In an incredibly exciting and utterly intense game that went down to the wire, it was Austin Riley and his huge hits that made the difference and helped give the Braves a 3-2 win — giving Atlanta a 1-0 lead in the 2021 NLCS.
The Dodgers went with Corey Knebel as their opener for a second game in a row and the Braves were able to take advantage of it. New leadoff hitter Eddie Rosario got a leadoff hit to start things off and then stole second base while Freddie Freeman struck out to get in scoring position with one out. A groundout from Ozzie Albies moved him to third and then Rosario crossed the plate to give Atlanta the early lead after Knebel tossed a wild pitch, That was all the Braves got, but it was a rare example of the Braves doing a little bit of A-B-C baseball to bring in a run.
Because the Dodgers are the Dodgers, they responded immediately. In what was a theme for tonight, Los Angeles really got to work once there were two outs on the board. This time, A.J. Pollock hit a two-out double, then Chris Taylor followed it up with a single to plate Pollock and tie the game. So just like that, the game was tied and things were getting nervy again after a brief period of ecstasy.
There was no more scoring until the fourth inning, which is when the Dodgers broke the tie in a loud manner. In this particular at-bat, Max Fried threw two of the best curveballs he would throw all night to get ahead 0-2 on the other Will Smith. He then went for a fastball on the third pitch and Smith sent it soaring into the air and over the fence for a go-ahead, leadoff solo home run. After that, the Dodgers went down in order but Smith’s homer really felt like a bit of a sucker punch after the way that at-bat started for Fried.
Fortunately, it was Atlanta’s turn to make a quick response and it came in the form of a stunner from Austin Riley. After Ozzie flew out to start the inning, Riley pulled the third pitch he saw way over the bullpen in left field and clear into the seats in fair territory to make it a tie game once again. It was really impressive hitting on Riley’s part to keep it fair and everybody in that stadium was absolutely ecstatic to see it go over the fence.
From then on out, both pitching staffs proceeded to smack each other with body blows for the vast majority of this game. Max Fried didn’t exactly have his best stuff but by the time he had left the game after the sixth inning, those two runs from earlier were all that the Dodgers had to their name. Meanwhile, the bullpen game was working wonders for Los Angeles as they were routinely sitting down Braves hitters with relatively little trouble. Both pitching staffs were up to the task and rose to the occasion in this one and it was spectacular to watch. Tyler Matzek and Luke Jackson both continued to be lights out on the mound.
Eventually it got to the latter stages of the game and both teams went to their usual late-inning arms. Kenley Jansen retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth, which meant that it was Will Smith Time in the top of the ninth. As usual, Will Smith didn’t make things easy. He gave up the first walk of the game by any pitcher on both teams and it happened with two outs on the board because of course it did. Cody Bellinger then came on to pinch hit and while he did come through with a single, Chris Taylor did the Braves a huge favor after he got Thrown Out On The Base Paths Like A Nincompoop. The Braves have grown used to giving other teams those types of gifts during the Postseason so it was really nice to see this happen in favor of Atlanta this time.
It ended up being a major breath of life for the Braves in the bottom of the ninth. The Dodgers went with Blake Treinen in an attempt to get it to extra innings and while he struck out Freddie Freeman to hang the Golden Sombrero atop his head, the next two at-bats went wonderfully for Atlanta. Ozzie Albies got on with a bloop single that somehow found some grass, and then stole second base in order to set the stage for Austin Riley. The 2021 MVP candidate was given an opportunity to shine when it mattered most and hoo boy, did he ever shine.
Austin Riley’s walk-off capped off an incredibly tense-yet-wonderfully exciting 3-2 win for the Braves and gave them a crucial 1-0 lead in the NLCS. The pitching staff once again stepped up and gave a performance that was worthy of the occasion, and their fantastic efforts on the mound were enough to keep the Braves in the game. When it came to the action at the plate, the Braves were able to eke out the win over the Dodgers because Austin Riley said so.