By KEVIN MCALPIN
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – For Braves fans, Thursday evening represented the end of 19 years of Postseason frustration, as the Braves advanced to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2001. But how they got there is a story in and of itself. Think about just how dominant the Braves pitching staff has been through five games this Postseason. 49 innings pitched, 46 of which have been scoreless. A grand total of five runs scored and a collective 0.92 ERA (5 ER/49 IP) including a microscopic 0.44 ERA (1 ER/20.1 IP) for the Atlanta bullpen. While they haven’t been facing the ’27 Yankees, we know any opponent this time of year will represent a challenge. And so far, the Braves pitching staff has risen to that challenge and exceeded anyone’s expectations.
For Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright, they became the first pair of rookie teammates in Major League Baseball history to record six or more scoreless innings in their Playoff debuts. The game has been played for over 150 years and that’s never happened. And those five runs I mentioned earlier, only one other team in MLB history has had a better five games to open the Playoffs and that was the 1905 New York Giants who allowed just three runs over that span. That Giants club was paced by Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson who went 31-9 with a 1.26 ERA in 43 appearances (37 starts).
Now, the team will get a few days to rest up for an even bigger challenge as the Dodgers are up next in the LCS starting on Monday. The Los Angeles lineup this staff will be up against features sluggers like Betts, Bellinger, Seager, Turner and Muncy, among others. Having the games at a neutral site will no doubt help the younger arms like Anderson and Wright, however to this point, the Playoffs haven’t seemed like they’re too much for those youngsters. Meanwhile, the Atlanta offense will have their work cut out for them against one of the best pitchers of the decade in Clayton Kershaw, young stud Walker Buehler and hard throwing Dustin May. But, from an offensive standpoint, this 2020 Braves club is in far better shape to handle the challenge than the team they ran out there in both the NLDS in 2018 and 2013. But, the fact that it’s a seven game series will also benefit the Braves. All the pressure is on LA. They’ve fallen short of their ultimate goal the last few seasons and Dave Roberts’ bunch can’t afford another October disappointment. But like I said, this isn’t the 2013 or 2018 Braves they’re up against. If the rotation and pen can continue to put up historic numbers, it’ll take all the pressure off the offense and they can continue to grind out at bats like they do against guys like deGrom, Nola, Scherzer, Strasburg and others here in the NL East.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.