Kyle Wright dazzles (Check.)
Braves offense thrives in situational hitting opportunities. (Check.)
Freddie Freeman and Adam Duvall get big hits (Check.)
The Braves, in comfortable fashion, sweep the Marlins and will appear in the NLCS for first time since 2001 (MachoMan.gif “DIG IT”).
The Atlanta Braves have won their second straight playoff series in 2020 with a 7-0 victory over the Marlins, and, for the first time in 19 years after many playoff failures, are one step away from the World Series. While the task at hand is certainly far from over, the significance of this success should certainly be cherished and enjoyed.
In a fun matchup between Sixto Sanchez and Kyle Wright, Sanchez actually looked better to begin. A quick top of the first resulted in the Braves being retired in order, while Wright worked around two singles to keep the score at zero. The Braves looked ready to get to work in the top of the second, as they loaded the bases with zero outs. However, Sanchez worked some magic, including a great catch by Corey Dickerson on a Nick Markakis line drive, to keep the Braves off the scoreboard. Despite allowing a lead off walk in the bottom of the second, Wright easily made it through the next three hitters to retire the side.
Throw 95-mph, shoulder-high fastballs to Travis d’Arnaud at your own risk. pic.twitter.com/iGlQVcHMph— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) October 8, 2020
The Braves decided to get to work in the top of the third. Ronald Acuna Jr. walked then stole second base and reached third on a Freeman single to left. Marcell Ozuna then continued his consistency of clutch hits with a single to right that scored Acuna Jr. Travis d’Arnaud, who basically has single-handedly doubled the Marlins in run production this series and arguably had the best Division Series performance by a catcher in MLB history, hit a two-run double to right field to score Freeman and Ozuna. A line out from Ozzie Albies and sacrifice fly from Dansby Swanson made the score 4-0.
After an Adam Duvall strike out to end the Braves half of the inning, Wright worked into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the third inning. He hit Jon Berti then allowed a single to Dickerson. However, Wright retired Jesus Aguilar and Brian Anderson on strikeouts before walking Garret Cooper to load the bases. After a mound visit to calm the nerves, Wright found the right pitches to force a ground out from Jazz Chisholm to end the inning.
In the top of the fourth, after two quick outs, Acuna Jr. and Freeman worked their magic as Acuna Jr. walked then scored on a single from Freeman that resulted in an error to make the score 5-0. Wright produced a perfect bottom of the fourth inning.
The Braves got right back to work in the top of the fifth inning. After a strike out from d’Arnaud, Albies doubled, and then scored on a Swanson single. Duvall, who had struggled despite his big home run in Game 2 of the NLWC series, connected on an RBI double to make the score 7-0. Though the Marlins kept the Braves off the scoreboard for the rest of the top of fifth, Wright again retired them in order in the bottom of the inning.
After the Braves produced another threat but failed to score in the top of the sixth inning, the Marlins again failed to produce a base runner in the bottom of the sixth inning. For the fourth straight start, Wright completed six or more innings of work. He allowed three hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts. He threw 52 strikes on 88 pitches, and also worked his way out of a few jams. At a time when there were many questions surrounding the Braves staff in the middle of September, Wright stepped in as a stabilizing force and has continued to validate himself as an arm to trust as the postseason progresses.
Both teams were kept quiet in the seventh, and though the Braves had runners on first and second with one out due to two walks in the top of the eighth inning, they did not score a run. After keeping the Marlins scoreless in the bottom of the eighth inning, Swanson connected on a one out triple in the top of the ninth, but Duvall and Markakis were unable to drive him home.
Following the great performances by Wright, A.J. Minter, and Jacob Webb, Shane Greene entered the game for the final three outs. Though he surrendered a double, Greene ended the game on a Matt Joyce lineout to defensive replacement Cristian Pache in right field.
The Braves officially earned a spot in the 2020 National League Championship Series.
.@Kyle_Wright44 and @ian_anderson15 are the first pair of rookie teammates in MLB history to pitch at least 6.0 scoreless innings in their playoff debut in a single postseason.#MixItUp | #ForTheA pic.twitter.com/czx1Kwfuqm— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) October 8, 2020
While the offense has certainly validated its reputation, the Braves pitching has been the story of the postseason so far. After entering the 2020 postseason with the worst starting staff ERA for a playoff team in MLB history, the Braves have produced the lowest ERA by an entire pitching staff through their first five postseason games in over a century. Furthermore, the impact of this success is not just in the present. The success of Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Wright shows just how awesome the future could be as well.
Obviously, this is just the beginning. The competition is going to get significantly better, but the balance this Braves team can now confidently feature is going to be a tough combination to beat. The confidence they are playing with is clear, and the momentum it has created is undeniable.
Whatever the near future brings, its clear this team is having fun and enjoying every minute.
They are also providing their fans with plenty of moments to enjoy the same.
Enjoy and embrace the moment Braves fans, and get excited for the most meaningful baseball the Braves have played in two decades next week.