Braves overpower Marlins in Houston with a 3-0 series sweep and punch their first ticket to the NLCS since 2001
Playing at a neutral site and facing the aces of the pitching staff did not seem to bother both offenses early, as the Braves and Marlins came out swinging early.
OF Ronald Acuña Jr. led off the bottom of the first inning with a mammoth home run that reached the right field upper-deck off SP Sandy Alcantara. SS Miguel Rojas responded with a solo homer in the top of the second inning off SP Max Fried.
The Marlins continued to pound away at Fried, as 1B Garrett Cooper drove home two runs with a single and 3B Brian Anderson followed with an RBI double putting the Marlins up 4-1 in the top of the third.
In the next half inning, Alcantara drilled Acuña Jr. with a 98 mph fastball, causing a brief confrontation between the two, however, cooler heads quickly prevailed. OF Marcell Ozuna and C Travis d’Arnaud capitalized with back-to-back RBI doubles to trim the Marlins lead to one run. Both offenses were neutralized for the next three and a half innings as Alcantara and the Braves pitching staff held the opposition scoreless.
In the bottom of the seventh, 3B Austin Riley and Acuña Jr. began the inning with back-to-back singles, which forced Marlins Manager Don Mattingly to bring in RHP Yimi Garcia. The Braves bats continued their triumphant rally, as Ozuna tied the game with an RBI single and d’Arnaud followed with a three-run homer to put the Braves up 7-4. SS Dansby Swanson hit a two-run homer off of RHP James Hoyt to extend the Braves lead.
The bullpen dominance from the Braves continued into the last two innings, as the team closed out Game 1 with a 9-5 win.
Unlike Game 1, the bats were mostly quiet for both squads, as Marlins SP Pablo Lopez and Braves SP Ian Anderson both gave up just three hits and stuck out seven and eight batters, respectively. However, a second inning home run by Swanson and a fourth inning home run by d’Arnaud proved to be the difference, as the Braves eked out a 2-0 win to extend their series lead.
The Marlins had an excellent scoring opportunity in the sixth inning. Anderson’s replacement, RHP Darren O’Day, loaded the bases by allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base with a hit by pitch and a walk. O’Day was able to find his control and got the next batter, OF Matt Joyce, to ground out to first to end the inning.
The Braves bullpen dominance continued for the last three innings as LHP Tyler Matzek, LHP Will Smith and RHP Mark Melancon each pitched scoreless innings to preserve the Braves third postseason shutout in four games.
RHP Sixto Sánchez looked to keep the Marlins postseason journey alive, hoping to follow up from his impressive playoff debut against the Cubs in the Wild Card round.
After a five-pitch first inning, Sánchez allowed the first three batters to reach, setting up a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the second. Sánchez retired the next three batters, highlighted by a spectacular diving catch by LF Corey Dickerson on a sinking line drive hit by OF Nick Markakis. However, the Braves bats caught fire in the third inning as they pushed four runs across the plate against Sánchez, punctuated by an Ozuna RBI single and a two-RBI double from d’Arnaud.
In the following half-inning, the Marlins loaded the bases, but SP Kyle Wright escaped the jam after inducing 2B Jazz Chisholm to ground to second. The Braves hot bats drove home three runs over the next two innings, while Wright pitched three consecutive scoreless innings to silence the Marlins batters.
With a comfortable 7-0 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Braves’ reliable bullpen recorded the final nine outs, helping the Braves reach their first NLCS in 19 years and post their fourth shutout in five games. They will travel to Arlington, Texas, and face the winner of the Dodgers vs. Padres series.