Bauer vs. Braves pits NL's best in Game 1

September 30th, 2020

This afternoon, one of baseball’s toughest starting pitchers will be pitted against one of baseball’s toughest lineups.

Reds starting pitcher and National League Cy Young Award candidate will get the ball vs. the Braves in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series. Because the regular-season schedule was regional in 2020, it will be the first time Bauer sees Atlanta.

“I faced them a couple times before, a lot of these guys, so have a little bit of history with them, but obviously not this year,” Bauer said on Monday. “Things change, lineup construction changes, all that. I haven’t done a deep dive, really, yet on them, but will be doing that today and tomorrow, obviously.”

The Braves led the Majors in team OPS (.832) and ranked second in batting average (.268), homers (103) and runs scored (348). They were also third in strikeouts (573).

Bauer led the NL with a 1.73 ERA, an 0.79 WHIP, a .159 opponents’ batting average and finished second with 100 strikeouts. Although he gave up nine home runs, eight of them came with nobody on base.

“That’s the goal: Make them beat me and don’t beat myself,” Bauer said. “Limit the walks. Try to execute as many good pitches as possible so I can limit the hits. The less traffic you have on the bases, the better off you usually are, so that’s been the goal for me, really, all year. I’ve tried to cut my walk rate down because that’s a really easy way to limit runs scored, and that’s something that has definitely helped.”

Pitching on three days' rest last Wednesday in a 6-1 victory over the Brewers, Bauer delivered with his biggest start of the year – eight innings, one earned run, four hits, one walk and 12 strikeouts -- to help bolster Cincinnati’s postseason hopes. He was prepared to pitch again on short rest on Sunday, but he was moved to Game 1 of the playoffs since the Reds had already clinched on Friday.

That means it will be one week between starts for Bauer, who likes limiting idle days, but he wasn’t concerned that it would affect him negatively.

“I just bounced my routine around a little bit,” Bauer said. “Threw a bullpen on Sunday. I’ll be fine. I’m in a good spot mechanically, command and all that stuff. There is obviously changes because of extra days, but nothing that I haven’t faced this year. I mean, I had 13 days between starts at one point this year, so not a big deal.”

Getting settled in Atlanta
The Reds flew straight to Atlanta from Minneapolis following Sunday’s regular-season finale. Manager David Bell had the team go through a light workout with some optional components on Monday afternoon at Truist Park.

“Get out, move around. We’re excited to be here, so it’s good to get out of the hotel and get some movement, get some activity,” Bell said. "[Tuesday] will be a little bit more of a structured workout. But during the course of the day, there’s a lot to think about: the Braves, our playoff roster, lineups, things like that. But we haven’t finalized any of that.”

Injury report
Outfielder , who left Saturday’s game with irritation in his right groin and didn’t play on Sunday, is expected to be ready for postseason play.

“Talking to him yesterday, he was very optimistic, and he even said he can play,” Bell said. “He was not going to play yesterday. I haven’t seen him today, but everything from the trainers say that he would be on track to be available to play on Wednesday.”

Reliever last pitched on Sept. 20 and missed time with lower back tightness. Bradley was viewed as healthy over the previous two games.

“It was good knowing that he could have pitched, but he didn’t,” Bell said. “It worked out even better just to give him those days. He’s going to be good to go.”

Packed for the duration
All three games of this Wild Card Series will be played in Atlanta. If the Reds advance, their future postseason games will take place at a neutral site in either Houston or Arlington. Everyone packed for what they hope is a one-month-long road trip.

“Fill it to the brim. Fill it up with all the essentials that you need,” reliever Lucas Sims said. “Pack as much as you can. Hopefully there’s laundry. I think they have laundry set up.”

Unlike past postseason, teams will be confined to the bubble to prevent COVID-19 spread.

“That's fine with me. I'll stay away from home as long as I can. Except for my wife, she might be a little upset with me,” utility player Kyle Farmer said. “But the further we can stay away from home, I guess, the better. Heading to Atlanta is going to be tough for me … I live five minutes from that hotel. It's kind of tough, but I've got to follow the rules and see where it goes. As long as we keep winning, winning takes care of everything.”