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AP photo by John Bazemore / Atlanta Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz stands on the mound after walking the St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter with the bases loaded during the first inning Wednesday at SunTrust Park. The Cardinals scored 10 runs in the first on their way to a 13-1 victory to win the best-of-five NL Division Series.

ATLANTA — And then Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann fell on the seat of his pants attempting to retrieve an insanely wild pitch from Max Fried.

No wonder they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Of course, that bit of wretched baseball only accounted for the St. Louis Cardinals' 10th and final run of the first inning Wednesday at SunTrust Park in their eventual 13-1 victory over the Braves in the fifth and deciding game of their National League Division Series.

By then, Atlanta starter Mike Foltynewicz — who didn't walk a single batter in seven innings against the Cards in Friday's 3-0 win — had walked Dexter Fowler to open the game. And then he walked two more. And gave up three hits. And was finally pulled for Fried after giving up four runs, leaving the bases loaded and recording all of one out.

Not that Fried — the bullpen darling of Folty's Game 2 win — fared much better. By the time he exited in the second, he'd been tagged for four runs, though at least that was three fewer than the seven Foltynewicz was officially blamed for.

As Braves manager Brian Snitker noted last Friday with the series tied: "The game is always going to be about starting pitching."

Or in the Braves' case Wednesday, a lack thereof.

"I don't know that I've seen that many guys in the first inning hit that quick in my entire life," Snitker said afterward. "That thing just kept rolling, and we couldn't stop it."

Beyond the Cardinals setting a record for most runs by one team in the first inning of an MLB playoff game, it had become so ridiculous before the Braves even went to bat that more than a couple folks in the press box wondered if Redbirds skipper Mike Shildt shouldn't remove starter Jack Flaherty before the ace threw a single pitch in order to save him for the NLCS.

Not that Shildt was thinking of taking his foot off the gas at that point.

"There are never enough runs," he said. "I told them, 'Let's keep eating, boys.'"

And Atlanta was only to happy to feed them.

How little life was in these Braves until Flaherty hit Ronald Acuña Jr. in the fifth and the umpires had to restrain a jawing him from possibly going after the pitcher?

In the bottom of the third, Atlanta reliever Josh Tomlin was allowed to lead off the inning, despite failing to collect a single hit in six at-bats during the regular season. He promptly struck out.

A final example of all this unexpected futility? In the third, the Braves having turned to almost always frustrating reliever Luke Jackson, St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina came to the plate. Slow afoot, Molina hit a grounder to shortstop Dansby Swanson that had double play written all over it.

Except when Swanson tossed the ball to second baseman Ozzie Albies, he forgot to catch it. Instead of getting two outs, the Braves got none and the Cards soon after scored their 12th and 13th runs of the game.

By the time the final out of the Braves' 2019 season was in the books, they had tied the Chicago Cubs' record of losing 10 straight playoff series, the Cubs having done so between 1908 and 2003. Atlanta last won a postseason series in 2001.

This was also the 13th time since 1982 the Braves have watched an opponent celebrate a postseason series win in Atlanta. The first of those was against the Cardinals.

Not that no one in Braves Nation could find something to cheer about, at least for a moment.

On the occasion of Atlanta's lone run of the night — a towering homer to center field off the bat of third baseman Josh Donaldson in the fourth — an Atlanta fan screamed, "We won that inning!"

And there was at least one native of Braves Country who was soaked with celebratory beer inside the visitors' clubhouse. Game 4 starter Dakota Hudson, who grew up a Braves backer in Sequatchie County, couldn't have been happier.

"This is the dream," Hudson said as he was being showered with Bud Light. "This is exactly what I thought it would be like."

Asked if he thought he might have seen some mop-up duty once the Cards got the big lead, despite having pitched on Monday, Hudson smiled widely: "I was ready to do whatever they asked. I was told I was in a double-secret emergency role."

Now his father Sam will have to tap into his emergency travel funds to follow his son as long as the Cards can stay alive in the playoffs.

"From what he's said, I could be playing these playoffs for free," Dakota said of his dad's plan to tap into his son's bank account.

Countered Sam: "He'll just be paying us back for all the money we've spent on him."

As Snitker was revisiting an otherwise wonderful season, he recalled what he told his team all summer: "Once you get to the playoffs, anything can happen. I guess we saw that tonight."

Well, anything except the Braves winning a playoff series on their home field in the 21st century.

some text Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

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