One challenge that awaits the Braves will be solving the Marlins pitching staff. Sure, this matchup lent itself to Atlanta scoring 29 runs in a single game this season, but Miami does have three intriguing arms to begin the series. The Braves struggled mightily against the Reds staff, so finding difficulty against the Marlins seems like a distinct possibility.
Sandy Alcantara is the projected Game 1 starter. Like the Braves last year, they do not have their best pitcher by FIP starting the series. Alcantara throws a 96 MPH four-seam fastball and a 96 MPH sinker. He tempers that with a 86 MPH slider and 89 MPH change. He will throw the occasional curveball. He used to spread out his usage more, but now works first sinker, then four-seam, then slider. The change and curve are shown primarily to lefties.
The Marlins lineup is not overly dangerous, but does offer some potential sticking points. Who poses the biggest threat in the upcoming series?
Even though Marte is likely not going to factor into this team’s action at the plate, there are still some guys in this lineup who can pick up the slack. Although Miami doesn’t really have anybody who is an especially dangerous power threat, it’d be wise to look out for guys like Brian Anderson and Garrett Cooper. Anderson in particular is the only Marlins player who finished the season with over 10 homers (for comparisons’ sake, the Braves had five players go deep at least 10 times this season) and his .210 ISO this season suggests that he should be taken seriously as a power threat in this lineup.
As has been well-documented, the Marlins have never lost a playoff series. When they get in, they win the whole thing. However, with expanded playoffs teams can sneak into the postseason with inferior rosters, which is precisely how Miami found itself playing the Cubs last week. Beating the Cubs, on the other hand, was the accomplishment of a team that simply outplayed what appeared to be a superior opponent. The Marlins enter this series in a similar position, except this time they’ll need to win three games instead of two.
Despite battling COVID and dealing with the aftermath, Freddie Freeman posted an MVP-caliber season and is now prepared to push the Braves toward the NLCS.
Having been a part of each of the Braves’ past five postseason exits, Freeman now wants to move the club beyond the NLDS for the first time since 2001. He has grand plans for the remainder of this year and continues to make it clear he wants to remain in Atlanta long after his current contract expires at the end of 2021.
The slider has become an incredible weapon for Braves ace Max Fried. His repertoire was already lethal, but the continued development of a slider has allowed Fried to be even more effective.
The 26-year-old gained comfort with the slider he added last season, and then began to use the pitch more frequently this year. Opponents hit .239 against this pitch, which was considerably higher than the average produced against his four-seam fastball (.198) and curveball (.175).
But the .195 expected batting average against the slider was a reminder of how much trouble opponents have had squaring up his pitches. Fried surrendered a 23.8 percent hard-hit rate. Per Baseball Savant, that ranked first among pitchers who allowed at least 150 balls to be put in play this year.
Can the A’s bounce back against the Astros?