The Atlanta Braves finally got their chance to work toward another playoff run to the World Series. However, much like 2022, it didn't pan out how they'd hoped it would in game one of the NLDS. They were shut out by the Phillies 3-0.
There wasn't a lot of offense from the Braves who carried one of the best offensive teams in franchise and maybe even baseball history. The Phillies came prepared as they always do and pitched well enough to keep Atlanta off the board.
When the playoffs roll around, it doesn't matter what you've done in the regular season. Postseason baseball is a different beast. Let's get into a few takeaways from a rough start to the series.
1. Snitker's Lineup Tweak Didn't Pan Out
To the surprise of all Braves fans, the lineup for the first game of the NLDS was vastly different from the one they saw all season. For whatever reason, Snit decided it was time to try something new and tried to employ a little strategy.
The idea is that Philly has some really good left-handed pitchers in the bullpen and he thought having Albies and Ozuna batting behind Olson would force the Phillies' hand with bullpen decisions. Unfortunately, it didn't work out.
Atlanta just couldn't get a hit in a big situation. The Braves were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left 7 runners on base. It's not like the Phillies were much better in that department, they also left 7 on base but were able to go 2-for-8 with runners on base. Those two runs plus the solo homer to Harper was just enough to steal game one at Truist Park.
It was a curious decision to have Riley batting second and Albies batting cleanup. Riley had been so good all year in the 3 spot, it truly was a baffling decision to move him in a big game. Not to mention, Riley has only batted in that spot once in his career before this.
You still have the best 4 batters on the team batting early in the game but with how well the lineup worked all season, why change things up? However, you could still argue if it really matters that much. They didn't get hits with the lineup set yesterday and there were games during the season where the normal lineup struggled as well.
Ranger Suarez has the Braves' number as he continued his stretch of good work against them until being removed early. That move looked like it would come back to bite the Phillies as the Braves were able to get runners on but the Phillies made big plays to keep runs off the board. You have to tip your cap and come out swinging in game 2.
2. Spencer Strider Silences Critics
Atlanta Braves flamethrower, Spencer Strider, had something to prove in game one of the NLDS. The Phillies jumped all over Spencer during the 2022 NLDS and their fans surely will not let us forget about it. The gif of Rhys Hoskin's bat slam has been shared a billion times at this point.
Yes, Strider got the loss on Saturday but that's more due to the fact that the offense didn't show up. They were shut out at home for the first time since the 2021 season. Spencer had a couple of blunders including a bad pickoff attempt with Bryce Harper on first base. If Spencer had a do-over, I'm sure he'd focus on getting out Bryson Stott who was 0-2 with 2 outs in the inning. It's better to concede the stolen base at that point.
Stott eventually got a hit and drove in the first run of the game. Strider allowed a solo homer to the aforementioned Harper in the 6th inning. Bryce was certainly sitting on that first pitch slider and drove it out.
However, it was an overall great start for Strider. No one would have complained knowing ahead of time that Spencer would pitch 7 innings allowing just 2 runs and strike out 8 batters. You could tell Strider was aware of how well he was pitching as he was seen arguing intensely with Rick Kranitz in the dugout after being pulled from the game.
Snit talked about this in his post-game comments about that being one of the best things about Strider.
""It's just kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing and he's coming off of there with a lot of adrenaline going on and it's hard to contain that sometimes. Which is awesome. That's what makes this kid great." "- Brian Snitker on Spencer Strider
Phillies fans will likely contend that they still own Spencer Strider but I'd argue the opposite. He proved in this start that what happened last year is behind him. It's just unfortunate that the offense couldn't give him any support.
3. The Phillies Were Up To The Challenge
Philadelphia came out swinging literally as Kyle Schwarber got a hit on the first pitch of the game. The Phils just kept it going all night and their pitching did just enough to keep Atlanta off the board.
The Braves had some chances to get a run in but the Phillies defense was prepared and made some great plays. The bottom of the 8th inning was the best chance of the entire game for the offense to score. Matt Olson was up to the play with two runners on with no outs.
He launched a ball into the night sky but he was just underneath the ball and it ended up being a flyout to the warning track. However, it advanced the runner from second to third. It felt like the Braves would at least come away with a run.
Ozzie Albies squared up a pitch that rocketed off of his bat to short. Trea Turner made an incredible play ranging to his left and diving for a ball that looked destined for center field. This allowed Philly to turn a double play and crush the Braves' chances of coming back to win the game.
This is playoff baseball and it often takes big plays in moments like that to decide a game. After that, the momentum was fully on the Phillies side. The Braves just couldn't get anything going in the bottom of the ninth against Craig Kimbrel.
The Braves will hope for better results on Monday as they send Max Fried to the mound. Hopefully, the offense picks up or Atlanta could be facing elimination as they head to Philly for Games 3 and 4. Stay tuned to HTHB as we prepare for more Braves playoff baseball.