In a briefly rain-delayed matchup on Monday night, the Atlanta Braves dropped the series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-6. With the loss, the Braves moved to 29-18 on the year, while the Dodgers improved to 30-19.
Coming off his best start of 2023, Charlie Morton started the game strong but ultimately suffered the loss, as he gave up six runs on seven hits while striking out five and walking two in 5.0 innings pitched.
Morton retired the side in order in the top of the first on just 11 pitches, including this pretty strikeout of old friend Freddie Freeman.
Charlie Morton, Filthy 83mph Knuckle Curve. pic.twitter.com/k8RNh4LX9x— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 23, 2023
The Braves continued their early scoring ways against Gavin Stone, as Ronald Acuña Jr. led off the bottom of the first with a double that just carried over centerfielder James Outman’s head, advanced to third on a Matt Olson groundout to first, and scored on a Sean Murphy RBI single—all within Stone’s first 10 pitches. Austin Riley then walked to give the Braves two on with one out, and Eddie Rosario channeled his inner 2021 NLCS self and sent one to the Chop House to give the Braves a 4-0 lead.
NLCS MVP ENERGY— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) May 23, 2023
Eddie Rosario keeps destroying the Dodgers. pic.twitter.com/a6V9EwRlDe
Stone, making just his second Major League start, did concede another walk to Marcell Ozuna and a single to Orlando Arcia in the frame, but the Braves didn’t score again.
The Dodgers got on the board with a solo shot to left center off the bat of J.D. Martinez in the top of the second.
The Braves went quietly in bottom of second and third, though in the latter frame, Riley did draw a walk that was quickly erased by a Rosario GIDP.
Morton struck out a pair of Dodgers in a scoreless top of the third before the wheels fell off a bit in the fourth. The Los Angeles rally started with a Freeman double up the middle, and the former Brave advanced to third on what should have been extra bases for Will Smith but turned into a flyout courtesy of Acuña Jr.
Ronald Acuña Jr.— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) May 23, 2023
Five-tool superstar. pic.twitter.com/XYs7dJgW39
Freeman would score on a bang-bang play at the plate following a ground ball to first from Max Muncy. Martinez kept the inning alive with a single to center and scored on a David Peralta RBI triple down the first base line, bringing the score to 4-3 through three and a half innings.
There were almost fireworks—though not the offensive kind—in the Atlanta half of the fourth, as Ozuna hitting Smith on a backswing led to the bullpens emptying but not coming in any further than the outfield.
Marcell Ozuna made contact with Dodgers catcher Will Smith on his backswing, which led to a situation between the Braves and Dodgers. pic.twitter.com/hP0xeeT5rB— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) May 23, 2023
Arcia did hit a single after the extracurricular activity, but Michael Harris II hit into Atlanta’s second double play of the evening to end any threat.
Things took a turn for the worse for the Braves in the top of the fifth, as a Miguel Rojas single and Mookie Betts walk turned into a towering three-run homer to the Chop House from Freeman, giving the Dodgers a 6-4 lead.
Atlanta got a run back in the bottom of the inning once Stone exited the game after walking Acuña Jr. and Olson on eight straight balls. Acuña Jr. stole third while Olson was making his way to first base—see for yourself below—and came home on a Murphy fielder’s choice.
Ronald Acuña Jr. just stole a base ... pic.twitter.com/3xTdmoiUkA— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) May 23, 2023
Riley followed the sequence with a double, his 500th career hit, to put runners on second and third with one out, but they were both stranded to leave the score at 6-5 in favor of Los Angeles at the end of 5 innings.
Joe Jiménez took over for Morton in the sixth and retired the first two hitters he faced before giving up a double to Rojas and being relieved by A.J. Minter, and the run scored on an ensuing Betts double, bringing the score to 7-5. Minter would go on to strike out Freeman to end the frame.
An Ozuna single to lead off the Braves’ half of the sixth led to their third double play of the game, this one off the bat of Arcia.
The Dodgers’ final run was scored by—you guessed it—Martinez, who ended the night 4-for-5 with a pair of homers. This second homer, off of Minter in the seventh, was a solo shot that could’ve been worse, as Murphy erased Muncy poorly attempting to steal second after singling ahead of Martinez.
Kirby Yates pitched a scoreless eighth, and Lucas Luetge a scoreless ninth for the Braves.
Atlanta edged closer in the eighth, with Rosario lacing a single off of Phil Bickford and coming around to score on an Ozuna double to the right field corner off Brusdar Graterol, but it wasn’t enough, as Graterol would retire Harris II, Acuña Jr. and Olson in order in the ninth to earn the save.
The series continues on Tuesday, with first pitch set for 7:20 p.m. Spencer Strider is slated to face off against Bobby Miller, the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect, in his Major League debut.