After spending the past few months battling to win the National League East, the Braves and Marlins will square off in the NL Division Series, which will begin on Tuesday at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
Having won their third straight division title, the Braves will be the home team in Games 1, 2 and 5 (if necessary) of this best-of-five series. The Marlins extended one of this year’s best storylines when they clinched a spot in the NLDS by sweeping the Cubs in the Wild Card Series.
The Braves are returning to the NLDS for a third straight year after throwing 22 scoreless innings in their sweep of the Reds in their WC Series.
Postseason experiences have been much different for these two organizations. The Marlins have won each of the seven playoff series they have been involved in, including the 1997 NL Championship Series against the Braves. That stands as the only previous time these two teams have met in the postseason.
By sweeping the Reds, the Braves avoided becoming the first team in MLB history to lose 11 consecutive postseason series. Their last playoff series win had occurred in 2001, when they swept the Astros in the NLDS. The first two games of that series were also played at Minute Maid Park.
“They have kicked our butts a few times,” Marlins closer Brandon Kintzler said. "They've beaten us six out of 10, but they’ve [mostly been] competitive games. Obviously, their lineup is great. But we've got pitching. They've got pitching.”
Sandy Alcantara, who went 6 2/3 innings in an NL Wild Card Series win over the Cubs on Wednesday, will start Game 1 against the Braves.
“If Sandy gets everything going, he’s really a lot to handle,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
The game will be shown on FOX Sports 1 at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday. It is also available to stream on MLB.TV with authentication.
Marlins: Since the Braves are starting left-hander Max Fried in Game 1, the left-handed-hitting Corey Dickerson is batting sixth, instead of leadoff.
1) Jon Berti, 2B
2) Jesús Aguilar, DH
3) Garrett Cooper, 1B
4) Brian Anderson, 3B
5) Miguel Rojas, SS
6) Corey Dickerson, LF (L)
7) Lewis Brinson, RF
8) Chad Wallach, C
9) Magneuris Sierra, CF
Braves: Braves manager Brian Snitker put Ronald Acuña Jr., Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna in the first three lineup spots on Sept. 9, which was the day the Braves claimed a 29-9 win over the Marlins. These three MVP Award candidates provide an immediate challenge for pitchers, who have come to realize the lineup’s depth. It improved even further when Ozzie Albies returned from a month-long stint on the injured list.
1) Ronald Acuña Jr., CF
2) Freddie Freeman, 1B (L)
3) Marcell Ozuna, DH
4) Travis d'Arnaud, C
5) Ozzie Albies, 2B (S)
6) Dansby Swanson, SS
7) Adam Duvall, LF
8) Nick Markakis, RF (L)
9) Austin Riley, 3B
Who are the starting pitchers?
Marlins: Sandy Alcantara (0-0, 1.35 ERA)
By sweeping the Cubs, the Marlins are nicely set up to go with Alcantara, who impressed against Chicago in the Wild Card Series, giving up one run in 6 2/3 innings. He has a 2.41 ERA in three career appearances against the Braves since his debut in 2017, though he didn't face Atlanta in any of his seven regular-season starts this year.
Braves: Max Fried (0-0, 0.00)
Fried tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series against the Reds. The lefty didn’t show any rust despite having totaled just six innings over the previous three weeks. Instead, he looked like he did while posting a 1.60 ERA in the eight starts before his lower back forced him to the injured list in early September. He blanked the Marlins over 6 1/3 innings on Aug. 15 and then surrendered his only two homers of the season after rolling his ankle during his one-inning stint against them on Sept. 23.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Marlins: In two games at Wrigley Field, the bullpen combined to throw 6 1/3 shutout innings, allowing just two hits. Brandon Kintzler closed off the series with three strikeouts in the ninth after he issued a leadoff double to Jason Heyward. Yimi García is handling the setup role in the eighth inning. Brad Boxberger, who had been taking care of that role most of the season, entered in the sixth of Game 2. Overall, the bullpen is rested.
Braves: This has been a deep and effective bullpen filled with former All-Stars, including Darren O'Day, who would likely be the top option if Fried were to exit before the end of the sixth with a lead. Shane Greene and Chris Martin have been reliable setup men for closer Mark Melancon throughout the season. But it looks like they will be sharing the high-leverage appearances with Will Smith, who avoided his regular-season home run woes in both of his Wild Card Series appearances.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Marlins: The bullpen is fresh. Left-hander Richard Bleier, García and Kintzler are the only relievers to appear in both games in the Wild Card Series.
Braves: Smith, Martin and Melancon were the only relievers to work both games of the Wild Card Series. With four days of rest, this relief corps should enter this series at full strength.
Any injuries of note?
Marlins: Listed on the taxi squad, Starling Marte (left pinkie fracture) was struck on his hand by a Dan Winkler sinker in the ninth inning on Wednesday. It marked the 10th time this season that Marte has been hit by a pitch.
Braves: Acuña says his left wrist will continue to bother him until he’s given a chance to rest it during the offseason. But he went 4-for-11 during the Wild Card Series and has hit 10 homers over the 30 games he has played since coming off the injured list on Aug. 26.
Who is hot and who is not?
Marlins: Aguilar, Dickerson and Cooper each homered against the Cubs, but Anderson went hitless in nine at-bats with four strikeouts.
Braves: Acuña was the only Braves player to record more than two hits in the Wild Card Series. But Freeman and Ozuna were the NL’s top offensive players in September. Freeman produced a 1.246 OPS and Ozuna constructed a 1.238 OPS during the regular season’s final month.
Duvall hit 11 homers in September, but he produced just a .529 OPS over his final 10 regular-season games. He went 1-for-8 with six strikeouts and a homer during the WC Series.
Anything else fans want to know?
Marlins: A hard-throwing pitching staff may be adding another right-hander who has thrown 100 mph. Edward Cabrera, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami’s No. 6 prospect, is a possibility to be added to the roster. Cabrera has never pitched in a big league game, and he dealt with an unspecified right arm issue early in Summer Camp. Cabrera is on the taxi squad, throwing four innings in a simulated game on Friday at Wrigley Field. If added, Cabrera likely could be a bullpen option. But he is being groomed as a starter.
Braves: Albies (1.262), Swanson (1.221), Duvall (1.201) and Freeman (1.097) all produced a four-digit OPS against the Marlins this year. Ozuna just missed being a part of this group, as he tallied three homers and a .978 OPS against his former team.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.