NLDS Game 1: Cardinals overcome miscues to defeat Braves in thrilling series opener

The St. Louis Cardinals showcased their resilience in winning Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

Despite critical defensive miscues and several missed opportunities offensively, St. Louis rallied in the late innings to defeat the Atlanta Braves 7-6 and take a 1-0 series lead.

Two big swings proved to be the difference. After St. Louis loaded the bases in the ninth inning, Marcell Ozuna and Kolton Wong produced consecutive two-run doubles to first take the lead and then provide insurance runs that proved vital after Atlanta scored three ninth-inning runs.

It was a stunning turnaround given how the game started for St. Louis. The first six innings were defined by moments in which they inflicted more damage on themselves than the Braves.

Kolten Wong’s first-inning bobble on Josh Donaldson’s would-be double play grounder directly resulted in Atlanta’s first run. St. Louis had opportunities to bounce back in the third and fourth innings, but saw those rallies killed off by double plays.

In the sixth inning, it nearly fell apart for St. Louis completely. A two-run Braves rally started with Josh Donaldson being hit by a pitch by Cardinals reliever Tyler Webb, and ended up with third baseman Tommy Edman mishandling a two-out ground ball by Dansby Swanson that should have ended the inning, but instead resulted in two runs crossing the plate.

The Cardinals kept battling, tying the game in the eighth on Paul Goldschmidt’s solo home run and a two-out run-scoring double by Matt Carpenter. That set the stage for their ninth-inning heroics.

It was a disappointing performance for the Braves. They took advantage of the Cardinals shaky play early, but struggled putting together a rally that didn’t include assistance from St. Louis. Atlanta scored three runs in the ninth inning on home runs by Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman. But by then it was too late.

Atlanta starter Dallas Keuchel was on the ropes a few times in his 4 2/3 innings, but only allowed the one run. He did not record a strikeout. The Braves bullpen allowed six runs, all earned, in 4 1/3 innings.

WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE

• Paul Goldschmidt: The Cardinals acquired Goldschmidt to be a difference maker in the lineup. He was just that in Game 1. Goldschmidt smashed a solo home run in the eighth inning that proved to be the turning point for St. Louis. One inning later, he drew a one-out walk to set up Marcell Ozuna's go-ahead double.

• Miles Mikolas: Given their shaky play, this one easily could have gotten away from St. Louis early. Mikolas is the main reason it didn't. He tossed five innings of one-run ball to keep the Cardinals in the game.

• Josh Donaldson: The Braves third baseman was a key man on both sides of the field. He started rally-killing 5-3 double plays in the third and fourth innings, which allowed the Braves to carry a lead into the middle innings. He then started the go-ahead rally in the sixth inning after being hit by a pitch.

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Matt Carpenter's game-tying hit in the eighth inning could have been the game-winning hit if not for Adam Duvall's clutch throw from left field to cut down Kolten Wong at home plate.

WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT

Ronald Acuna Jr's failure to run out a seventh-inning fly ball may have cost Atlanta an important scoring opportunity. Acuna was caught watching his deep drive to right field that looked like a potential home run off the bat, but ended up staying in the ballpark. As a result, a sure double turned into a single. Later in the inning, Acuna was doubled off second base on a line drive to end the inning.

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Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr.
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Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr.
MESA, AZ - NOVEMBER 07: Ronald Acuna #34 of Peoria Javelinas (ATL) smiles after singling against the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League game at Sloan Park on November 11, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 09: Ronald Acuna #24 of the Atlanta Braves and the World Team fields the ball against the U.S. Team during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Marlins Park on July 9, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 9: Ronald Acuna #24 of the World Team and Atlanta Braves bats during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Marlins Park on July 9, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MESA, AZ - NOVEMBER 07: Ronald Acuna #34 of Peoria Javelinas (ATL) singles against the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League game at Sloan Park on November 11, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
MESA, AZ - NOVEMBER 07: Ronald Acuna #34 of Peoria Javelinas (ATL) reacts in the dugout against the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League game at Sloan Park on November 11, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Ronald Acuna Jr. (82) of the Braves hustles down to first base during the spring training game between the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves on February 26, 2018, at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 01: Ronald Acuna Jr. #82 (L) and Ozzie Albies #1 of the Atlanta Braves talk during the Spring Training game against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 1, 2018 in Lakeland, Florida. The Braves defeated the Tigers 5-2. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 01: Ronald Acuna Jr. #82 of the Atlanta Braves bats during the Spring Training game against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 1, 2018 in Lakeland, Florida. The Braves defeated the Tigers 5-2. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - MARCH 13: Ronald Acuna #82 of the Atlanta Braves head to the dugout in the fourth inning during the spring training game between the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays at Champion Stadium on March 13, 2018 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - MARCH 13: Ronald Acuna #82 of the Atlanta Braves in action during the spring training game between the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays at Champion Stadium on March 13, 2018 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ronald Acuna
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 27: Atlanta Braves CF Ronald Jr. Acuna (82) during the MLB Spring Training baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves on March 27, 2018, at SunTrust Field in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 18: Atlanta Braves Non-Roster Invitee Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (82) celebrates scoring a run with teammates in the dugout during an MLB spring training game between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida on March 18, 2018. (Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - MARCH 13: Ronald Acuna #82 of the Atlanta Braves in action during the spring training game between the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays at Champion Stadium on March 13, 2018 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ronald Acuna
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Acuna had been benched by manager Brian Snitker during a regular season for a similar lapse in judgement. The team had hoped it would be a teaching point for the 21-year-old outfielder. Teammate Freddie Freeman expressed disappointment that apparently the message had been missed following Game 1.

WHAT'S NEXT

Game 2 is set for Friday at 4:37 p.m. ET and there’s already plenty of urgency for the Braves with this being a best of five. Atlanta will try to even the series with Mike Foltynewicz (8-6, 4.54). The Cardinals will counter with ace Jack Flaherty (11-8, 2.75).

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