But they all made noise – a warm, fully human sound that loosened up the atmosphere during the Braves’ 5-1 victory, their sixth straight this postseason, and reminded everyone of what was going on during that chaotic, pandemic-changed season was lost.
Fittingly, the Dodgers, who hadn’t lost a game in 18 days, and Braves, who hadn’t lost a game in 14 years, battled a pair of October juggernauts who in those playoffs with a double, flawless 5-0 record in that streak had gotten each other in a tie for eight tight innings before Riley’s fateful swing – at a 98 mph fastball left by Treinen on a 1: 2 count over the heart of the plate – broke the tie.
“I didn’t feel my legs running through the bases,” said Riley, who only hit the second homer who’d given up Treinen all year, regular season and postseason combined.
The Braves made another run when Marcell Ozuna brought Ronald Acuña Jr. home and two more when Ozzie Albies greeted left Jake McGee with a two-run homer to the center left – the fourth homer of the night in a stadium with keep the call of long balls in the park.
“I have a feeling it will be like that for the whole series,” said Brave’s first baseman Freddie Freeman, who faced Dodger’s starter Walker Buehler in the first round. “They have power arms. Any guy that comes out of their bullpen seems over 95. But our pitching team is pretty good too. It will be difficult to score against these guys. It will probably come.” down to the home runs. “
With ace Max Fried tossing home six strong innings and a trio of reliefs by pulling the last 13 Dodgers-hitters back in order, the Braves extended their historic run of exquisite pitching performances – including four shutouts in their top five Playing this postseason. It was at least as impressive to keep baseball’s worst offense to a single run on Monday night as it was to exclude the Cincinnati Reds or Miami Marlins. The Braves’ ERA in their first six games: 0.92.
Ace of Braves and a contender for the Cy Young Award, Fried, pretending to believe the 1-0 lead he took for the bottom of the first up the hill, would have to hold out all night. He hit the Dodgers’ first batsman, Mookie Betts, with a fastball at 96 mph and the second, Corey Seager, with a corner of 76 mph. In the fourth, he got Cody Bellinger on an 87-mile slider, Fried’s seventh strike of the night. He ended the night with nine K’s.
Game 2 will be Tuesday, with Braves rookie Ian Anderson versus legendary Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw.
Punctually at 5 p.m. central time on Monday, the doors to Globe Life Field were thrown open and the first paid fans to see baseball in person in 2020 poured into the stadium – in a socially distant way. The first stop: a temperature scan.
It was the first paid audience to attend a major league game all season, and MLB will continue to sell tickets with a capacity of about a quarter for the rest of the NLCS and World Series. The ALCS remains fan-free as MLB did not receive the same permits from government officials in California as it did in Texas.
The whole procedure was heightened from the moment the gates opened. Even the hitting practice was changed by the novel sight of fans who were now decidedly not socially far away, huddling along the outside railing to snag self-running balls that have been hitting violently against plastic seats all season. Throughout the night, the players on both teams seemed delighted to toss stray baseball balls into the outstretched hands of nearby fans.
“It was really weird to finish on the field before the game and see people in general,” said Dodger’s utility man Kike Hernández. “I think it was shocking for everyone, at least for the first few minutes. It definitely added a little more to this game. I missed what the roar of the crowd sounded like.”
On an unscientific scan of the stands, Dodgers fans appeared to be the majority, but there were plenty of Braves fans as well as a sizeable contingent of unfamiliar pieces who just seemed happy to see baseball again in person and who cheered it all on.
“You had to be happy with the product,” said Brian Snitker, manager of Braves. “It sure sounded like more [than 10,700]. People loved it. “
Globe Life Field debuted in 2020 and quickly jumped near the toughest ballpark stadiums to hit a home run at. It’s naturally cavernous and spacious, and even with the retractable roof open – as it was Monday night on a perfect 74-degree night – it plays big.
When Acuña, the Braves’ dynamic outfielder, slammed a 101-mile fastball from Dodger’s right-handed Dustin May into the deep right field in seventh rank, Acuña and May’s body language suggested they both thought he was leaving the ballpark. Instead, it hung in the air just long enough for Betts, the real outfield player, to sit in the warning lane below. The game was tied at 1.
But a homer without a doubt is a homer without a doubt everywhere, and there were four of them. Freeman, one of the best fastball players in the game, destroyed a 97-mile Bühler heater and dropped it a dozen rows down in the right field. As an exception, with fans in the stands, the ball didn’t have to sit there alone until someone thought of getting it back.
Hernández returned in the fifth, smashing a 2-0 curveball from Fried to the left for a solo homer, Hernández’s first goal of the postseason.
And during the crucial sequence in the ninth inning when the Braves jumped over Treinen and the Dodgers, the crowd was a mix of Braves fans standing, hacking their arms forward and chanting loudly – pulling those masks over their mouths and Nose guys! – and Dodgers fans are yelling at manager Dave Roberts to get Treinen out of the game.
After so many months with no fans and only can noises blasting through the speakers to take their place, even the ugly noises sounded great.