The Atlanta Braves entered Game 5 of the National League Division Series looking to shed a burdensome history of postseason heartbreak.
However, it took the St. Louis Cardinals just 26 first-inning minute Wednesday afternoon to author one of the Braves’ most miserable playoff chapters.
The visiting Cardinals scored 10 runs in the first inning and cruised to a 13-1 win over the Braves in the decisive NLDS game.
St. Louis will face either the Dodgers or the Nationals in the NL Championship Series beginning Friday night. Washington and host Los Angeles were playing Game 5 of the other NLDS later Wednesday.
The Braves, who were four outs away from winning Game 4 and advancing on Monday, once again failed in their attempt to reach the NLCS for the first time since 2001. Only five other teams have not reached an LCS in that span, one of them the Nationals, who could end their drought Wednesday night.
The loss Wednesday was the Braves’ fifth straight in winner-take-all games since 2002 – four defeats in Game 5 of an NLDS and one loss in the NL wild-card game.
The Cardinals sent 14 batters to the plate against starter Mike Foltynewicz and Max Fried in the historic first inning. The 10 runs were the most ever scored by a team in the first inning of a playoff game and tied the record for most runs scored in any inning.
St. Louis joined the Philadelphia Athletics (seventh inning of Game 4 of the 1929 World Series), Detroit Tigers (third inning of Game 6 of the 1968 World Series) and Anaheim Angels (seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2002 AL Championship Series) in the select club.
The game got off to an ominous start for the Braves when Foltynewicz walked leadoff batter Dexter Fowler on a 3-2 pitch. Kolten Wong then bunted Fowler to second before Paul Goldschmidt beat out an infield single.
Marcell Ozuna laced an RBI single, after which the Cardinals loaded the bases when Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman misplayed a potential inning-ending, double-play grounder by Yadier Molina.
The Cardinals wasted no time seizing the opening as Matt Carpenter drew a run-scoring walk and Tommy Edman laced a two-run double. Foltynewicz exited after an intentional walk to Paul DeJong, but Fried walked opposing pitcher Jack Flaherty to bring home another run.
Fowler and Wong followed with two-run doubles. Ozuna struck out, but the ball sailed away from Brian McCann and the batter reached first base as Wong scored the final run of the inning on a wild pitch.
DeJong (RBI double in the second, RBI single in the third) and Harrison Bader (RBI single in the third) added run-scoring hits.
Flaherty (1-1) allowed one run on four hits and one walk while striking out eight over six innings.
Josh Donaldson homered in the fourth for the Braves, who loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth before Freeman hit into a forceout.
Foltynewicz (1-1) was charged with seven runs (six earned) on three hits and three walks while getting just one out.