ATLANTA -- Now that the Braves have learned they will play the Reds in the National League Wild Card Series, here is a quick look at what they will need to do to get past this first round and continue to pursue their goal of winning the World Series.
How do they advance out of the Wild Card Series?
Accounting for the lack of quality rotation depth, this best-of-three series sets up more favorably than the later series will for the Braves. But they still need their potent offense and deep bullpen to compensate for the obvious advantage the Reds have in the starting pitching department.
A healthy Max Fried has the ability to match up with top NL Cy Young Award candidate Trevor Bauer in Game 1. But even though Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright have impressed recently, the Braves will likely need to rely on the power located throughout their lineup to win one of the last two games.
What does the blueprint for a championship run look like?
While the offense is capable of creating the instant damage that can foil frontline pitchers, the Braves will need Anderson and Wright to continue growing and impressing throughout October.
They have combined to make just 18 career starts, but they have spent the past few weeks showing why they were both top-five selections in the MLB Draft. If they can provide some consistency and Bryse Wilson or Huascar Ynoa can serve as an effective “opener” during the latter rounds, this could be the most memorable postseason Atlanta has experienced since the 1990s.
Good pitching has often conquered good offenses during the postseason. But there haven’t been a lot of lineups as powerful as this one, which features Ronald Acuña Jr., Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna at the top.
What is one reason for concern?
Acuña complained of a sore left wrist before Sunday’s regular-season finale, and setup man Chris Martin tweaked his right groin a couple of hours later. To compensate for what they lack in the rotation, the Braves will need to be at full strength.
Fried entered September as an NL Cy Young Award candidate, but he will have thrown just six innings since Sept. 5 when he steps on the mound to make his first career postseason start on Wednesday. How effective he is while attempting to shake off the rust will set the tone for what the rest of October might bring.