ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
AP photo by Morry Gash / The Atlanta Braves' Jorge Soler is tagged out at the plate by Milwaukee Brewers catcher Omar Narvaez during the first inning of Friday's NLDS opener in Milwaukee. The Brewers won 2-1.

MILWAUKEE — Rowdy Tellez fouled off Charlie Morton's pitch in a scoreless game, then headed toward the dugout for a deep breath and a new bat.

Just the break the Milwaukee Brewers needed.

Tellez spoiled Morton's gem by hitting a two-run homer in the seventh inning Friday, leading the Brewers over the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, in the opener of their National League Division Series.

"I'm still out of breath," Tellez said. "It was a crazy moment."

Corbin Burnes, Adrian Houser and Josh Hader combined on a four-hitter that gave Milwaukee the early edge in this best-of-five series. Game 2 is Saturday in Milwaukee, with Atlanta hosting Monday — and, if necessary, Tuesday.

Orlando Arcia, traded to Atlanta by the Brewers in April, grounded to second base with runners on the corners to end the game. That came after Milwaukee catcher Omar Narváez — who combined with first baseman Tellez on a key first-inning double play — blocked Hader's 1-2 pitch in the dirt to keep Freddie Freeman at third base.

Neither team produced much offense until the Brewers finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh.

After Morton plunked Avisaíl García with a 1-2 pitch to start the inning, Tellez ripped another 1-2 offering over the center-field wall to break a scoreless tie.

"Even in those at-bats, I got them where I wanted to be," Morton said. "I just didn't finish them off. I hit Avi, and then I grooved one to Rowdy."

Tellez was 1-for-13 against the Braves this season until delivering that 411-foot drive, which came immediately after the hefty, bearded slugger fouled a pitch off.

"I don't know if I broke that bat," Tellez said. "I just saw something fly off of it. I was like, 'I need all the help I can get right now.'

"I walked back, and the bat boy didn't even realize. I kind of just collected my breath and calmed myself, got back to the box, and I said, '(Keep) my foot down and just see the pitch and hit the ball hard.' That's all I wanted to do."

The big hit capped quite a comeback for Tellez, who was activated from the injured list last Saturday after missing close to three weeks with a right patella strain.

"It was a tight timetable," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We knew it was going to be tight. We were fortunate that he got himself healthy. The training staff did a heck of a job."

With two outs in the top of the eighth, Atlanta's Joc Pederson lofted a pinch-hit homer off Houser, who was otherwise flawless in two innings to earn the win in relief.

The homer by Tellez chased Morton, whose 85th and final pitch was among the few mistakes the 37-year-old right-hander made. He struck out nine batters, walked one and hit another as he continued his recent history of exceptional postseason performances. He's in his first season with the Braves after previously helping the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays to playoff success.

Burnes was every bit as good in his first career postseason start.

The NL Cy Young Award contender opened the game with two straight walks and threw 40 pitches in the first two innings but settled down from there. The 26-year-old right-hander struck out six batters and gave up two hits and three walks in six scoreless innings, throwing 91 pitches against a powerful lineup that helped Atlanta win a fourth straight NL East Division title.

"They're an aggressive offense," said Burnes, who threw eight innings of a combined no-hitter that was finished off by Hader against the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 11. "That was kind of the key tonight, was to try to play off of that. We were just trying to do too much early on."

After the Braves put runners on the corners with nobody out but failed to score in the top of the first, nobody got a runner past first base until Tellez homered.

Neither team had a hit until Milwaukee's Lorenzo Cain delivered a one-out single to right in the third. The Braves' first hit came when Eddie Rosario led off the fifth with a bloop single to center.

Atlanta's best scoring chance came at the start of the game. Burnes walked the first two batters he faced — Jorge Soler and Freeman — with Soler advancing to third on a passed ball.

Ozzie Albies followed with a sharp grounder down the first-base line that Tellez caught just before stepping on the bag. When he noticed Soler was trying to score from third, Tellez threw to the plate. Narváez caught the one-hop throw and tagged Soler to complete the double play. Counsell called it the play of the game.

"I made a terrible throw," Tellez said. "I've got a good catcher back there. He's an All-Star for a reason. Made a great tag. That whole play doesn't happen without him."

Freeman advanced to third on a wild pitch, but Burnes struck out Austin Riley to end the threat.

"You love to get a pitcher like that early before he gets settled in," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Because they get out of an inning like that, and things happen like (they) did."

Milwaukee is playing this series without setup man Devin Williams and left-handed reliever Brent Suter. Williams fractured his throwing hand when he punched a wall the night the Brewers clinched the NL Central crown, and Suter has a strained right oblique.

Without those two in the bullpen, the Brewers had Houser work two innings to set things up for Hader. Houser spent the regular season in Milwaukee's rotation.

Left-hander Max Fried (14-7, 3.04 ERA) will get the ball for the Braves and All-Star right-hander Brandon Woodruff (9-10, 2.56) will start for the Brewers on Saturday. Fried is 7-0 with a 1.46 ERA over his past 11 starts.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT