reliever Yimi García, d’Arnaud followed by depositing his game-winning homer over the center-field wall. The three-run blast highlighted a three-hit game for the veteran catcher, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal with Atlanta in November.

“This was what I was thinking about the whole offseason, being able to play in the playoffs again and have an opportunity to win a ring,” d’Arnaud said. “Over here, I like our chances. Everybody over here has the same mindset of wanting to win it all.”

Dansby Swanson added a two-run homer during the big seventh, which marked the first time the Braves produced a six-run inning in the postseason since Game 4 of the 1998 NLCS against the Padres.

While sweeping the Reds in the Wild Card Series last week, the Braves totaled two runs through the first 20 innings before Ozuna and Adam Duvall hit two-run homers during their final turn to bat.

Going homerless that long was odd for a team that homered once every 20.14 at-bats during the regular season. So Tuesday's win in the NLDS opener looked a little more familiar. It's the first time the Braves hit three home runs in a playoff game since Marcus Giles, Javy Lopez and B.J. Surhoff went deep in Game 2 of the 2001 NLCS.

“This is a really deep lineup,” Fried said. “One through nine can hurt you. As long as they’re taking good at-bats, we’ve got a good chance to put up some numbers.”

Making his second career postseason start, Fried lacked the efficiency he displayed while tossing seven scoreless innings against the Reds in the Wild Card Series. He cruised through a perfect first inning, surrendered Miguel Rojas’ long home run in the second, then labored during a three-run, 31-pitch third.

Fried allowed four runs and six hits while throwing 70 pitches over four innings. But thanks to their latest comeback, the Braves are now 12-1 whenever he has started a game this year.

“As long as we’ve got a strike left, we’re pretty dangerous,” Snitker said.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.