If the Dodgers or Padres want to punch their ticket to the World Series, they’re going to have to figure out how to score against the Atlanta Braves’ pitching staff.
The Braves beat the Marlins, 7-0, in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on Thursday to finish a sweep and earn their first trip to the NL Championship Series since 2001. But their triumph was more impressive than a mere sweep: Atlanta joined the 1905 New York Giants as just the second team to shut out the opposition in four of its first five games of a single postseason.
The Giants used just two pitchers -- Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Iron Joe McGinnity -- in those four shutouts against the A’s in that Fall Classic. Although the Braves used a few more pitchers than two, they look incredibly stifling as they move on to the NLCS.
Here are some numbers you should know about Atlanta’s incredible pitching.
The Braves’ team ERA is 0.92 (not a misprint) after Atlanta pitchers allowed just five runs in 49 innings to begin the postseason. Those five runs are tied with the 1983 Orioles for the second fewest allowed by any club through its first five postseason games, trailing only those 1905 Giants, who allowed three runs to Philadelphia in Game 2 (their only loss of that World Series).
The Braves' starting pitching has been led by Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright, who combined for four instances in which that day’s starter went at least five innings and didn’t allow a run. The only other club to boast that kind of starting-pitching dominance to begin its first five games of a postseason? You guessed it, those 1905 Giants, with Mathewson and McGinnity.
Wright became the 12th pitcher to make his postseason debut with a start of at least six scoreless innings in a potential clincher. If that sounds familiar with this crew, it’s because it is. Anderson did the same in NL Wild Card Game 2 for the Braves. The 2020 Braves are the first team to get two such debut performances in clinchers in a single postseason.
Overall, those individuals, along with the bullpen, have combined for four shutouts this postseason. In addition to tying the record to start a postseason, that’s tied for second most by a team in an entire postseason. The only team to throw more shutouts in a postseason was the 2016 Indians, who threw five.
How they’ve done it
There’s an old adage that a team puts itself in good position to win if it can avoid allowing a “crooked number” -- or a rally of at least two runs -- in any inning of a game. Well, the Braves have gone way beyond that; they have allowed just one crooked number (the Marlins’ three-run third in NLDS Game 1) across their first 49 innings of the postseason. In fact, Atlanta pitchers have seen an opponent cross home plate -- in any capacity -- in just three of those frames so far.
Atlanta’s aforementioned three starters have combined for 33 strikeouts, 20 hits, five walks and four runs allowed across 28 2/3 innings. That’s all the more impressive considering where the Braves’ starting corps ranked during the regular season.
The club entered the postseason ranked 28th out of the 30 MLB clubs in starting pitching ERA (5.51), but Fried and Anderson combined for a 2.14 ERA in the regular season. Every Braves starter outside those two combined for a 7.33 ERA, and that included Wright (5.21 ERA), who was able to flip the switch on Thursday.
And the bullpen? Just as dominant. Atlanta relievers have allowed a single run and struck out 26 across 20 1/3 innings.
The Braves had shut out the opposition 17 times across 25 prior postseason appearances dating back to their first World Series appearance in 1914, meaning the 2020 Braves have recorded nearly one-quarter of the franchise’s prior postseason shutout total in a span of 10 days.
How close did Game 3 come to not being a shutout? In the ninth inning, Jazz Chisholm hit a 377-foot double that went off the corner where the Crawford Box wall and the rest of the wall meet. The play was reviewed, but not ruled a home run. Instead the historic feat was preserved, and the Braves’ run of shutouts is intact headed to the NLCS.