ATLANTA — The wrong side of baseball history is a profoundly dispiriting place to be, especially when there are still eight and a half innings left to play.
But that’s where the Braves found themselves on Wednesday evening in one of the most lopsided series clinchers in the long and storied chapters of the sport. Bummer for the home team. Bummer for a star-crossed sports city. And a bummer for a SunTrust Park sellout crowd of 43,122 expecting some legit Game 5 drama.
The visiting St. Louis Cardinals took out that crowd, two Braves pitchers and whatever else was in their way in a calamitous 10-run first inning on the way to a cruise-control 13-1 win.
It was as swift as it was stunning, given how close the series had been through the first four games, no more so than to starting pitcher and the main car-crash victim, Mike Foltynewicz.
“You notice how fast it went, not even getting out of the first inning,” Foltynewicz said. “It’s tough. It’s very embarrassing. Especially on a stage like this and to let people down.”
With Folty folding — and having plenty of company around him — the upstart Cards won the final two games of the best-of-five to take it by a 3-2 count. The Braves, meanwhile, lost a post-season series for an MLB-record equalling 10th consecutive time.
And that was just the start of the historic carnage awaiting the 2019 NL East champions.
The Cardinals sent 14 batters to the plate and scored 10 runs — TEN — the most ever in the first-inning of a post-season game. Foltynewicz couldn’t throw strikes and couldn’t get outs, getting the hook after allowing seven of the first eight St. Louis hitters to reach.
The only out the would-be ace of the staff managed was via a sacrifice bunt. Ugh.
“I haven’t been a part of quite something like that,” said former Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, who provided the Braves’ only run, a solo homer in the fourth. “All season we played better than that. I had high expectations for our team.
“This organization has a bright future ahead of it. I’m glad I got to be part of it. You have a sour taste in your mouth right now but if you look at the overall season we had, it was pleasure to be a part of it.”
By the end of the first it had become rather silly. Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty drew a bases-loaded walk for an RBI and later scored a run, all before he even threw a pitch.
It didn’t get much better for Max Fried, who relieved (sort of) Foltynewicz. Besides the walk to Flaherty, he allowed back-to-back doubles to Dexter Fowler and Kolten Wong.
So how did this happen? How did the Braves get dominated so thoroughly in their home park?
On the eve of the deciding game, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos spoke about the legacy of deciding games and the lasting images they provide. Of course the former Jays GM has one of the best in his memory bank, the 2015 Jose Bautista bat-flip affair back in Toronto.
And now he has one of the worst under his watch.
The Braves entered Game 5 with a 16-13 edge in runs through the first four. The 10-run first was a piece of work that will stand as one of the great debacles of the modern game.
Of the 14 batters that went to the plate, there were just five hits (including three doubles), four walks, an error, a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch. And yes, note the absence — 10 runs were scored and not one via a home run.
It was also marred with the error by Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, one that could have resulted in a double-play to minimize the damage. Instead, the mice allowed the brutality to continue.
“Everyone had sky-high confidence going into that game and them scoring 10 runs, it was hard to swallow,” said Freeman, who tried to place the blame on his own shoulders. “Everything went wrong.”
And it wasn’t just in the first, either.
The Cardinals reaching 13 by the third inning another record for the fastest that has happened in any post-season MLB game.
“I don’t know,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know that I’ve seen that many guys hit in the first inning that quick in my entire life. Your goal is to get in the playoffs because anything can happen after that. I guess we saw that. Anything did happen.”
For all their ability to make it to the playoffs, Wednesday’s humiliation will go down as yet another collapse for the Braves, who have made the playoffs 10 times since 2001 but can’t move on.
When they took a 2-1 series lead after Game 3 in St. Louis, odds were in their favour. But for the fourth time in their history they’ve gone to the deciding game of a best-of-five and for the fourth time they’ve lost.
Full credit to the Cardinals, who have a chance to win their first NL title since 2013 and a fifth since 2004. St. Louis, home to the Stanley Cup champion Blues, won their 11th World Series title earlier this decade in 2011.
Understandably, there was bedlam in the Cardinals dugout as the first inning unfolded. Trying to keep it calm was manager Mike Shildt.
“First of all, it was never enough runs, man,” Shildt said. “Just keep eating boys, keep going. Which we did.
“I love the fact that we added on after that and the next couple of innings as well. As far as that goes, this is a very present group, staying right there.”
Present, accounted for and moving on to the next round.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019