Reds vs. Braves – 2020 MLB Expert Analysis

There was a spectacular pitching duel in Game 1 of the Reds-Braves best-of-3 Wild-Card series from Atlanta on Wednesday. Cincinnati had so many chances to win yet lost 1-0. Now the Reds’ season is on the line in Game 2 on Thursday.

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Why Bet on Cincinnati? | 2020 MLB Expert Analysis

Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer, the likely NL Cy Young winner, was absolutely spectacular on Wednesday. He departed after 7.2 scoreless innings and 103 pitches, leaving with a Reds postseason record of 12 strikeouts. Bauer was the first pitcher in postseason baseball history to go at least 7.2 shutout innings with no walks and at least 12 strikeouts.

Bauer permitted three batters to reach base – two hits and a hit batsman – and another reached on an error. That was it for an offense that ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in nearly every offensive category in the regular season.   Unfortunately, the Cincinnati offense wasted opportunity after opportunity in the 1-0 loss in 13 innings.

The defeat went to reliever Archie Bradley, who gave up a pair of hits before Amir Garrett came on and surrendered the game-ending RBI single to Freddie Freeman. The Reds used four relievers after Bauer.

The Reds-Braves game was the first playoff game to head to extra innings scoreless since Game 6 of the 1997 ALCS between the Indians and Orioles. The Indians won that game and clinched the series on Tony Fernandez’s 11th-inning home run off Armando Benitez.

Cincinnati had Reds had runners at the corners in the 12th inning with no out and failed to score when the next three batters struck out. They loaded the bases with one out in the 13th inning and failed to score.

The Reds left 13 runners on base and are 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. The teams combined for a postseason record 37 strikeouts (the old record was 34, the 18-inning World Series game between the Red Sox and Dodgers in 2018).  Every position player who started the game struck out at least once.

It’s Luis Castillo on the mound here. Castillo was 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA in four September starts before allowing four runs in four frames on Saturday. His changeup is one of the game’s best, along with a 98-99 mph fastball and a punchout slider.

This year, Castillo ranked among the National League regular season leaders in strikeouts per 9 innings (11.44, 6th), strikeouts (8th) and ERA (11th). This will be his first playoff start. Castillo is 2-1 in three career starts vs. the Braves with a 3.86 ERA.

Why Bet on Atlanta? | 2020 MLB Expert Analysis

The Braves have lost 10 consecutive playoff rounds, dating to the 2001 League Championship Series against Arizona. The Braves last won a playoff round in 2001, sweeping Houston in the NLDS.

However, as noted above, Freddie Freeman, an NL MVP candidate, hit a walkoff RBI single in the bottom of the 13th inning as the Braves beat the Reds 1-0 in Game 1 on Wednesday. It was the longest scoreless game in the history of the postseason before Freeman slapped a slider from Amir Garrett into center field to score Cristian Pache from third base. The Braves had just three hits in the first 12 innings, but got three in the 13th and won despite striking out 21 times.

During the regular season, Freeman hit .341/.462/.640 with 13 homers, 53 RBIs and 51 runs scored while playing all 60 games. He capped the season by winning player of the month for September, a month in which he hit .375/.496/.750 with eight homers and 32 RBIs, while also walking (20) more than striking out (14).

Extra innings games started with runners on second base during the regular season. Not so in the postseason. The Atlanta bullpen called on seven different pitchers after Max Fried’s seven shutout innings. The Braves are 11-4 in playoff series when they win Game 1 and 3-17 when they drop the opener. They last won a Game 1 home game in the 1999 LCS, beating New York, 4-2. Atlanta had lost seen straight home Game 1s until Wednesday.

Atlanta starts rookie Ian Anderson on the mound. Anderson will make his first postseason appearance after showing promise in his first six MLB starts. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed the Yankees only one hit in six innings in his debut on Aug. 26, and he limited the Nationals to one hit over seven scoreless innings on Sept. 12. Opponents have hit .104 (5-for-48) against his changeup.

This will be Anderson’s first career look at the Reds.

Expert Prediction Reds 6, Braves 4

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