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Preview: Braves vs. Reds NL Wild Card Series

We are less than 24 hours away from the Reds first playoff game since 2013. Tomorrow at Noon Eastern Time on ESPN the Atlanta Braves will host the Cincinnati Reds in Game One of the National League Wild Card Series.

If you are interested in other baseball games, the American League Wild Card Series began this afternoon. At 2:00 you had the Twins vs. Astros, the A’s and White Sox started at 3:00, the Rays and Blue Jays go right now at 5:00, and the Indians and Yankees have the night cap at 7:00.

Pitcher’s Duel

NL Cy Young candidate Trevor Bauer will take the mound in Game One for the Reds. Bauer leads the National League with a 1.73 Earned Run Average. His 100 strikeouts were second most in the NL as well. Bauer is 5-4 on the season and 9 of his 11 starts were quality starts including throwing two complete game shutouts.

Max Fried will be the Game One starter for the Braves. Fried is 7-0 on the season with a 2.25 ERA. The 26 year old left-hander will be making the first postseason start of his career and will try to return to his pre-injury form.

Since developing back spasms after his start against the Washington Nationals on September 5th, Fried has thrown just six total innings. On September 18th Fried threw an easy five innings and earned the win in a 15-2 blowout of the Mets. Then, he turned his ankle in his next start on September 23rd against the Marlins. He gave up two runs on three hits, two of which were Home Runs, and exited after the first inning.

Especially coming off of a couple injuries, a key storyline will be how deep into the game Max Fried can pitch. Braves Manager Brian Snitker has already stated that “if he can go five innings, that’d be great.” Unlike Trevor Bauer who has only thrown under 100 pitches in one outing this season, Fried only eclipsed the century mark one time.

As a pitching staff, the Braves held opponents without a Home Run in 28 of 60 games, the best mark in the league. They won 21 of those games. The Reds hit Home Runs in 43 games this season. If Cincinnati can hit the ball out of Truist Park the advantage will swing in their favor. However, if Atlanta’s pitching staff can continue to keep the ball in the park it will be difficult for the Reds to score enough runs to win.

More on Max Fried

Fried, the #7 overall pick in the 2012 Draft, is a softer throwing lefty who will get outs via finesse as opposed to power. His fastball, which he turns to 42% of the time, sinks quite a bit and induces a lot of ground balls and soft contact. Fried had the longest streak in Major League Baseball this season by not allowing a Home Run for 55 consecutive innings. Against a long ball reliant club like the Reds that will be a key strength vs. strength.

The lefty also features a sharp curveball with a lot of vertical break and a sweeping slider that will dive away from lefties and handcuff right-handers.

Fried has pitched two other times in his career against the Cincinnati Reds. Back in 2018, Fried gave up a walk-off Home Run to Scooter Gennett in the bottom of the 12th inning. He bounced back in 2019 by throwing six innings of four hit, one run baseball in a rain-shortened 4-1 victory. Current Reds batters are just 1-18 career against Max Fried with Joey Votto recording the long hit.

Braves Bullpen

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – AUGUST 02: Chris Martin #51 of the Atlanta Braves makes his Braves debut as he pitches in the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at SunTrust Park on August 02, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Braves bullpen has been excellent all season long. They posted a 2.74 ERA as a unit which was the second best in the National League behind the Brewers. The bullpen will have to be up for the challenge in this series with Max Fried not generally throwing deep into games and then relying on a pair of 22 year olds with 18 career starts combined in Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright.

After a recent groin tweak, Snitker has said that reliever Chris Martin will be available to pitch on Wednesday. Martin allowed just two earned runs in 18 innings of work this season. He struck out 20 batters and allowed just three walks.

Along with Martin, Shane Greene led the Braves with 28 appearances and posted a 2.60 ERA in 27 2/3 innings. Left-hander A.J. Winter allowed just two runs in 21 2/3 innings and struck out 24. Darren O’Day has also been extremely reliable in 16 1/3 innings across 19 appearances.

All of the bullpen work leads up to Closer Mark Melancon. Melancon recorded 11 saves and a 2.78 ERA in 22 2/3 innings pitched.

MVP Candidate & Triple Crown Threat

Marcell Ozuna signed a one-year, $18 million contract this off season and immediately started earning every penny. Ozuna was the Braves primary Designated Hitter this season and ended up competing for the Triple Crown, finishing fourth in Batting Average (.338), third in Home Runs (18), and second in Runs Batted In (56). However, he isn’t even the best offensive player on his own team.

First Baseman Freddie Freeman, a leading candidate to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award, hit .341 with 13 Home Runs and 53 RBI. His 23 Doubles were the most in Major League Baseball this season. Freeman also came in second in MLB in On-Base Percentage (.462), Slugging Percentage (.640), and OPS (1.102).

Overall, the Atlanta Braves offense scored 348 runs, just one behind the Dodgers for best in Major League Baseball. In the modern era, the Braves 5.8 runs per game was the most in franchise history. The offense led all of baseball in OPS (.832), On-Base Percentage (.349), Doubles (130), and Extra-Base Hits (236) while finishing second in Batting Average (.268) and Slugging Percentage (.483).

The Braves explosive offense scored double-digit runs 10 times this season in just 60 games. The next best team in the league did it eight times. This series will feature a battle of strengths between the best offense in the league and one of the best starting pitching rotations in the league.

Projected Game 1 Reds Lineup

  1. Aristides Aquino, LF
  2. Nick Castellanos, RF
  3. Joey Votto, 1B
  4. Eugenio Suarez, 3B
  5. Mike Moustakas, 2B
  6. Nick Senzel, CF
  7. Jesse Winker, DH
  8. Freddy Galvis, SS
  9. Curt Casali, C

Aquino and Senzel will likely get the start in the outfield against the left-handed pitching Max Fried. Brian Goodwin and Shogo Akiyama will be ready to pinch-hit once Fried exits the game.

It is also possible that Rookie Tyler Stephenson, assuming he makes the postseason roster, could DH to replace another left-handed hitter with a right-handed bat.

Projected Game 1 Braves Lineup

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr., CF
  2. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  3. Marcell Ozuna, DH
  4. Travis d’Arnaud, C
  5. Ozzie Albies, 2B
  6. Adam Duvall, LF
  7. Austin Riley, 3B
  8. Nick Markakis, RF
  9. Dansby Swanson, SS

The Braves feature just two left-handed hitters and the switch-hitting Albies, but Freeman, d’Arnaud, and Acuna were three of the best at hitting right-handed pitching this season.


Article written by Brandon Ramsey

Basketball X's & O's for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @BRamseyKSR

1 Comment for Preview: Braves vs. Reds NL Wild Card Series

  1. panicpat
    6:01 pm September 29, 2020 Permalink

    Lets go reds!!