After sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card Series, the Marlins have drawn a matchup with their NL East rival, the Atlanta Braves. In 10 matchups this season, the Marlins went 4-6 against the Braves. Looking back at those 10 meetings, here are seven reasons to believe that the Marlins can extend their streak of playoff series wins.
1. The Element of Surprise
The first series with the Braves came in mid-August, on the heels of the Marlins COVID outbreak. The Marlins massive roster shakeup has been well documented, with nearly every broadcast pointing out the 175+ roster moves made by the team this season. Due to all this change, there are a few players the Braves have hardly seen.
The most notable of those players is Sandy Alcantara. While he is no secret (he has faced the Braves in previous years), the Braves have yet to see him in 2020. While the advantage here may be slight, the Marlins ace still stands to benefit from limited exposure to this potent offense.
Additionally, Braxton Garrett, a rookie and highly touted prospect for Miami, could be a newcomer to this matchup should he make the Division Series roster. On the hitting side, Chad Wallach and Magneuris Sierra have each seen fewer than seven plate appearances against this Braves squad. While neither has game-changing power, Wallach provides stability behind the dish and the speed of Sierra could provide a spark offensively.
2. Depth in the ‘Pen
Atlanta brings some serious firepower to this matchup. Freddie Freeman is having an MVP-caliber season, posting an insane 1.102 OPS with 13 HR and 53 RBI in the regular season. The Braves depth extends beyond Freeman, with a daunting lineup featuring Ronald Acuna Jr., Marcell Ozuna, Adam Duvall, Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson, to name a few. Having Alcantara back on the bump should help the Marlins, but this matchup will be a real test for the bullpen.
The Marlins have five relievers who have excelled against the Braves this year, with James Hoyt leading the way (6 scoreless appearances). Stephen Tarpley (2), Richard Bleier (2), and Yimi Garcia (2) also did not allow a run in the season series. Nick Neidert, who may be added to the roster for the Division Series, also made a scoreless appearance.
3. Key Hitters Coming in Hot
Jesus Aguilar: Of all the Marlins, Aguilar has the best numbers against Atlanta this year. In 45 plate appearances he has 15 hits, 7 runs, 2 doubles, 2 homers, and 8 RBI. With three home runs in his last six games, Aguilar seems to be peaking at the right time.
Garrett Cooper: Cooper got the Marlins on the board in Game 2, with a solo shot off of Yu Darvish. In 31 plate appearances against the Braves this year, Cooper notched 9 hits, 5 runs, and 4 RBI. He is poised to provide some timely offense in this series.
Corey Dickerson: In Game 1 against the Cubs, Dickerson hit the game-winning 3-run home run, and there is reason to believe he can provide a similar offensive spark against the Braves. On the season series, Dickerson had nine hits, including two doubles.
4. Marlins match up well with Braves pitching
The Braves are in a similar spot to the Marlins, with three clear starting pitchers followed by a mix of young starters and/or bullpen arms. Max Fried, the Braves ace, will be a major headache for the Marlins lineup. However, beyond Fried, the Marlins have shown an ability to compete with the Braves staff. Ian Anderson gave up five runs and nine hits in 8.2 innings pitched against the Fish this year. Kyle Wright allowed eight runs and nine hits in just 7.0 innings pitched in the season series.
In terms of relief pitching, Luke Jackson frequently gets the call to eat up middle innings. The Marlins have Jackson’s number this year. In each of his three appearances against Miami, he gave up at least one run. The Marlins amassed 11 hits and seven runs off Jackson in seven total innings of relief. With no off days and a potential five-game series, the Braves will have to employ Jackson in some capacity. The Marlins need to exploit this matchup and capitalize on at-bats against Jackson.
Overall, the Marlins put up at least four runs in seven of their ten contests with the Braves this season. This is further evidence that the hitters match up favorably with Atlanta’s pitching.
5. Run Differential
These teams are more evenly matched than you might think. As mentioned earlier, the Marlins went 4-6 against the Braves. Of those six losses, two of them were one-run games. Granted, there have been a few lopsided contests; the Braves did win by a record margin on September 9th. However, removing that particular matchup results in a 35-39 run differential in favor of the Braves. Over just nine games, four runs is a pretty narrow margin. As we have seen in 2020, anything can happen.
6. Recent Success Despite a Slumping BA
Brian Anderson has just one hit in his last five games. After starting out the season well, Anderson’s production has quietly slipped. Thankfully, the Marlins offense has evolved past the point of reliance on one or two young performers. Miami is truly playing as a team, with contributions throughout the lineup. However, a resurgence from Anderson may be necessary for the Marlins to realize the upset of the division champs.
The Marlins have never lost a postseason series.
Featured Photo: @Marlins