Both Martin and Melancon were part of trade deadline moves to bolster the club’s struggling bullpen, which at midseason was one of the worst bullpens in the league. While Atlanta’s lack of quality depth in the bullpen was less of a concern after the retooling, Thursday’s meltdown proved that the bullpen could be an Achilles’ heel in October.
In relief of Jackson on Thursday, Melancon retired just two of the nine batters he faced in his one inning of work. The right-hander looked solid in the final month of the regular season, picking up five saves and logging 10 strikeouts with a 1.74 ERA. He took blame for the Game 1 loss:
St. Louis kicked off its late comeback in the eighth inning when Paul Goldschmidt homered off Luke Jackson, who was forced to enter the game when Chris Martin was removed with left oblique tightness before throwing a pitch. In the ninth inning, Marcell Ozuna and Kolten Wong both knocked two-run doubles off Atlanta closer Mark Melancon to give the Cardinals a 7-3 advantage.
Game 2 of the NLDS on Friday will have Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty square off against Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz. Going up against the Cardinals ace, the Braves are in jeopardy of heading to St. Louis in an 0-2 hole. Martin will miss the remainder of the postseason. In his last six outings, Martin had not allowed a run. Right-hander Julio Teheran will take Martin’s spot on the NLDS roster. Teheran (10-11, 3.81 ERA) was previously left off Atlanta’s roster in order to deepen the club’s bench. The 28-year-old posted a 5.50 ERA over his last eight starts. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that Teheran will likely start in a theoretical Game 4, with left-hander Max Fried continuing to contribute out of the bullpen for the rest of the series. Thanks in large part to starter Dallas Keuchel’s (4 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 3 BB), Atlanta’s pitching staff had allowed just one run through seven innings.
The Braves’ big bats gave it their best comeback effort in the ninth but ultimately couldn’t overcome the Cards four-run ninth. Ronald Acuna Jr. hit a two-run home run off Carlos Martinez, and Freddie Freeman added a solo shot.
Thursday night, the Cardinals defeated the Braves, 7-6 on the road in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Despite a late rally from the top of Atlanta’s lineup in the ninth inning, the Braves couldn’t fight their way out of a deficit triggered by their shaky bullpen.