Braves blank Reds again to reach NLDS

Anderson sets marks in playoff debut; Atlanta snaps 10-series skid

October 2nd, 2020

ATLANTA -- might not be old enough to fully grasp the significance of the Braves once again tasting postseason success. But the young hurler already appears capable of giving Atlanta fans a chance to regularly celebrate in October.

Anderson drew comparisons to Tom Glavine and Steve Avery after dazzling in his postseason debut. His six innings extended a historic scoreless run for the Braves, who swept the Reds in the National League Wild Card Series with a 5-0 win on Thursday afternoon at Truist Park.

With a pair of shutout wins in this best-of-three series, the Braves became the first team in postseason history to hold a team scoreless over the first 22 innings of a series. The longest such streak was previously produced by the Yankees, who blanked the Giants over the first 20 innings of the 1921 World Series.

“We obviously didn’t do our part offensively,” Reds first baseman Joey Votto said. “Kudos to the Braves. I thought they were tenacious and steady. Their pitching -- I don’t want to say it was better than I thought it would be, because it would be disrespectful -- but they were very, very good. I wish them luck in the following round.”

This marks the first time the Braves have won a postseason series since 2001, when Anderson was just 3 years old. Since eliminating the Astros from the NL Division Series 19 years ago, Atlanta had lost 10 consecutive postseason series, which matched the Cubs (1910-98) for the longest such drought in MLB history.

But after Anderson allowed just two hits while recording nine strikeouts over six scoreless innings and after Ronald Acuña Jr. enhanced his impressive postseason statistics, the Braves will now head to Houston to begin the NL Division Series on Tuesday against the Marlins.

“I told somebody the other day I want to go to Houston and experience that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I want to get locked in another bubble and play these games. I told the guys we have a couple of boxes we wanted to check off. We checked off one today.”

One day after Max Fried and potentially MLB’s best bullpen combined to throw 13 scoreless innings in a Game 1 victory, the Braves again found themselves in a scoreless battle until Acuña highlighted a three-hit game with an RBI double against Luis Castillo in the fifth.

Acuña has nine extra-base hits through his first 44 career postseason at-bats, and he stands with former Atlanta star Andruw Jones as the only players to tally three three-hit games in the playoffs before turning 23.

Castillo and Cincinnati’s Game 1 starter Trevor Bauer were effective against a powerful Braves offense that didn’t erupt until Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall hit two-run homers in the eighth against Raisel Iglesias.

But even Ozuna’s post-homer selfie was trumped by the effort of Anderson, who became just the fourth pitcher in Braves history to throw six or more scoreless innings in his first career postseason appearance. Not bad for a guy who entered the playoffs with just six Major League starts dating back to his debut on Aug. 26.

“He looks like a veteran pitcher out there,” Acuña said through an interpreter. “He never seems too anxious. He always seems to keep his emotions in check. He’s a tremendous pitcher.”

Anderson became the only pitcher in Braves history to start a postseason game with six or fewer regular-season appearances. The 22-year-old hurler’s nine strikeouts matched Avery (Game 2 of the 1992 NL Championship Series) for the most by a Braves pitcher in his playoff debut.

“This kid competes just like [Glavine and Avery] did,” Snitker said. “Those guys were about as fierce of competitors as I’ve ever been around. This kid is the same way.”

Mark Melancon, Will Smith and Chris Martin provided scoreless appearances in both games of this series. Their contributions were key performances from Atlanta's bullpen, along with Tyler Matzek and A.J. Minter’s threat-ending outings in the final innings of Monday’s win.

But while the Braves’ bullpen deserves a lot of credit, the likelihood of this team winning more series this postseason was increased by the stoic effort of Anderson, who loaded the bases with two outs in the second and then proceeded to retire the next eight batters.

“It’s something else, how he handles the whole thing,” Snitker said. “I look at him between innings to see his reactions sometimes. He doesn’t look his age. It’s like he’s out on the sandlot playing ball.”