Atlanta Braves vs Miami Marlins
Things to Know:
– Neither team will be playing in their home parks. Games will be played at a neutral site in Houston, Texas in Minute Maid Park.
– Series is set to begin October 6th, allowing each team to rest up their top starting pitchers and be ready for Games 1 & 2.
– No off days during the series, so pitching depth, both in the rotation and in the bullpen, will be incredibly valuable in this series.
– The Battle of the NL East saw the Braves edge the season series 6-4. The Braves outscored the Marlins 69-44. including a 29-9 win.
Expected Starting Pitching Matchups:
Game 1: Max Fried (ATL) vs Sandy Alcantara (MIA) – Tuesday October 6th
Game 2: Ian Anderson (ATL) vs Sixto Sanchez (MIA) – Wednesday October 7th
Game 3: Pablo Lopez (MIA) vs Kyle Wright (ATL) – Thursday October 8th
Game 4: (If necessary) – Friday October 9th
Game 5: (If necessary) – Saturday October 10th
The starting pitcher duels see some interesting battles, especially Game 2. The first match-up should see Alcantara take on Fried, but the Battle of the NL ROY Candidates is the most exciting duel. All 3 starters for the Braves have been confirmed, but these are the most likely pitchers for the Marlins.
With Fried’s impressive 7-0 record and Anderson’s ERA of just 1.95, it was obvious who the first 2 starters were. Although Wright hasn’t got the best record, he bounced back with decent outings against the Mets and the Red Sox.
Alcantara took the ball for the first Wildcard game against the Cubs, and performed extremely well, thus putting him in contention for the first game. Sanchez followed suit and Game 2, and pits himself against fellow NL ROY Candidate Anderson. The 3rd starter is up in the air, but Pablo Lopez seems the logical choice after picking up a victory against the Braves not so long ago.
What will become interesting is whether the series makes Games 4 and 5. If it does then the Braves look short of starter options due to Huascar Ynoa’s injury. There have been 4 or 5 different SP4s throughout the season so Bryse Wilson may step up into that role, but leaves a potential reliever opening Game 5.
The Marlins aren’t as short on options but Trevor Rogers and Jose Urena haven’t looked the strongest this season so Games 4 and 5 could be an interesting couple of games.
After finishing the NL season 2nd to only the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Braves took on the Cincinnati Reds. They swept the series by shutting out the Reds in both games, in what was a slugfest in Game 1. With the Reds’ BA issue, the Braves just had to be solid and be patient with what they were doing. Their overall BA was just .212, but they did have 4 players with 10+ HRs this season. With the likes of Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez in their ranks, the Braves had to pitch smart and pick up the pieces.
Game 1 saw a 13-inning match end with Freeman’s single to bring home Cristian Pache. Both starters in the game produced solid performances, and it came down to who could hold their nerve as the game entered record-breaking time. The Braves used 8 pitchers in total, allowing 11 hits overall, but the Reds could not find the break-through.
Game 2 was huge as it was Ian Anderson’s postseason debut (catch the breakdown here). He pitched 6 solid innings, striking out 9 of the Reds hitters as they could only muster 2 hits in the whole game. Acuna’s 3-for-5 performance, including an RBI double in the bottom of the 5th, saw the Braves through until Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall both hit 2-run HRs in the bottom of the 8th to put the game out of sight. The Braves’ bullpen stepped up in the last 3 innings, not allowing a single hit or walk as Ian Anderson picked up his first postseason win.
The Marlins finished in 2nd place in the NL East and faced off against the NL Central Champions, the Chicago Cubs. Although it was expected to be a close series, the Marlins continued their phenomenal record of not losing a postseason series. The Cubs finished 34-26 but was no match for the Marlins’ starting pitchers.
Game 1 saw the Cubs take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 5th with Ian Happ’s HR, but the Marlins fought back in the top of the 7th, exploiting Kyle Hendricks’ fatigue to land a 3-run HR courtesy of Corey Dickerson. Jesus Aguilar followed this up with a 2-run HR to end Game 1 with a 5-1 victory. Sandy Alcantara was strong as he allowed just 3 hits and 3 walks in a solid 6 2/3 inning appearance.
Game 2 was exciting due to Sixto Sanchez’s postseason debut (again covered here) and he showcased his ability by relying heavily on his electric fastball to dominate the Cubs’ hitters. His 5-inning debut saw 6 SOs and 4 hits, in a competitive battle with Yu Darvish. The Marlins ran away with the game in the top of the 7th, with Garrett Cooper hitting a HR and Magneuris Sierra bringing home Lewis Brinson, as they finished the game 2-0 victors.
Braves: Dominant Hitting
When you look at the Braves’ roster, you see the likes of Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, both exciting players, but look a bit further and you see a team that finished 1st in Runs/Game, Hits/Game, Slugging and OBP. Although they averaged 9.6 SOs a game, their ability to hit the ball and dominate games saw them finish 2nd in the NL.
Overall they had 5 players that had 10+ HRs and had 3 players finish with .300+ BAs. They outscored opponents 348-288 for the season, and this included a massive 29-9 win against the Marlins back on the 10th of September.
Their starting rotation isn’t the strongest, as seen by their chopping and changing of SP4 and SP5, but their batting ability and their overall offensive upside make them a dangerous proposition. The 3 top guys to look out for are as followed.
Dangerman number 1: Marcell Ozuna
Signed from the Cardinals on a one-year $18m contract, he showcased his ability to be a top-class DH. He hit 20+ HRs in 5 of his last 6 seasons, and would easily have made it this season if it wasn’t for the shortened year. This included a 3-HR performance against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, becoming the first National League player to hit three home runs in one game there. He finished the season with a line of .338/.431/.636 as well as an OPS of 1.067.
The 29-year-old played all 60 games, hitting 14 doubles, 18 HRs, and picked up 56 RBIs. This included 60 SOs but the Braves wouldn’t be too bothered about that.
Dangerman Number 2: Danby Swanson
He seems to be a player that has quietly progressed into an important member of the Braves. With a steady increase of doubles, HRs, and BA in the past few seasons, it was interesting to see how he adapted to the 60-game season. He did so impressively, slashing a line of .274/.345/.464 with an OPS of .809. This included 15 doubles, 10 HRs, and a team-2nd 49 runs.
The 26-year-old played all 60 games, striking out 71 times, but picked up 5 SBs and bringing home 35 RBIs.
Dangerman Number 3: Freddie Freeman
The main man in the Braves’ hitting line-up. He led all of the Majors with doubles (23) and runs (51), as well as smashing 13 HRs, 1 triple and bringing home 53 batters. The 30-year-old has spent his whole career at the Braves and showed his experience and know-how to finish with a line of .341/.462/.640 and an OPS of 1.102.
Not only did he show his hitting ability, but he also showed his plate discipline by only being struck out 37 times and walking 45 times. This, alongside his power-hitting, has led to calls for him to win NL MVP. He also picked up 2 grand slams, despite not having a single one before this season.
Marlins: Strong Base-Running
Although the Marlins offense hasn’t been that impressive, they have a way of picking up results, usually by putting pressure on the pitchers with their superior base-running abilities.
This may not seem a big stat but 51 SBs in 60 games puts them 2nd to only the Padres. The team as a whole know-how to run the basepaths and do so to great effect.
This compliments their underdog stature, and utilizing anything they can to try and put teams under pressure. Their hitting stats aren’t the best, and their pitching hasn’t been standout so they have to use something that can give them an edge. This relates to their 9th-best .319 BA, allowing their hitters to get on base and cause problems.
This part of their game was heavily utilized against the Mets back in August when Berti stole 3 bases in 1 inning. This included home base and put the Marlins 3-0 in the bottom of the 6th.
If they can put the Braves under pressure early, like they did with the Cubs, then this could be an interesting match-up.
Something to watch:
It may not be that significant but neither team has played at this stadium this season. There is no clear home advantage, and this will suit the Marlins much more than the Braves.
The Marlins defied the odds to not only beat the Cubs but dispatch them in just 2 games. Their offensive line-up isn’t elite, but they have managed to go about their business and get to where they are. They are unbeaten in playoff series in their 28-year history but that just adds to the value of the upcoming series.
There will be pressure on the Braves to perform and end the streak. With their potential and their awesome batting line-up, it is expected that they do so effortlessly. If the Marlins can get to games 4 or 5, then the Braves may start feeling the pressure.
This series is going to be interesting. It feels like the Braves should coast past the Marlins in 3 games, but as seen by the Wildcard series, the Marlins can step up when needed. Ultimately I think the Braves’ hitting line-up will have too much for them, but we could see some exciting games in the series.
In the 10 games they have faced each other, the Marlins have won 8-2 and 8-0, whilst the Braves have won 29-9, 11-1 and 9-4. This shows that these games could go either way. Both teams will need to be on top form and I see the series going like this.
Game 1 – Braves. Fried dominates and the Braves hitters step up in a big way.
Game 2 – Braves. The Battle of the NL ROY Candidates sees Anderson edge Sanchez.
Game 3 – Marlins. Wright was dominated by the Marlins earlier in the season and I see them targeting him here.
Game 4 – Braves. Despite the questions on SP4, Bryse Wilson should step up and the Braves hitters see off potentially Trevor Rogers.
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