One week later, the Braves have earned another chance to advance and further silence and put to rest their past playoff failures. After impressive pitching performances by both Max Fried and Ian Anderson, along with an offense led by Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson that digs the long ball, the Braves have earned two straight victories in the NLDS and have forced the Miami Marlins to the brink of elimination.
However, to achieve the series win and advance to their first NLCS in 19 years, Atlanta will have to overcome arguably the best pitching talent the Marlins have to offer.
The Braves offense has certainly been successful in the way that has proven to be nearly unbeatable across baseball this postseason: the homerun. In fact, the Dodgers win over the Padres last night was the first time this postseason the team that hit less home runs won the game. If Atlanta can continue sending the ball out of the ball park with relative ease, that would be wonderful. However, as opposing pitching continues to be of very high quality, the Braves must also capitalize on their abilities to score runs in other ways.
Over four playoff games, the Braves are 4-25 in RISP situations and have experienced 55 strikeouts in 142 at-bats (38.7%). They have certainly got big hits late in games and have made hard contact on several occasions that have resulted in more home runs than their opposition (not to mention many other loud outs). However, though their success is certainly valid, cashing in other opportunities when runners are in scoring position could prove to be huge, both today and beyond.
Though the Braves have now defeated talented starters Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez over the past two days, their task does not become any easier against Miami’s own outstanding rookie, Sixto Sanchez. Though Sanchez (3.46 ERA/ 3.50 FIP/ 4.08 xFIP) has certainly been impressive in his rookie campaign, he also has looked dominant at times. Despite it being his playoff debut, like Anderson for the Braves, Sanchez looked up to the task against the Cubs in clinching an NLWC round win for the Marlins last week.
Overall, it may seem like Kyle Wright struggled through the 2020 season. Wright (5.21 ERA/ 5.90 FIP/ 5.33 xFIP) seemed to be overwhelmed at times earlier this season. However, he also has shown significant progression, especially to end the season in September on his way to earning a sport in the Braves postseason rotation. Over 19 innings in his final three starts, Wright allowed only five runs and completed at least six innings in each start, with all three appearances resulting in Braves wins. Obviously, with the offensive ability the Braves have, any time a starter can give the offense a quality start, the Braves have to like their chances to win.
When Wright and Sanchez square off against each other in Game 3 tomorrow, it will be exactly one month since they previously faced off in Atlanta. That day, Wright struggled and Sanchez dominated in an 8-0 Marlins win. However, that was Wright’s last start before the light seemed to click on for him to emerge as a reliable starter. Furthermore, this will be the third time the Braves see Sanchez over the past month, and they had much better success against him on September 23rd in their second meeting.
Atlanta has certainly improved this series in generating offense early, and that could be a huge development if they can produce against Sanchez and run up his pitch count. For the Braves, though they are up 2-0 in the series, it seems logical that they have kept a few arms fresh for today in case Wright has his struggles. However, even if Wright does falter a bit, if the Braves offense can continue producing early and often, the pitching should be enough.
2001 seems like an eternity ago.
However, the Braves have already had their best postseason success in nearly two decades this year. If they can continue driving the ball, chances are good things will happen.
And, hopefully, that will happen tomorrow so the Braves can happily enjoy their second playoff series win of the 2020 postseason.
Game Date/Time: Thursday, October 8, 2:08 p.m. ET
Location: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network