The Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins followed similar scripts in the National League wild-card round to set the stage for a matchup of all-too-familiar foes in the division series.
The second-seeded Braves did not surrender a run in their two-game sweep of Cincinnati — in 22 innings, no less — while the sixth-seeded Marlins allowed just one while sweeping aside the Chicago Cubs.
Fresh off a pair of dominating pitching performances, Atlanta once again will turn to ace left-hander Max Fried (0-0, 0.00 ERA) on Tuesday afternoon for the opener of its best-of-five series in Houston.
Fried followed up a scintillating 7-0 record in the regular season by scattering six hits over seven scoreless innings in a no-decision in Game 1 of the NL wild-card series on Wednesday — a game the Braves won 1-0 in 13 innings.
The 26-year-old Fried, who owns an 0-1 mark with a 5.13 ERA in six career starts versus Miami, did not record a decision in two games against the Marlins this season. He tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings in Miami on Aug. 15 before surrendering a pair of solo homers in one frame on Sept. 23, an outing that was cut short by an ankle injury.
“I don’t think we thought about Max’s ankle or him not having that many innings,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said of Fried, who had worked just six innings over the three previous weeks prior to his last start.
“I think we all knew Max would go out there and compete. Him competing at the highest level is pretty special.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker played it close to the vest when asked if Fried could return on short rest for a potential Game 5.
“We just need to see how that first game goes and the subsequent games as well,” Snitker said.
The Braves won both of Fried’s contests against the Marlins and six of the 10 meetings overall, marking the sixth year that Atlanta captured the season series. The Braves held distinct advantages in the series in runs scored (68-44) and homers (17-10), however it should be noted that the team set an NL record for run scored and went deep seven times in a 29-9 romp over Miami on Sept. 9.
Freeman belted a two-run homer among his three hits and six RBIs in that high-scoring affair. The four-time All-Star went 14-for-40 with eight extra-base hits (six doubles, two homers), 11 RBIs and seven runs scored in the season series versus Miami.
As for the upstart Marlins, they seemingly have embraced their “Bottom Feeders” nickname bestowed upon them by former Philadelphia pitcher-turned-television-analyst Ricky Bottalico following the Phillies’ season-opening loss. They have played the underdog role to the hilt, securing an elusive postseason berth and winning in their first playoff appearance since capturing the World Series title in 2003.
“You know what we’ve been through, right?” manager Don Mattingly shouted to his players.
Mattingly said Sunday that the Marlins haven’t made a determination on the status of outfielder Starling Marte, who is nursing a broken left hand. Marte apparently will not undergo surgery, but the Marlins are expected to platoon left-handed-hitting Magneuris Sierra and right-handed-hitting Lewis Brinson or Monte Harrison.
Mattingly also did not announce a starting pitcher for the series opener.
Hard-throwing right-hander Sandy Alcantara (1-0, 1.35 ERA) is a likely candidate after allowing just one solo homer and two other hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 5-1 victory versus the Cubs on Wednesday.
Alcantara, 25, has yet to record a decision in three career starts against Atlanta, however he owns a 2.41 ERA and 1.13 WHIP versus the club while limiting it to a .176 batting average.
–Field Level Media