ATLANTA — Perfect MVP moments don’t come around too often, but when they do, players want to make the most of it.
And that is exactly what Austin Riley did Saturday night.
The Braves third baseman hit a walk-off single to give Atlanta 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1. Ozzie Albies scored the game-winning run from second. Will Smith picked up the win.
“That was my first one ever. I’ve come up in quite a few situations earlier in the season and wasn’t able to get it done. But to get it done tonight was awesome,” Riley said.
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It is the second straight year that Riley was the NLCS Game 1 hero for the Braves. In both games, he had the game-winning RBI off Dodgers pitcher Blake Treinen.
“I think he has confidence in himself. You see what he’s doing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That kid definitely has taken the next step forward.”
Saturday night marked the first time Atlanta has hosted a NLCS game since the 2001 series with Arizona. Last year’s NLCS with the Dodgers was held in a neutral site.
The Braves players said they fed off the energy of the 41,815 sellout crowd.
“I’m super proud and happy of how they cheer for us. Tonight was special. I’m really happy we got that W for them,” Albies said.
Unlike the first games against the Brewers, Atlanta didn’t waste runners in scoring position to start Game 1. Eddie Rosario had a lead-off single and scored the first run of the game on a wild pitch.
The Dodgers took the lead with a RBI double from Chris Taylor and Will Smith home run.
Riley, an underrated candidate for NL MVP, showed off his power with a blast to left field to tie the game at 2-2.
Max Fried pitched six innings with five strikeouts before the Braves went to the bullpen in the seventh.
“Six innings are tough in a playoff game. It’s just such an emotional and adrenaline type driven outing there,” Snitker said.
Tyler Matzek and Luke Jackson kept the top of the Dodgers lineup off the scoreboard.
Smith and the Braves defense took care of the bottom of the LA lineup in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Cody Bellinger hit a single, but Chris Taylor got caught in a rundown with Riley and Dansby Swanson.
That sequence preserved the tied game and later set Riley in the position for the walk-off.
“I thought if he would have kept going, he might have had a chance at third,” Riley said. “But that was a great play by Dansby. Just being able to get out of that inning there was huge.”
Game 2 will begin Sunday at 7:37 p.m. at Truist Park.
The Braves announced Ian Anderson will get the start while the Dodgers are turning to Max Scherzer.
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