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Missed opportunities haunt Braves in Game 1 loss to Phillies

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game One Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

You probably couldn’t have scripted a much worse playoff start for the Atlanta Braves, who suffered a 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the Division Series Saturday night. It was the first time that the Braves had been shutout at home since August 28, 2021, against the San Francisco Giants. Atlanta was shut out just twice all season long, in San Diego on April 19 and again in Toronto on May 12.

“I think it was their pitching. I thought Suárez did a really good job of mixing using all of his pitches,” Snitker said when asked about whether it was an off night for the offense or the Phillies’ pitching that led to Atlanta’s struggles. “He located his fastball really well. The changeup was really good. He did a great job. I think that’s going to happen, and I think it was more their pitching than our hitting.”

The Braves were held without an extra base hit in the game and left seven men on base while going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The offensive performance spoiled a good outing by Spencer Strider, who allowed two runs and struck out eight in seven innings.

It wasn’t as if the Phillies offense set the world on fire either. Their first run came in the fourth inning as Bryce Harper walked and then moved to second on an errant pickoff attempt by Strider. The attempt came with an 0-2 count on Bryson Stott, who brought him home with a single to left field.

The Braves had a chance to answer right back, but were unable to come up with a timely hit. Ranger Suarez didn’t allow a hit until two outs in the fourth when Matt Olson lined a single to left. Ozzie Albies then reached on a force play where Olson beat out Turner’s throw to second. Olson was originally called out on the play, but the Braves challenged and the call was overturned. Phillies manager Rob Thomson would give Suarez a quick hook and send in Jeff Hoffman, who immediately walked Marcell Ozuna to load the bases. However, Michael Harris II went down swinging to leave the bases full.

“We had a few. I think there was three times in the game I felt like we had a chance to pierce the gap and get something going,” Snit said on the missed opportunities. “Those were big outs.”

Atlanta again threatened in the sixth as Orlando Arcia led off the inning with a single and then advanced to third on a pinch-hit single by Eddie Rosario. With the top of the order up, Seranthony Dominguez struck out Ronald Acuña Jr. looking and Austin Riley swinging to stave off another rally.

Harper extended the lead in the sixth with a solo shot that just snuck over the wall in right field. The homer came on a slider down and in and didn’t appear to be a bad pitch.

“Well, he is. He’s a big gun-type player,” Snitker said of Harper. “He’s a Hall-of-Famer. It doesn’t surprise me when he does great stuff. You gotta really make pitches on him. Things like that are going to happen.”

“We didn’t score, so it didn’t really matter. But he’s definitely a guy that you’re aware of where he’s coming around and where he’s at in the batting order because he’s proven that he loves this stage.”

Their final run came in the eighth as a catcher’s interference call forced home Trea Turner to round out the scoring. Sean Murphy said after the game that he didn’t feel the bat hit the glove, but thought he heard it. Snitker said he really couldn’t tell from the dugout, but went by the reaction on the field.

“All I had was the big board. I looked, and Murph didn’t say anything, and I don’t know that a hitter reacts like that,” Snitker said. “Things happen too quick for a guy to react like that if it didn’t happen, but I couldn’t tell off the video there.”

The nail in the coffin came for the Braves in the eighth. Acuña worked a leadoff walk and then moved to second on a single by Riley. Matt Olson flew out deep to center for the first out before Albies sent a sharp grounder that Turner made a diving stop on and flipped to second to start the inning-ending double play. All three balls in the inning had exit velocities of over 100 mph, but the Braves again came away with nothing.

“Obviously there was a bunch of big outs. Probably none bigger than Ozzie’s that Turner dove and turned the double play,” Snitker said. “He hit that ball really well. It’s one of those things that happen sometimes. The pitching shut us down.”

Snitker elected to shuffle his lineup before the game by moving Austin Riley into the second spot in the order while dropping Albies to fourth. When asked about it after the game, he didn’t think that played any factor into the team’s offensive struggles.

“No. When you get in the batter’s box, they don’t know where they’re hitting,” Snitker said of the lineup changes. “No, I don’t. You know what, you get in there, and it doesn’t matter. No.”

Philadelphia put plenty of pressure on the Braves with their running game. Murphy threw out J.T. Realmuto in the second with a perfect throw, but the Phillies stole five more bases in the game. Turner singled and then stole second and third off of A.J. Minter in the eighth to get to third to set up the final run that scored on the catcher’s interference.

“We’ll have to do a better job than we did. That’s for sure,” Snitker said of the stolen bases. “We knew that coming in, that they’re aggressive. It’s one of those things. Murph made a couple of really good throws. Overall, they’re very opportunistic, and they got a lot of guys with a lot of success in stealing bases, too. We’re going to have to do a better job holding the ball and things like that.”

Game 1 couldn’t have gone much worse for the Braves. They wasted a good start from Strider and their league-best offense was essentially shut down by the Phillies’ third starter and their bullpen. They now face the daunting task of facing Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola in Games 2 and 3. No one ever said that it was going to be easy though. Snitker said that the team’s focus has to simply be on winning Game 2.

“We gotta regroup and come back and win Monday right now, really,” Snitker said. “We got a really good pitcher that I feel really good about on the mound, and we can’t, I don’t think, dwell on that. I mean, we just gotta look forward to the next game.”

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