Photo Credit: MLB.com
The all too familiar Atlanta sports narrative reared its ugly head on Wednesday afternoon. The Braves were on the wrong end of the worst inning in Major League Baseball history. Their season, once so full of promise and excitement, came to a depressing end.
The Cardinals scored 10 runs…nope, that is not a typo. In an unimaginable first inning off of Foltynewicz and Max Fried at SunTrust Park, the Cardinals took the lead and coasted to a 13-1 blowout victory. All suspense was drained from the contest before the second out was recorded.
The Braves and Foltynewicz, who was charged with seven runs in just one-third of an inning, were left searching for answers and wondering how things could have degenerated so quickly.
It all self-destructed for the Braves and Mike Foltynewicz in the top of the first inning Wednesday. It was a gut-wrenching frame that was an almost mind-bogglingly awful way to start the most anticipated and important game in recent Atlanta team history.
The unrelenting “Haven’t advanced since 2001” factoid survives another October. The Braves tied an MLB record with their 10th consecutive postseason series loss. It might not have been 28-3, but it was the next worst thing.
From a Game 4 they knew they should have won Monday at St. Louis, to giving up the most first-inning runs in postseason history, this series followed the movie that many a Braves fan and team had seen many times before.
Whether it was Kirby Puckett in ’91, Dave Winfield in ‘92, Curt Schilling in ’93, Jim Leyritz in ’96, Livan Hernandez in ’97, 18 innings against the Astros in ’05, or any of the multitude of the disappointing playoff performances since the last postseason win for this team in 2001. The movie ends the same each time, with the Braves coming out with the short end of the stick.
“I’m very embarrassed for all this hard work for this team to do. Veterans, rookies, all these guys, for it to come down to this, not even give our team a chance before they get to bat”, said Foltynewicz. He gave up three hits, six earned runs and three walks before being pulled with only one out in the top of the first inning.
Many fans and pundits alike feel that the Braves got exactly what they deserved. This was after bowing down to the wishes of St. Louis rookie Ryan Helsley and removing the tomahawks. The team also removed the Tomahawk Chop music, from SunTrust Park prior to Game 5.
Helsley commented after Game 1 that he found the Tomahawk Chop, along with the foam tomahawks that the Braves have given out at games since 1991, “disrespectful” and a “disappointment” to his Cherokee Native American heritage.
It all but removed any home field advantage for the Braves and the Cards took advantage right from the first pitch.
A dejected Freddie Freeman looks on during the Game 5 loss to the Cardinals; Photo Credit: USA Today- Curtis Compton
When the full account of Freddie Freeman’s most awful week of baseball is written, the lamentations may not even begin with all the awkward swings he took against St. Louis in the 2019 National League Division Series.
It was his glove. The one deemed golden just a season ago. It betrayed him when the team he leads needed it most. “I didn’t come through. I know everybody’s going to say what they want to say, but this one’s on me”, said Freeman. He had one of the most overall horrific performances in his otherwise stellar career to this point.
There is some truth to his statement. One player on a team sport over 5 games cannot single-handedly be the cause of his team’s demise, but he has a point. The 3-4-5 hitters in the Atlanta lineup (Freeman, Donaldson and Markakis) went 10 for 60 (.166 avg) in the NLDS with 4 RBI’s (3 of those came from Donaldson).
The one moment most people will state was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was Freeman’s error on a ground ball. It potentially could have shut off the fire-hose torrent of runs. The Cardinals instead went on to win 13-1 and advance to the National League Championship Series.
“Freddie Freeman is one of the best players in baseball. You never expect him to make a mistake. The guy has been on point all season long. All I’m going to say is, Freddie is one of the best players in Major League Baseball”, said Josh Donaldson when asked about Freeman, along with the play of the team in this game.
Donaldson would go on to say “I think that’s what’s so disappointing about it, is all year we played better than we did today…. As a ballplayer you live for teams like this, and it was one of those things were we all fed off each other and it was fun to be a part of.”
McCann Calls It A Career
Photo Credit: AP
One of the side headlines of Game 5 came when Braves catcher Brian McCann announced his retirement. It has been an illustrious 15 year career for him.
It had been speculated when he returned to the Braves in November on a one-year contract that it probably would be Brian McCann’s final season. In recent weeks, he told some close friends and teammates that he was planning to retire.
It wasn’t until after the Braves were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of their National League Division Series that McCann said it publicly. Even then he did so quietly, without fanfare. It was in the subdued atmosphere of the home clubhouse Wednesday night following a 13-1 loss.
“This is everything I wanted to do. I wanted to come back and get a chance at the postseason,” said McCann, 35, an Atlanta-area native and Duluth High School graduate who was drafted and developed by the Braves and played his first nine seasons with them.
“This is it for me. I’m going to go home and be a dad, play with those kids.” In some ways, it didn’t seem right that such a storied career would end this quietly. For those who know him the best, it seemed appropriate.
This was not the end to the 2019 season that McCann, nor the rest of his Braves teammates had envisioned. Especially after winning 97 games and back to back division titles.
Year of Promise
This was the year that they would challenge the Dodgers. If it means anything as a consolation prize, they lost their own series to the Nationals.
Could it have been the fact that Acuna didn’t hustle that cost the Braves this series? Maybe it was the inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Maybe even Manager Brian Snitker’s micromanagement of the pitching rotations and bullpen selections.
The fact of the matter is this: the Braves overachieved in 2018 when they won the division, then lost to a deeper, more talented Dodgers team. This year?
After playing so well over 162 games, they lost to a Cardinals team they should’ve beaten and it shouldn’t have even been close. Too many mistakes, way too many wasted opportunities.
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