ATLANTA (AP) — It was only the fourth inning, but Dansby Swanson couldn’t hide his frustration.
Slamming his bat and helmet against the ground and throwing his batting gloves aside, Swanson summed up the Atlanta Braves’ afternoon. It was an uncharacteristic move for the usually level-headed shortstop.
Of course, it was an uncharacteristic day for the reigning World Series champions.
Swanson struck out with teammtes on first and second to end the inning, two of nine runners stranded by the Braves in a 7-6 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of their NL Division Series on Tuesday. Atlanta was 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
Swanson struck out four times and stranded four before hitting a double in the ninth and scoring on Matt Olson’s three-run homer — a too-little, too-late comeback try.
“I didn’t think that today we played all that well,” Swanson said. “We did in moments, but not for all nine innings. We gave ourselves a chance at the end but weren’t able to come through.”
Braves ace Max Fried didn’t fare well, surrendering eight hits and six runs — four earned — in just 3 1/3 innings. It was his shortest outing since April 7, 2021 at Washington. The two-time Gold Glove winner made a rare error in the third that helped the Phillies score twice and take a 4-1 lead.
J.T. Realmuto reached on Fried’s throwing miscue, advanced on Bryce Harper’s sacrifice bunt and Nick Castellanos’ double off the right-field wall, and scored on Alec Bohm’s sacrifice fly. Castellanos scored from second on Jean Segura’s single up the middle.
Rhys Hoskins’ double in the fourth chased Fried, who ranked third in the NL with a 2.48 ERA. His 52 wins since 2019 are second only to Yankees ace Gerrit Cole at 56.
Fried refused to blame flu-like symptoms he’s been dealing with recently.
“I’m not going to make any excuses,” he said. “I took the ball today and put us in a big hole right off the bat. They came out swinging and had a really good approach, and frankly I just didn’t do my job today. The guys were counting on me to go out and have a good start and keep it a close game.”
Atlanta’s offense, meanwhile, couldn’t deliver enough big hits. Phillies starter Ranger Suárez escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first on William Contreras’ double-play grounder. Suárez walked the bases loaded in the third before striking out Travis d’Arnaud.
“We had him on the ropes,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He was struggling, too. We just couldn’t get a big hit. We had the decks stacked in our favor three times against him. And we just couldn’t — they got big hits and we didn’t.”
D’Arnaud was a bright spot for Atlanta’s offense, adding a two-run double in the fifth to his solo homer in the second to finish with three RBIs.
The Braves, who led the NL with 243 homers this season, couldn’t take advantage of seven walks before Philadelphia’s bullpen retired 11 straight batters during one stretch.
“Those are good arms back there, too,” Olson said. “A couple of guys throwing 100 (mph), right side and left side. A couple of guys that can spin it well. It’s a solid playoff bullpen.”
Atlanta, coming off its fifth consecutive NL East title, will turn to starter Kyle Wright, the major leagues’ only 20-game winner, in Game 2 on Wednesday to try and prove they’re the same team that went 78-34 after June 1, the best record in the majors over that stretch.
The Braves took some solace in knowing they lost Game 1 of the NLDS last year to Milwaukee before running off five wins in a row. They beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games in the NLCS and won the World Series in six games over Houston.
“I feel like this team’s always been good at responding well,” Swanson said. “Tomorrow’s another good opportunity for that. We’ve done it throughout this year. We obviously did it last year. Tomorrow’s a new day, and we’ll be ready for it.”