Well, the 2020 MLB Playoffs are upon us. Despite all the obstacles, all but two teams (STL and DET) managed to play the full 60 game slate. Now 16 teams will embark upon a modified playoff journey suitable to this most unique 2020 season. Who will be left standing at the end, raising the World Series trophy in Arlington, Texas at the end of October?
Join us as we preview each MLB playoff series, diving into what’s at stake for each team, how they stack up, and the keys to victory for each squad.
Today, we’ll have a look at what’s ahead for the Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves face off in the Wild Card round.
The Cincinnati Reds find themselves playing in the postseason for the first time since 2013, when they lost to the Pirates in the Wild Card game. Their last World Series appearance was all the way back in 1990. That’s why this team has been investing heavily as of late. Their offseason signings, coupled with the moves they made at the trade deadline, have some people thinking they could play spoiler and make a deep run.
Atlanta’s most recent World Series was a little more recently, coming in 1999 against they New York Yankees. They were swept in that matchup, and while they’ve frequently found themselves back in the playoffs, their results have been pretty bad of late. Since 2000, they’ve only made it beyond the Divisional round once, in 2001. They’ll look to change their fortunes if they can handle their business against the Reds.
Cincinnati Reds Keys to Victory: Ride the Momentum Wave
As noted in our playoff team preview, the Reds found their swagger at the perfect time. They went 7-3 in their last 10 games, which ultimately got them over the hump and into the postseason in the first place. It was a combination of solid pitching and their offense waking up. The bats aren’t quite as intimidating as they could be, but if they can produce enough runs it’ll be hard to top them when guys like Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray are on the bump. Having Raisel Iglesias and Archie Bradley coming out of the bullpen will only make it harder for opponents to put up big numbers.
Atlanta Braves Keys to Victory: Bats, Bats, and More Bats!
Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuńa Jr., Marcell Ozuna – who would YOU want to face from 60 ft., 6 inches away? None of the above? OK – but after those three you’ve got a supporting cast that has been solid throughout the season. Guys like Travis d’Arnaud, Ozzie Albies, Adam Duvall and Austin Riley have turned in respectable numbers as well. If any of the Reds’ arms are having an off day, the Braves are likely to take advantage.
Final Call: Cincinnati Reds in 3
This series may ultimately come down to home runs. The Braves only gave up 35% of their runs via the long ball – the best in the majors this season. Conversely, the Reds finished 5th in the league in runs per game through dingers. Keep an eye on the volume of balls leaving the yard throughout this series.
In the end, I think Atlanta’s dearth of starting pitching could be their undoing. The trio for the Reds is among the best in baseball, whereas Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright have only limited experience on the postseason stage. Fried, who was by far their best starter this season, is also working his way back from injury. I think the Reds will capitalize on how thin Atlanta is on the mound, and ultimately move on to the NLCS.
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