Spring Is In the Air and Pitchers Are Everywhere!

By Kevin McAlpin
Braves Radio Network

Ahhhh, baseball weather. Ok, maybe not quite, but believe me, Spring is in the air here in Central Florida. While Braves pitchers & catchers will officially report on Friday, this morning the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex was buzzing as 15-20 pitchers were already out playing catch in a light rain in right field at Champion Stadium.

FILE – Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Luiz Gohara (64), throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The first hurler to stand out as I entered the complex is Luiz Gohara. The 22 year old southpaw spent his offseason training here in Central Florida in hopes of shedding some weight and more importantly, having a normal offseason. A year ago, Gohara had to deal with the sudden loss of his father, his mother being ill back in Brazil and a couple of nagging injuries that limited him to just nine Big League appearances (13 total between AA and the Majors). Gohara is an intriguing name to keep an eye on over the next six weeks. With an electric fastball that can touch triple digits, sharp slider and occasional changeup, Gohara will find himself competing for either a spot in Atlanta’s rotation, or quite possibly, a role in the bullpen. For as hard as he throws, walks have typically not been an issue for Gohara coming up through the minors. Another plus when you’re talking about a possible late inning arm.

In my opinion, he’s also flying a bit under the radar coming into 2019. A year ago, I expected him to make a strong case to break camp in the starting rotation. But injuries wiped those hopes away rather quickly. With guys like Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson and others all competing for what essentially amounts to one spot, Gohara could be in prime position to be a darkhorse candidate. But, he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy to have any chance of heading north with the team in six weeks.

Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.

New Braves Spring Training Ballpark Named CoolToday Park

CoolToday signs 20-year Naming Rights Deal

 

North Port, FL (December 4, 2018) – The new Spring Training home of the Atlanta Braves has its name:  CoolToday Park.

Earlier today the Atlanta Braves announced a partnership with CoolToday for the naming rights of their new Spring Training ballpark, slated to host its first game on Sunday, March 24 with the Braves taking on the Tampa Bay Rays at 4:05 p.m.  Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“As part of our commitment to maintain a lifelong relationship with our community, this partnership with the Braves organization, City of North Port, and Sarasota County will cement our presence and strategy for southern Sarasota County,” said Jaime DiDomenico, President/Owner of CoolToday.  “The Braves have a proven track record of building strong ties to the community they operate in and we look forward to enhancing those ties going forward.  I’m very excited about what the future holds.”

The 20-year agreement includes scoreboard and dugout signage for CoolToday as well as exterior signage and promotional opportunities for additional events held at the facility.

“This is a new chapter in Braves history and one that strengthens Florida as our home away from home,” said Mike Plant, President and CEO of Braves Development Company.  “CoolToday and the Braves share deep roots in the state of Florida and we couldn’t imagine a more perfect partner for this facility.”

The state of Florida has been the home of Braves Spring Training for 96 of the last 103 seasons, including each of the last 73 springs since 1946 and are tied for the longest consecutive run of training in Florida of any team in baseball – the Cardinals, Phillies and Tigers have also trained in Florida every year since 1946.

CoolToday Park is being developed by the Braves in partnership with Sarasota County, the City of North Port and West Villages/Mattamy Homes.  Ground breaking on the facility occurred on October 16, 2017 and the first full Spring Training season will happen in 2020.

In conjunction with today’s unveiling a new website and Facebook page will go live for the facility.  To check out photographs and information on CoolToday Park go to www.braves.com/cooltodaypark.com and www.facebook.com/CoolTodayPark.

 

Atlanta’s Snitker, Oakland’s Melvin voted top MLB managers

By RONALD BLUM

NEW YORK (AP) — Bob Melvin’s job was a lot different as a rookie manager with Seattle in 2002, and even when he was voted Manager of the Year with Arizona in 2007 and Oakland in 2012.

“Organizations and certainly front offices are more a part of it now, and you have to understand that,” Melvin said Tuesday after winning his third manager award.

Melvin won the American League honor after leading the Athletics to the playoffs despite the lowest opening-day payroll in the major leagues.

FILE – In this Friday, Aug. 3, 2018 file photo, Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker looks on from the dugout before a baseball game against the New York Mets in New York. Atlanta’s Brian Snitker has been voted National League Manager of the Year after leading the Braves to a surprising first-place finish. Snitker received 17 first-place votes, nine seconds and one third for 116 points from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in balloting announced Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

Atlanta’s Brian Snitker won the National League award following a surprising first-place finish, a reward for a 63-year-old baseball lifer who has spent 42 seasons with the Braves. He thought back to how he returned to the minor leagues in 1986, 1991 and 2004 after stints on the staff of the big league Braves.

“Hey, I’ve been recycled three times from the major leagues as a coach,” he said. “Everything that I’ve been through I think has prepared me better to understand what these guys go through and what this job entails.”

A big league catcher from 1985-94, Melvin became a scout, instructor, front office assistant and coach before he got his first big league managing job in 2002 from Mariners general manager Pat Gillick, a future Hall of Famer. Now he works for Oakland executives Billy Beane and Dave Forst, proponents of the analytics movement that has swept baseball.

“When I started doing this a long time ago with Mr. Gillick in Seattle, their job was to give me the players and then it was my job to put guys in the right spots. And things have changed since then,” Melvin said. “It can be a little bit top heavy as far as where the information comes from, from our front office now, and you have to be able to adapt, or at some point in time you might not have one of these jobs. So I’m lucky enough to be with an organization that not only it’s my hometown but from a guy that I’ve known for quite a while in Billy and they do the best they can to consistently try to implement stuff and get us better. And it’s my job to accept it and move forward.”

Melvin received 18 first-place votes, 19 seconds and one third for 121 points from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He is the eighth manager to win three or more times and is one shy of the record shared by Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.

His A’s went 97-65, a 22-win improvement over 2017, even with a $68.6 million payroll when the season began. They overcame a 34-36 start to go a big league-best from June 16 on, even though Jharel Cotton, A.J. Puk, Sean Manaea, Kendall Graveman, Brett Anderson, Andrew Triggs and several other starting pitchers got hurt. They lost to the New York Yankees in the AL wild-card game.

“At the beginning, we were at little bit taken aback by the fact that we lost so many guys early on,” Melvin said, “but I think after that it was more kind of a badge of honor that someone goes down, we have to continue to have expectations to win and know we have depth in our organization and it’s next man up.”

Boston’s Alex Cora was second with seven firsts and 79 points after leading the Red Sox to a team-record 108 wins. Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash was next with five firsts and 57 points. The Rays’ innovation of using a reliever as an “opener” was copied by other teams later in the season, including Oakland.

“Based on the fact that we had so many starters go down and our bullpen was our strength, we were looking for ways to potentially get better,” Melvin said. “Certainly watching what they did over there and the success they had was partly one of the reasons we looked at it.”

Snitker received 17 firsts, nine seconds and one third for 116 points, the only manager picked on every NL ballot. Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell was second with 11 firsts and for 99 points. Colorado’s Bud Black was third with 41 points.

Snitker played in Atlanta’s minor league system from 1977-80, then worked in the minors as a roving instructor (1981), a manager at rookie league (1996), Class A (1982-84, 1986-87, 1992, 1997-2001), Double-A (2002-05), Triple-A (2006, 2014-16) and a coach at rookie level (1993-94) and Class A (1995). He was with Atlanta as bullpen coach (1985 and 1988-90) and third base coach (2007-13).

He was managing at Triple-A Gwinnett when he took over Atlanta in May 2016 after Fredi Gonzalez was fired for a 9-28 start. The Braves went 59-65 during the rest of the season, and Snitker was given the job full-time.

Atlanta went 72-90, and then improved to 90-72 this year, when the Braves lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a four-game Division Series.

“Everything I’ve been through, at my age I’m kind of very appreciative of what these guys do,” Snitker said. “I’m not looking to set the world on fire or anything like that. I’m just kind of just enjoying this ride.”

Cy Young Award votes will be announced Wednesday. The New York Mets’ Jacob deGrom, Washington’s Max Scherzer and Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola are finalists in the NL, and Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell, Houston’s Justin Verlander and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber top the AL contenders.

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Atlanta Braves Launching Online Auction to Benefit Red Cross Hurricane Michael Relief Efforts


ATLANTA (October 19, 2018) – The Atlanta Braves have created an online auction with all proceeds benefiting the Red Cross Hurricane Michael Relief efforts. The auction is now live at www.braves.com/charityauctions and will end at 7 p.m. ET on

Residents line up for food from the Red Cross outside a damaged motel, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, in Panama City, Fla., where many residents continue to live in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Some residents rode out the storm and have no place to go even though many of the rooms at the motel are uninhabitable. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

October 31. The team is also collecting needed items and asking Braves Country to make monetary donations to the Red Cross by visiting www.redcross.org/atlantabraves.

“We wanted to expand our outreach to the areas devastated by Hurricane Michael,” said Derek Schiller, Braves President and CEO. “The online auction allows our fans the chance to bid on one-of-a-kind items with all the proceeds benefiting the Red Cross. We hope this donation helps our neighbors in Florida and South Georgia in their recovery process.”
 
Items in the auction include a 2019 Atlanta Braves batting practice experience with four tickets to watch the team take BP next season as well as several autograph items from Braves players and coaches, including Ronald Acuña, Ozzie Albies, Charlie Culberson, John Camargo, Mike Foltynewicz, Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte, Kurt Suzuki, Dansby Swanson and manager Brian Snitker. There is also a jersey and a bat signed by the 2018 NL East Championship Team.
 
The team is continuing to collect food and supply donations at the SunTrust onUp Experience through the end of October. Located at 800 Battery Ave. SE Suite #110, the store front will be open for donations seven-days a week from noon-6 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and noon-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. All items collected with go to Feeding Florida, which assists the Panhandle and Tallahassee areas, and Feeding the Valley, which aids Southwest Georgia and Columbus.
 
Here is a list of items being collected by the Braves: granola bars, peanut butter, tuna, soup, fruit (cups, canned or dried), cereal, grits and oatmeal, rice and pasta, bottled water, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items.
 
Earlier this season, the Braves distributed over 6,000 tickets over three-days to those evacuated due to Hurricane Florence and raised $100,000 for Red Cross hurricane relief efforts through the 50/50 raffle and in-game silent auctions. For more information and other ways to donate, please visit www.braves.com/hurricanerelief.
 

 

Derek Schiller – President of Business, The Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves 2018 season is over, but now is when the work begins! Derek Schiller, President of Business for The Atlanta Braves, discusses with John some of the plans the Braves have for the 2019 season.  Will there be new player acquisitions?  Is Liberty Media, the owner of the Braves, ready to pony up some major cash for prime talent?  Listen in and find out what the Braves have in store for the fans next year, and the goals they have set for themselves as a team and organization!

Baby Braves bow out in playoffs, but the future looks bright

ATLANTA (AP) — Brian Snitker endured a restless night after the final game of the season.

Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna, left, and Ozzie Albies watch from the dugout while the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate a victory in Game 4 to win baseball’s National League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

He was poring over what went wrong for the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs.

He might’ve been thinking about his own future, as well.

“I laid awake all night staring at the ceiling,” the Braves manager said. “I couldn’t sleep.”

After assembling some of baseball’s finest young talent and making a surprising return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, Atlanta went down quietly in the postseason. The Baby Braves were shut out twice in Los Angeles before the high-powered Dodgers finished off the best-of-five series with a 6-2 victory in Game 4 on Monday.

The brief playoff appearance exposed a team that still has some glaring weaknesses . The pitching lacks a dominant starter, the lineup needs more power, and the bench wasn’t much help at all.

When Snitker looked over at the Dodgers, a star-filled team that earned its third straight trip to the NL Championship Series, he saw what the Braves must strive to become.

“We’re going to get there,” Snitker said, “but we’re not there yet.”

First up: The Braves must decide if their manager will be part of journey.

Snitker is not yet under contract for 2019, though there’s nothing to indicate he won’t return for his third full year at the helm — especially after a season that makes him one of the leading candidates for NL manager of the year.

The decision rests with general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who held meetings Tuesday with Snitker and the coaching staff but wasn’t available to the media.

Atlanta Braves interim manager Brian Snitker (43) gives a sign from the dugout during a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday, May 24, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“Until something gets done … I understand that you’re never guaranteed tomorrow,” said Snitker, who turns 63 next week. “I don’t know. I know I’d like to (return). I enjoyed it. I love that group in there. I like being around ’em. That group in there is awesome. I’ve got a few more years in me.”

The manager expects a quick decision from Anthopoulos.

“He’s not going to string anything out,” Snitker said. “I think by the end of the week I will know something.”

Freddie Freeman gave Snitker a robust endorsement.

“I’d love to have him back,” the slugging first baseman said. “He did a remarkable job. It’s really hard to handle 25 to 35 personalities, and he’s one of the best at it.”

After a massive rebuilding job and three straight 90-loss seasons, the Braves suddenly returned to prominence in large part because of a bountiful farm system led by Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and a seemingly endless supply of dynamic young pitchers.

The 20-year-old Acuna quickly stamped himself as a franchise player after coming up from the minors early in the season, flourishing in the leadoff spot while hitting .293 with 26 homers, 64 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Only 21, Albies tailed off badly in the second half but still batted .261 with 24 homers and 72 RBIs in his first full season in the big leagues. The lineup also included 23-year-old Johan Camargo, who had 19 homers and 76 RBIs, and 24-year-old Dansby Swanson (who missed the playoffs because of a late-season injury).

Among the 20-something pitchers, Mike Foltynewicz went 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA and made the All-Star Game for the first time. Sean Newcomb was a 12-game winner. Touki Toussaint, Max Fried and Mike Soroka showed plenty of potential in their limited opportunities. Top prospects Kolby Allard and Kyle Wright could be close to breaking through, as well.

Freeman (.309, 23 HRs, 98 RBIs) anchored the middle of the batting order along with another veteran, right fielder Nick Markakis (.297, 14, 93). Center fielder Ender Inciarte and catcher Kurt Suzuki also made key contributions.

“It wasn’t one guy one night and the same guy the next night,” Foltynewicz said. “It was really a team thing the whole year. It was really fun to watch.”

Markakis, who turns 35 next month, is set to become a free agent and may have played his last game for the Braves. Anthopoulos will likely be seeking a player who can bring more power to the middle of the lineup — a shortfall that was really exposed in the series against the Dodgers.

Los Angeles outscored the Braves 20-8, with eight homers producing for 14 of those runs. Atlanta was held to a pair of long balls, including Acuna’s grand slam in Game 3 that accounted for half of his team’s run production.

“We’re not a finished product by any stretch,” Snitker said.

Despite losing its ninth straight postseason series — a streak that dates back to 2001 and is eclipsed only by the Chicago Cubs dropping 10 in a row — just making the playoffs was a big accomplishment for such a youthful team. When Freeman struck out for the final out of the year, the crowd at SunTrust Park gave the Braves a standing ovation.

“It was an incredible experience,” Acuna said. “I definitely had a lot of fun.”

It looks like the fun is only beginning.

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Machado, Dodgers finish off Braves in NLDS with 6-2 win

ATLANTA (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers went through all the expected motions after winning a playoff series.

Atlanta Braves’ Johan Camargo sits in the dugout alone, the last to leave, while watching the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate a victory in Game 4 of baseball’s National League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

They broke out T-shirts and caps. They posed for pictures in the middle of SunTrust Park. They doused each other with beer in the clubhouse.

Then, just like that, their focus turned to bigger goals ahead.

For a power-packed team that hasn’t won a World Series since 1988, nothing less will do.

“We all know that there’s a lot more work to be done,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after his team finished off the Atlanta Braves with a 6-2 victory Monday in the NL Division Series. “We have eight more wins to go.”

Manny Machado hit a three-run homer and David Freese came through again in the postseason to lead the Dodgers into the NL Championship Series for the third year in a row. Los Angeles moved on to face the Brewers after taking out the Baby Braves 3-1 in the best-of-five series.

Game 1 is Friday night in Milwaukee, the Dodgers’ fourth championship series in six seasons.

“We prepared ourselves to get here,” Machado said, “and we’re not going to stop till we get what we want.”

Of course, this is just what the Dodgers had in mind when they bolstered their already power-packed lineup by acquiring the slugging shortstop — and free agent-to-be — from lowly Baltimore back in July.

Machado had only three hits in the series, but two of them were homers to go along with six RBIs. He got the Dodgers going in Game 4 with a run-scoring double in the first , and effectively wrapped up the series with his seventh-inning shot off rookie Chad Sobotka that cleared the Dodgers’ bullpen in left.

“There are so many expectations put on him,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of good players, but I can’t say enough about his focus and preparedness.”

Coming off a tense victory in Game 3, the Baby Braves grabbed the lead on pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki’s two-run single in the fourth.

But Freese, the 2011 World Series MVP with St. Louis, countered with a pinch-hit single of his own in the sixth off Brad Brach , driving home Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig for a 3-2 lead.

“You just gotta be ready,” Freese said. “Whether you’re in high school, college, whatever, just be ready. You don’t have to be the best player in the world, you don’t have to make the most money, but you’re going to have a shot to do something cool. I learned that early in my career. I just try and stick with it.”

Ryan Madson earned the win by getting the final two outs in the fifth to escape a bases-loaded jam. The Braves’ final gasp came in the eighth, when Lucas Duda’s drive into the second deck in right drifted foul with two on against Kenta Maeda. Duda flied out to end the inning, and Atlanta went down quietly in the ninth.

The Braves’ return to the postseason for the first time since 2013 yielded a familiar result.

Atlanta has lost nine straight playoff appearances, their last victory coming 17 long years ago against a team that is no longer in the National League. Since a sweep of Houston Astros in the 2001 NL Division Series, October has been a month of misery for the Braves.

Getting back to the playoffs ahead of schedule after a massive rebuild, Atlanta simply didn’t have the experience, depth or power to stick with the power-packed Dodgers. Los Angeles had a franchise-record 235 homers during the regular season and eight more against the Braves, accounting for 14 of its 20 runs.

Tinseltown has become Boomtown.

“They’re a very powerful team,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s what they’ve done all year is hit home runs. We’re not built like that yet.”

Los Angeles also benefited from some shaky Atlanta defense during its go-ahead inning. Puig kept the sixth going with a popup down the line off loser Jonny Venters that fell between second baseman Ozzie Albies and right fielder Nick Markakis .

Puig stole second without drawing a throw and came home when backup shortstop Charlie Culberson failed to knock down Freese’s sharp grounder up the middle. A super sub during the regular season, Culberson had to start in the playoffs because of an injury to regular Dansby Swanson.

“They played better baseball than we did,” Culberson said.

WILD STARTERS

Rich Hill of the Dodgers walked five in 4 1/3 innings, including a pair leading off the fifth that set up Suzuki’s two-run single. Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz walked four (one intentional) in four innings before he was lifted.

TOUGH OUT

Hill isn’t much of a hitter, but he sure made Foltynewicz work for an inning-ending strikeout in the fourth.

After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Hill fouled out five straight pitches.

Finally, Foltynewicz blew a 97 mph fastball by the .107 career hitter.

FIRST PITCH

The Braves brought out another Hall of Famer to deliver the ceremonial first pitch.

Former Atlanta manager Bobby Cox one-hopped his toss to the plate but still received a big ovation from the Atlanta crowd.

Chipper Jones threw out the first pitch before Game 3.

SMALLER CROWD

The announced crowd of 39,586 was nearly 3,000 smaller than the previous night’s record SunTrust Park turnout, perhaps because of a 4:30 p.m. start time that coincided with Atlanta’s notorious rush hour.

UP NEXT

The Dodgers beat Milwaukee 4-3 in the season series. Both teams won division titles with one-game playoff victories the day after the regular season.

Atlanta opens the 2019 season at Philadelphia on March 28.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

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More AP MLB: HERE and TWITTER.

Braves return home needing win vs LA to extend NLDS

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Dodgers head to Atlanta full of confidence after consecutive shutouts gave them a commanding 2-0 lead over the Braves in their National League Division Series.

Now the Braves must win the first postseason game in their new ballpark to extend their season. And they face some daunting history: only three times have teams that trailed 2-0 rallied to win a best-of-five playoff series under the 2-2-1 format.

Atlanta Braves base runner Ronald Acuna walks off the field after the final out in a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of a baseball National League Division Series, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal Constitution via AP)

Atlanta was outscored 9-0 and outhit 10-9 in losing the first two games at Dodger Stadium, where Los Angeles slugged five homers.

Game 3 is Sunday night at SunTrust Park, with Kevin Gausman expected to take the mound for the Braves. He was 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts after Atlanta acquired him from Baltimore at the July 31 trade deadline in a six-player deal.

The Baby Braves ran into back-to-back dominant pitchers in Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles. Atlanta didn’t advance a runner past second base in Game 1 and twice got runners to third in Game 2, but couldn’t score.

“We need to go out there and string some hits together, a couple big innings,” shortstop Charlie Culberson said.

They might be hard-pressed to do that against rookie Walker Buehler, who starts Game 3 for the Dodgers having drawn comparisons to ace Kershaw.

“Obviously, it’s a big spot,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said, “but he continues to kind of surpass all expectations.”

Buehler, a 24-year-old right-hander, last pitched on Monday, allowing one hit in 6 2/3 innings and striking out three in the NL West tiebreaker victory over the Rockies.

“I kind of look at it as like a baby step,” Buehler said about having pitched in a crucial regular-season Game 163. “Obviously, this will be my first playoff game. But 163 has got to be somewhere between a regular game and a playoff game. I’m just kind of going with the same game plan and try and stay under control.”

Atlanta manager Brian Snitker acknowledged he can’t do much more than juggle his lineup because the Braves’ bench is thin.

“I don’t know that moving guys around, giving them different looks in the lineup when you’re swinging the bats like we are is even the answer,” he said, “but we’ll try something a little different.”

The Braves closed the regular season with three losses in their last five games, managing just one run in those defeats.

“We’ve got to start scoring some runs and hopefully we can do that in front of our home crowd,” said first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was 1 for 8 with two strikeouts in the first two games.

Braves leadoff hitter Ronald Acuna Jr. fared only slightly better, going 2 for 8 with two strikeouts. Center fielder Ender Inciarte went 2 for 6 with two strikeouts, while cleanup hitter Nick Markakis was 1 for 7 with two strikeouts in the two losses.

“This team’s better when we’ve had our backs against the wall,” Inciarte said. “We’ve shocked a lot of people already — we can do it again.”

The Braves are back in the postseason for the first time since 2013, having won 90 games in earning the NL East title earlier in their rebuild than most projected.

However, the Braves are 1-8 in playoff series when they lose Game 2. Their lone victory came in the 1996 NLCS when they lost to St. Louis and came back to take the series in seven games.

“We’ve still got chances,” Culberson said. “We just need to take a deep breath and go out there and try to have fun.”

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Ryu sharp, Dodgers hit 3 HRs, beat Braves 6-0 in NLDS opener

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Dodgers made a surprising and much dissected decision to start Hyun-Jin Ryu over Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.

Swell choice.

Atlanta Braves watch during the seventh inning of Game 1 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The South Korean left-hander pitched seven dominant innings and Los Angeles launched three home runs to beat the Atlanta Braves 6-0 on Thursday night.

Ryu delivered in his first postseason start since 2014. He allowed four singles — all with two outs — struck out eight and walked none.

“He was in control. There was a lot of soft contact,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He was doing what he wanted to do. It was good to see, and we needed that one.”

The only slip Ryu made was when he mistook the second out of the fourth inning for the last out and started walking toward the dugout. He laughed upon realizing the gaffe.

The 31-year-old Ryu missed 3 1/2 months of the season with a groin strain and returned Aug. 15 to post a 1.88 ERA in 52 2/3 innings.

“When he came back we weren’t sure who we were going to get,” teammate Enrique Hernandez said. “It seemed like he didn’t miss a beat.”

Dodgers great Sandy Koufax was among those who gave Ryu a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout after his final pitch.

“I’m happy that I was able to keep my promise that I would go full-throttle from the get-go,” Ryu said through a translator.

Ryu even collected his first career postseason hit with a single in the fourth.

The Dodgers set franchise and National League records by hitting 235 homers during the regular season, and their tear continued with three more to begin their playoffs. The defending NL champions actually were outhit 6-5 by Atlanta, but the Braves only got singles.

“I don’t really feel like there’s anyone on this team that’s going up there trying to hit a home run,” said Max Muncy, who had a three-run shot with two outs in the second. “It’s just a result of us having a good approach and good at-bats. I feel like a lot of the home runs we’ve had have come off of long at-bats, working the counts and wearing the pitcher down.”

Game 2 in the best-of-five matchup is Friday at Dodger Stadium, with Kershaw starting for Los Angeles against Anibal Sanchez.

“A guy with his pedigree and his track record, we’re pretty excited to have him going tomorrow night,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said of Kershaw.

The Braves have lost eight straight series openers in the postseason. They haven’t won a Game 1 since 2001 when they went on to sweep Houston in the NLDS.

Rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. struck out twice and went 0 for 4 as the Baby Braves were blanked. This was Atlanta’s first playoff appearance since 2013, when they lost to the Dodgers in four games.

Joc Pederson’s leadoff shot in the bottom of the first rattled Mike Foltynewicz in his postseason debut.

Foltynewicz gave up four runs and three hits in two innings. The right-hander struck out five and walked two. He got out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the first by striking out Yasiel Puig.

“If you don’t have your fastball command, they’re going to spit on a lot of things, which they did tonight,” Foltynewicz said.

He found trouble again in the second.

With two outs, Foltynewicz hit Pederson and walked Justin Turner before Muncy sent a 1-0 pitch over the wall in center, making it 4-0.

“That three-run home run was big for all of us, including me,” Ryu said.

Hernandez hit a solo shot with two outs in the sixth off Brad Brach. Pinch-hitter David Freese added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Ryu allowed a two-out single to Freddie Freeman in the first.

After that, he retired 12 consecutive batters before a pair of two-out singles to Ender Inciarte and former Dodger Charlie Culberson in the fifth. Puig charged in on pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki’s fly to right field to end the inning. The Braves didn’t advance a runner past second base in the game.

Ryu gave up another two-out single to Ozzie Albies in the seventh. With fans on their feet waving blue towels and the crowd of 50,947 chanting his name, Ryu got Inciarte on a swinging strikeout to end the inning.

“Typically we’re not a team that strikes out a lot, and I think that just the fastball command really kept us off-balance the whole night,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Relievers Caleb Ferguson, Alex Wood and Dylan Floro completed the shutout.

AT HOME

Ryu was 5-2 with a 1.15 ERA in nine starts at Dodger Stadium in the regular season. The Dodgers went 7-2 in those games. That’s the lowest ERA among pitchers with 50 or more innings at home, according to STATS.

UP NEXT

RHP Anibal Sanchez (7-6, 2.83 ERA) starts Game 2 for Atlanta. He is 2-4 with a 2.79 ERA in seven postseason starts. He last pitched in the playoffs in 2014 with Detroit. Kershaw (9-5, 2.73) goes for the Dodgers. The veteran ace is 7-7 with a 4.35 ERA in 24 postseason games. He gave up four homers in Game 1 of last year’s NLDS, the most allowed by a Dodgers pitcher in playoff history.

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What Will the Braves’ NLDS Roster Look Like?

FILE PHOTO – Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (2) forces out Miami Marlins’ Adeiny Hechavarria (3) on a ground ball fielder’s choice by Ichiro Suzuki in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Miami. Suzuki was safe at first base.(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Today, while Braves players enjoy a well deserved day off, the front office and coaching staff are hard at work trying to narrow down what the 25 man NLDS roster will look like. While it seems safe to assume they will carry 12 pitches (4 starters and 8 relievers), the club may still opt to carry a third catcher in Rene Rivera to add the ability to use either Tyler Flowers or Kurt Suzuki off the bench, in the event that Dansby Swanson isn’t healthy enough to play. If Swanson can’t go, it would mean Charlie Culberson becomes the starting shortstop, thus weakening the depth on the bench.

As for who makes up the Atlanta bullpen, strong showings from both Touki Toussaint and Max Fried on the most recent road trip have bolstered their candidacy to give the team length from the pen. As for the final spot in the rotation, I’d say the last month has been enough for Julio Teheran to be the fourth starter.

A lot of tough decisions still need to be made, and again, health will prove to be a major factor. Along with Swanson, Lucas Duda has been bothered by a sore back of late. Arodys Vizcaino appears to have erased any concerns about his shoulder but the club still may be hesitant to use him on back to back days, thus meaning AJ Minter or Brad Brach could be called on for a save situation. Brian Snitker said the majority of Monday would be spent trying to go over multiple scenarios as far as the final spots go, and that it wouldn’t be a surprise if those final decisions weren’t made until Wednesday’s workout day on the road, meaning there may be guys who travel but don’t make the cut. There’s lots to keep an eye on over the next couple days, but most importantly, time to do the laundry, pay some bills and get ready to pack and head back on the road tomorrow afternoon!

@KevinMcAlpin has covered the Braves for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet since 2012.