Trevor Bauer has been the best pitcher in the National League all year. When it was said and done, he compiled a 5-4 record with a 1.73 ERA and a 276 ERA+. It only made sense that the Cincinnati Reds called his number to start Game One of the National League Wild Card Series. He took on another pitcher who was really good this year as well. The Atlanta Braves started Max Fried, a talented left-handed pitcher. Many said that Shane Bieber vs. Gerrit Cole was the game to watch, but boy were they wrong.
Dominant Pitching Wins in the Playoffs, Usually
Bauer came out of the gate hot. After the Reds squandered an early opportunity to score a run in the first, Bauer went to work. He mowed through the second-best offense in baseball all day long. The Braves came in averaging almost six runs a game at 5.8, and Bauer had a sub-.200 opponent batting average. He also owned a sub-.100 opponent batting average with runners in scoring position. This was a pitchers duel like we haven’t seen in a long time, with Bauer even drawing comparisons to playoff legend Curt Schilling. Unfortunately for him, Fried matched him step for step.
Bauer left the game in the 8th inning with a final line of 7 2/3 innings pitched, two hits, no runs, no walks, and 12 strikeouts. That made him the first pitcher in postseason history to post a line of at least seven innings with no walks and 12 punch outs. Fried also kept the Reds scoreless, as he went seven innings with six hits, no runs, no walks, and five strikeouts. Coming into the postseason, the talk of pitchers was centered around Tuesday’s matchup of Cole and Bieber. The Yankees abused the sure AL Cy Young winner for seven earned runs and six hits in what was Bieber’s worst outing of the year. Bauer and Fried, though, answered the call and delivered a baseball purist’s dream, the pitcher’s duel.
Extra Innings and Squandered Opportunities
Besides the whole postseason format being new (16 teams made it this year), there was one rule change that went to the wayside. The experiment with extra innings ended, as runners being placed at second base to start the inning was done away with. So when we got to extras, it was a matter of who would blink first. Since August 19th, the Reds bullpen has been among the best in baseball, posting a 2.13 ERA and only allowing six of 49 inherited runners (12.2%) to score. They had their struggles early but bounced back in a big way. Raisel Iglesias replaced Bauer in the eighth and finished that inning along with the ninth as well. Even with stellar bullpen performance, the Reds were matched by Atlanta the whole way.
Atlanta only had six hits all day, as opposed to Cincinnati’s 11. The big story, though, was the strikeout contest between the two teams. The Reds and Braves set a Major League record with 37 combined strikeouts — 21 by the Braves. The Braves were 1-10 with runners in scoring position, including the game-winning single by Freddie Freeman. The Reds were 1-12 with RISP and squandered some huge opportunities early and late. They left the bases loaded twice after the ninth inning, and even had a runner at third with no one out in the 11th and couldn’t cash in. That led to the demise of the Reds, as the Braves cashed in to win the longest postseason game with no score in MLB history.
Game Two Info
On Thursday, the Reds will send Luis Castillo (4-6, 3.21 ERA) to the hill. Castillo will be making his first postseason appearance in his young career. This start comes at the right time as he has gotten into a good groove on the mound. The Braves will send Rookie Ian Anderson (3-2, 1.95 ERA) to the mound. Anderson gave the Braves a nice boost when called up from the alternate site when Mike Soroka suffered his season-ending injury. Game Two is win or go home for the Reds, and their backs are against the wall. But they’re used to that, and they’ll be looking to come out swinging.
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