The Los Angeles Dodgers are right back where they were at this time last year, ahead 1-0 in the National League Division Series after topping the Atlanta Braves 6-0.
Los Angeles took down the Braves behind a superb performance from pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and home runs from Joc Pederson, Kike Hernandez and Max Muncy on Thursday.
The Braves walked eight batters and hit another in their first MLB playoff game since 2013. Three of those runners came around to score.
Folty didn't have it
Mike Foltynewicz had a wonderful season, posting career highs in starts (31), wins (13), ERA (2.85), IP (183) and strikeouts (202). But no matter how good he was in 2018, he simply did not have it in game one on Thursday.
The 2010 first-round pick tossed just two innings and allowed four earned runs on homers by Pederson and Muncy. Foltynewicz laboured through a 28-pitch first inning and gave up three runs on the Muncy home run after getting two quick outs to start the second.
Foltynewicz has a tendency to get going a little fast at times and might have let some nerves get to him. However, as Luis Severino showed last year, a young starter can come back from a rough beginning to contribute down the line. The Braves will likely need to win two of the next three though if Foltynewicz would want to get another chance.
Has Roberts learned his lesson?
Dave Roberts may have cost his team a World Series title last season simply because he overused his bullpen. The Dodgers did not have a single starting pitcher toss more than 6.3 innings in the seven postseason games leading up to the World Series, meaning their bullpen accumulated 27 innings of work before Los Angeles even got to the Fall Classic.
The bullpen was gassed before the World Series and blew leads in game two and five which resulted in losses that were the difference in the series. But it looks like Roberts is on his way to learning his less. Ryu threw a season-high 104 pitches on the way to seven shut-out innings as he posted a starter longer than any a Dodgers pitcher made in last year's postseason.
Part of that is the Dodgers do not have the same bullpen they did a year ago as Brandon Morrow moved on to the Cubs in free agency, but one would hope another portion is due to the fact the bullpen was so tired at the end of the World Series last year. Roberts may have learned his lesson.
Machado must be more
The Dodgers acquired Manny Machado for one reason and one reason only: to compete for a World Series. Yes, they needed a replacement at shortstop, yes, they needed him to win the NL West and yes, if you can get a player like Machado, you go out and get him.
However, the reason the Dodgers trade dfor Machado was to compete for the World Series. Machado can be the absolute best player in the NL playoffs if he wants to (though Christian Yelich will be hard to beat right now). He can be the difference in every series he plays in the NL playoffs and could be again in the World Series, but if he plays like he did Thursday, you can kiss that idea goodbye.
Machado struck out his first two at-bats, grounded into a double play his third and struck out again with two runners on in his third time to the plate. He has had his effort questioned by Roberts, posted a .338 OBP in 66 games with Los Angeles, which was down from his first half in Baltimore, and he made a lazy error in the middle of the game as well. If the Dodgers want to get to the World Series they need more than that out of Machado, if they want to win the World Series they need an exponentially better performance from him.
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