With a 1-0, 13-inning win over the Reds in Game 1 of the National League Wild Card Series on Wednesday afternoon, the Braves drew first blood in this best-of-three series that could include one or two more nail-biters.
The Braves haven’t won a postseason series since 2001, while the Reds’ drought goes all the way back to 1995.
Here is a look at how the two teams will stack up in Game 2.
What could the starting lineups look like?
Reds: After manager David Bell leaned on his right-handed hitters against lefty Max Fried in Game 1, the Reds will feature a left-handed-heavy lineup in Game 2 against righty Ian Anderson. Here is the lineup Bell wrote on Thursday:
- Shogo Akiyama, LF (L)
- Nick Castellanos, RF
3 Joey Votto, 1B (L)
- Eugenio Suárez, 3B
- Mike Moustakas, 2B (L)
- Jesse Winker, DH (L)
- Nick Senzel, CF
- Freddy Galvis, SS (S)
- Tucker Barnhart, C
Braves: Manager Brian Snitker will not tinker much with his lineup mix that proved so successful during the regular season. He opted to bat Dansby Swanson seventh and Austin Riley ninth in Game 1. This might have been influenced by the fact that Riley is still bothered by a tight right quad muscle.
- Ronald Acuña Jr., CF
- Freddie Freeman, 1B (L)
- Marcell Ozuna, DH
- Travis d’Arnaud, C
- Ozzie Albies, 2B (S)
- Adam Duvall, LF
- Dansby Swanson, SS
- Nick Markakis RF (L)
- Austin Riley 3B
Who are the starting pitchers?
Reds: Luis Castillo (4-6, 3.21 ERA) will be making the first postseason start of his career, and he won’t have time to get his feet wet as he tries to help Cincinnati stave off elimination. But he’s coming into the postseason on a roll. After going 0-5 with a 4.10 ERA over his first seven starts, he went 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA over his final five outings, including the first complete game of his career. Castillo’s changeup is an elite pitch, and hitters have a .170 expected batting average against the offering this season and have a 40.1 whiff percentage, according to Statcast. But he also has a slider and a fastball that can touch 98-99 mph with regularity.
Braves: Ian Anderson (3-2, 1.95 ERA) will make his first postseason start with the hope of extending the promise he has shown through the first six starts of his career. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed the Yankees just one hit over six innings during his MLB debut on Aug. 26. In Anderson's best start of the season, he limited the Nationals to one hit over seven scoreless innings on Sept. 12. Opponents hit .104 (5-for-48) against his changeup this year.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Reds: Like it did with Trevor Bauer in Game 1, Cincinnati will expect a deep outing from Castillo, who pitched six or more innings in four of his last five starts. After that, Bell can opt to match up with lefty reliever Amir Garrett and go to Archie Bradley and Raisel Iglesias to close it out if there is a lead.
Braves: The Braves could really benefit from Anderson working into the sixth or seventh inning. Tyler Matzek was their only reliever to throw 20-plus pitches on Wednesday. But with a potential Game 3 looming on Friday, Snitker will need to account for who might not be able to pitch on three consecutive days.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Reds: Unlikely, even after a 13-inning game on Wednesday. Iglesias threw 26 pitches but had plenty of power, including a 99-mph strikeout. Bradley threw only 12 pitches, and Garrett tossed four. Lucas Sims and Michael Lorenzen are also repeatable on back-to-back days, especially with the season on the line.
Braves: There’s a chance the Braves will stay away from Matzek if necessary, but Snitker will not enter the game with a set plan to stay away from any of his relievers in this potential clincher.
Any injuries of note?
Who is hot and who is not?
Reds: Akiyama, who struck out in his one at-bat Wednesday, led the Reds in September by batting .317 with a .456 on-base percentage. Castellanos had a nice showing on Wednesday, going 3-for-6, and he was the final Cincinnati batter without a strikeout before he went down on strikes in the 13th inning. Senzel, who finished the regular season 2-for-25, notched singles in his first two playoff at-bats.
Moustakas was 0-for-5 in Game 1 and left five on base, as he was unable to hit a ball out of the infield. Suárez was 1-for-5 with two strikeouts.
Braves: 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.
Former Reds outfielder Duvall hit 11 homers in September, but he produced just a .529 OPS over his final 10 regular-season games.
Anything else fans want to know?
Before Wednesday, the Braves’ most recent walk-off win in a postseason game had occurred when Rafael Furcal ended Game 2 of the 2004 NL Division Series against the Astros with an 11th-inning home run.
The Braves and Reds also played extra innings in the first game of the 1995 NL Championship Series, which was the most recent time they met during the postseason before Wednesday’s meeting; Atlanta swept that series.