ATLANTA — It took Max Fried, the left-handed wunderkind whose fastball and changeup deftly steered Atlanta to a World Series title last yr, only three pitches to get two outs on Tuesday afternoon. Ranger Suárez, who was making his first profession postseason start, loaded the bases and required 26 pitches to finish the primary inning.
After all, it was Suárez’s Philadelphia Phillies who finished the primary inning with a two-run lead — the inspiration for a victory, 7-6, to begin their National League division series against an Atlanta team that spent the second half of the season mesmerizing nearly all of baseball.
The Phillies, at the same time as they approached the tip of a 14-game road trip, didn’t seem all that impressed.
The opening seconds of Tuesday’s game at Truist Park, where weekend claims that autumn had taken hold in Georgia felt premature, were magnificent for Fried: He got a ground ball along with his first pitch and a flyout to left field along with his third. Then Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto sent a ball that escaped the infield into right. Bryce Harper singled, too, before Nick Castellanos’s base hit scored Realmuto. Alec Bohm, Philadelphia’s third baseman, recorded his team’s fourth consecutive single to let Harper touch home.
Granted a 2-0 lead, Suárez seemed able to squander it with dispatch. Ronald Acuña Jr. doubled on Suárez’s second pitch, a cutter. And although Suárez rebounded with a strikeout of Dansby Swanson, the All-Star shortstop, he walked Austin Riley and Matt Olson. It was only with a full-count curveball that Suárez found inning-ending salvation, with William Contreras, Atlanta’s designated hitter, grounding right into a double play.
Travis d’Arnaud, the Atlanta catcher, homered in the underside of the second, turning a cutter right into a 430-foot frustration for Philadelphia and halving its lead. However the Phillies soon capitalized on Atlanta’s sudden disinterest in precise fielding — its troubles within the third began when Realmuto reached first after a high throw from Fried, and that was only Atlanta’s first teetering throw of the inning — and added two runs.
Complicating matters for Atlanta was the conclusion that no less than a few of d’Arnaud’s magic dawned an inning too early. Within the third, after Suárez had given up a single and two walks to reload the bases, d’Arnaud returned to the batter’s box. Suárez struck him out with a four-seam fastball.
Fried exited as Phillies stood at second and third with one out within the fourth. A two-out single by Castellanos off the journeyman right-hander Jesse Chavez’s cutter pushed the Philadelphia result in five runs and darkened Fried’s line: eight hits, six runs, 4 of them earned, and two strikeouts in three and one-third innings.
Suárez also left within the fourth, wanting the edge for a starting pitcher to earn a win. It was still a memorable no-decision, with Suárez tagged for 3 hits, one run and as many strikeouts (five) as walks.
A sacrifice fly from Edmundo Sosa scored Jean Segura within the fifth so as to add to Philadelphia’s lead. The Braves picked up two runs of their half of the inning, when Connor Brogdon allowed d’Arnaud to double to left. But they may not sustain way more until the ninth inning.
With the Braves trailing by 4 runs, the team happened to have the highest of its batting order poised to move to the plate. Acuña and Swanson singled to begin the frame against Zach Eflin. Riley struck out — after which Olson hit a sinker some 414 feet over the fence in center, frightening a burst of optimism among the many hometown fans.
Atlanta, though, couldn’t discover a tying run: Contreras lined out, and d’Arnaud grounded to short.
Atlanta had not played since last Wednesday, when it lost in Miami, since it earned a bye right into a division series. The Phillies, meanwhile, who finished third within the N.L. East, 14 games behind 101-win Atlanta, competed deep into Saturday night, after they beat the Cardinals in a wild-card series in St. Louis.
Although Atlanta entered the division series with an 11-8 record over Philadelphia this season, it had not established unquestioned dominance over an East rival that spent the yr searching for its first playoff berth since 2011. Atlanta, built around certainly one of baseball’s best offenses, outscored the Phillies by merely three runs across 19 regular-season games.
Game 2 can be played in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon, when Atlanta is anticipated to send the 21-game winner Kyle Wright to the mound to face a Philadelphia team that intends to make use of Zack Wheeler, the runner-up for last season’s N.L. Cy Young Award.
The very best-of-five series will move, no less than temporarily, to Philadelphia on Friday. (If needed, Game 4 could be in Philadelphia on Saturday while Game 5 could be contested in Atlanta on Sunday.) The series winner will meet the Dodgers or the Padres within the National League Championship Series, which can start on Tuesday.
If Philadelphia is to make it that far, it is going to should do it without David Robertson, who saved 20 games within the regular season. Rob Thomson, the Philadelphia manager, said Tuesday that Robertson, who began his second stint with the Phillies after a trade in August, strained his right calf as he celebrated a Harper home run in St. Louis on Saturday.
“He’s going to attempt to work through it,” Thomson said. “I don’t know when he’s going to be available, but obviously he’s off this round’s roster. Whether he’s available for the subsequent round, we don’t know.”