ARLINGTON, Texas – The Baby Braves were the Battered Braves in their first loss of these playoffs.
Now the young pitchers who had been so poised and effective in the postseason must try to get Atlanta back on track.
Rookie starter Kyle Wright and the Braves gave up a postseason-record 11 runs in the first inning of a 15-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series on Wednesday night.
The 15 runs allowed in the first three innings were more than the Braves permitted in their first seven postseason games combined. And those 13 previous runs included seven scored by Los Angeles in the final three innings of Atlanta's 8-7 win in Game 2.
The Braves will have to remind themselves they still lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 on Thursday night in the first NLCS with no days off since 1978, and the first ever at a neutral site, the home of the Texas Rangers.
“I think at the end of the day it only counts as one game, right?” shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “Everybody in the clubhouse knows that.”
Another young arm making his postseason debut, Bryse Wilson, is next as Atlanta looks to retake control of the series. The Braves advanced to the World Series each of the previous three times they went up 2-0 in a seven-game NLCS, most recently in 1999.
It appears the 22-year-old Wilson will be facing LA's career leader in postseason victories, Clayton Kershaw. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after the game the lefty was expected to start just a few miles from his Dallas home after being scratched from Game 2 because of back spasms.
“We had the mindset of, we’ve just got to stay on the gas pedal,” Wilson said before Game 3. “They can come alive anytime. They’re a great team, great lineup.”
Wright gave up seven runs while getting just two outs after Atlanta starters allowed only five runs over 38 2/3 innings in the first seven playoff games.
The 25-year-old right-hander had one of the five scoreless starts for the Braves, who fell one win short of Kansas City's record eight straight victories to start the 2014 postseason.
“He got some bad hitting counts and you can’t do that against a team like this,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “You just have to turn the page. I talked to him. It’s just one of those days. We’ve seen what he’s capable of.”
Left-hander Grant Dayton replaced Wright and yielded eight runs in two innings, making them the second pair of teammates in postseason history to allow at least seven runs in the same game. Bartolo Colon (seven runs) and Steve Reed (eight) did it with Cleveland in a 23-7 loss to Boston in Game 4 of the 1999 ALDS.
Before this meltdown, Wright and 22-year-old Ian Anderson had given the Braves a pair of impressive rookie pitchers to go with young offensive stars Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies.
Wright pitched six scoreless innings in his postseason debut, a 7-0 win over Miami to clinch the NLDS, while Anderson hasn't allowed a run in 15 2/3 innings covering the first three playoff starts of his career.
Add lefty Max Fried to the mix, and Atlanta was just the second team to throw shutouts in four of its first five games in a postseason. The other was the 1905 New York Giants.
This time, the Braves made some history of a different sort as the first team to allow 15 runs and five homers in the first three innings of a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“The last four hours weren’t a lot of fun,” Snitker said. “Now that it’s over and you look back, if we had to lose the game that’s probably the best possible way.”
And now that the manager knows there will be a Game 5, he will face the question of whether to bring back Fried on short rest. Snitker seemed to suggest a bullpen game was possible, depending on how deep Wilson gets into Game 4.
“We'll see where we're at with the bullpen,” Snitker said.
LA's 11-run first made Acuña, Albies, MVP contender Freddie Freeman and the rest of the Atlanta offense irrelevant from the start. In fact, Acuña and Freeman were on the bench by the fifth inning with the game out of hand.
The first inning was so bad, Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud found himself pleading for a hit batter instead of a wild pitch that scored a run. They got their wish, with the replay showing the ball glancing off Justin Turner's back foot.
Mookie Betts had to go back to third instead of scoring, but that just loaded the bases for Max Muncy's grand slam into the right-field seats to cap the 11-run first.
Braves fans in the pandemic-reduced crowd of 10,664 at the new 40,518-seat retractable-roof stadium cheered sarcastically when Cristian Pache connected for a solo homer just inside the foul pole in left field leading off the third.
But it was a significant moment for Atlanta with another young potential star making his first postseason start after Adam Duvall was knocked out of the playoffs by an oblique injury.
The 21-year-old Pache became the seventh player in major league history to hit his first career homer in the postseason, and just the third non-pitcher. The most recent one, pitcher or otherwise, was by right-hander Joe Blanton for Philadelphia in the 2008 World Series.
“He’s had some good at-bats since we put him in there,” Snitker said. “A great training ground for him and he’s handled himself really well.”