The Braves' first postseason game in five years, and the first moment in the national spotlight for the team's young core didn't quite go as planned.
The Dodgers jumped on Mike Foltynewicz, while the Atlanta offense couldn't get going against Hyun-Jin Ryu in a 6-0 loss Thursday night in Game 1 of the National League Division Series that has the Braves needing a major breakthrough against a future Hall of Famer.
The pressure is on, and there's plenty to breakdown after the series opener.
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1. Mike Foltynewicz's postseason debut goes awry in a hurry
The moment? It may have gotten to Mike Foltynewicz, and so too, did the Dodgers.
He gave up a leadoff home run to Joc Pederson -- the right-hander challenged a hitter with 17.0 wFB with, yes, a fastball that came in at 98.5 mph -- and then in facing Pederson for the second time, was ahead 0-2 on him with two outs before plunking the outfielder with a slider. A walk to Justin Turner later, Max Muncy launched a three-run shot.
The 26-year-old All-Star did strike out five while yielding three hits, but lasted just two innings in what marks the shortest start of his career. Only one came close, when he went just 2 2/3 on Aug. 11, 2017 against the Cardinals, and this outing continued a dubious run for Braves starters taking the mound for the first time in postseason series openers.
"I've been thinking about that (0-2 count) all night especially in years past, two strikes and two outs, pretty much for all that to unwind like that really takes the cake," Foltynewicz said. "It's really tough to go out there. You know, you're grinding. You get two quick outs and then to get two strikes, hit the batter, fall behind, turn and walk them, and for that to happen and put your team down 4-0 in the second inning is not where you want to be, especially opening up a series and then you have (Clayton) Kershaw tomorrow."
Foltynewicz is the fifth Braves pitcher to debut in a Game 1, and like Kris Medlen in 2012, Tom Glavine in 1991, Pascual Perez in 1982 and Phil Niekro in 1969, he took the loss.
There is now the potential, that in pulling Foltynewicz after throwing 29 strikes on 50 pitches, manager Brian Snitker could go back to him in a Game 4 instead of a Game 5 that would have had Foltynewicz pitching on normal rest.
That's a positive, as were the first postseason appearances of lefties Sean Newcomb and Max Fried. Newcomb -- who took a no-hit bid down to the final strike when he last faced the Dodgers on July 29 at SunTrust Park -- struck out two with one hit allowed over two innings, and Fried didn't allow a hit over his 1 1/3 innings with a walk and a strikeout.
When the Braves announced their NLDS roster, it was a surprise that they carried both Newcomb and Fried, who are by trade, starters. Newcomb had never come out of the bullpen until Sunday's regular-season finale vs. the Phillies, though Fried had made nine such appearances this season and five in 2017.
But carrying them both allowed for Snitker to have options who could pitch multiple innings if things went awry for a starter. It happened faster than anyone could have predicted, but in another of those positives, the Braves were able to get young arms, including Chad Sobotka, a taste of postseason action as Atlanta finds itself now needing to rebound in this short series.
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2. Dodgers' approach neutralizes aggressiveness of Ronald Acuña Jr.
Curiously going with Hyun-Jin Ryu instead of future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw in the series opener could have backfired. Instead, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts looks the part of a genius as Ryu tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and walking eight with no walks.
He also set the stage for a rough night from the likely NL Rookie of the Year, as the Dodgers' approach kept his aggressiveness at bay.
Ronald Acuña Jr., who hit 71 percent above league average in the second half and carried a 140 wRC+ over the final month, went 0-4, and when he reached on a Manny Machado error in the sixth inning, was thrown out trying to steal second after Johan Camargo struck out.
It was that kind of night, as the Dodgers simply didn't play to what's made Acuña so dangerous, which is feasting early in the count. Hitting .473/.482/.873 on first pitches, and .363/.505/.688 when he's ahead in the count, the Dodgers simply didn't let Acuña get into those comfortable situations.
In his first at-bat, Ryu threw him a 75-mph curveball on the outside of the plate for a strike; the next time up, Ryu led with a changeup at 78 mph on the outside edge, and it was a 71-mph curveball that missed outside in Acuña's third AB.
Caleb Ferguson stuck to that script, offering a 76-mph curveball in Acuña's final plate appearance in the eighth.
The Dodgers got ahead of the phenom in all but one of his at-bats, playing to the splits that show he's hitting .181 when down 0-1, .194 when down 1-2 and .155 in 0-2 counts. In all, he's slashing .160/.178/.296 when the pitcher is ahead in the count.
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3. Braves will have to solve Clayton Kershaw in crucial Game 2
Regardless of what happens Friday night in Dodger Stadium, SunTrust Park is going to host its first postseason game. Guaranteeing that extends past just one game, though, will mean doing something they've never done: beat Clayton Kershaw.
This has, statistically-speaking, a down year by the three-time Cy Young winner. His 2.73 ERA is his highest in eight years while he's had his lowest strikeouts per nine innings (8.6) since his rookie season of 2008. But try telling that to the Braves, who Kershaw tamed for 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts on July 27.
In his career, Kershaw is 4-0 with a 1.43 ERA in 10 starts against the Braves, but over the past four seasons, he's yielded just three earned runs in 39 2/3 innings with 44 strikeouts and three walks.
Freddie Freeman has the most experience against Kershaw, hitting .240/.321/.360 and Nick Markakis, who is slashing .444/.444/.667, is the only Braves player with an OPS above .429 against him.
While Kershaw had a reputation for not living up to his standards in the postseason, the reality is he's yielded more than two runs in just one of his last five playoff appearances.
It's a daunting task, and with Roberts giving Kershaw an extra-day's rest -- where he's been at his most effective this season with a 2.25 ERA in five starts -- and given some added motivation after being passed for for the Game 1 start.
The Braves will counter with a pitcher who has been one of the biggest surprises during their surprise run to the NL East crown.
Anibal Sanchez has been the team's second-most valuable starter with a 2.4 fWAR, and owns the game's third-most valuable changeup at 15.0 wCH and a cutter that's second to only the Indians' Corey Kluber at 11.8 wCT. Meanwhile, he's relying on a once dominant fastball less than he ever has, throwing it just 38.1 percent of the time.
That could be a viable recipe against a Dodgers team that is the NL's best against the fastball (73.4 wFB) and is 11th vs. the changeup (9.9 wCH) and 18th vs the cutter (minus-4.0).