MLB Playoffs preview: Reds and Braves battle to advance to NLDS

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 25: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a two-run double in the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 25: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a two-run double in the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /
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Trevor Bauer #27 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches.
CINCINNATI, OH – SEPTEMBER 14: Trevor Bauer #27 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

Previewing the pitching matchups: Reds vs Braves

The National League Pitcher of the Month for September, Trevor Bauer (5-4 1.73 ERA), opposes Braves ace Max Fried (7-0 2.25 ERA) in the opener. Just how good has Bauer been in September? Perhaps just good enough to become Cincinnati’s first Cy Young Award winner.

Tossing 35 innings, Trevor Bauer compiled a 1.29 ERA and allowed only 22 hits. Throw in 46 strikeouts and you get the picture. Bauer is no stranger to the postseason as he’ll be making his 11th playoff appearance. Throughout his first 10 playoff games, he’s hurled 26 innings and punched out 32 while posting a 3.81 ERA.

Southpaw Max Fried has been among the very best the NL has to offer this year. His seven victories were just one behind the Cubs Yu Darvish for tops in the senior circuit and his 2.9 bWAR was the best mark for a starting pitcher in the National League. However, don’t anticipate Fried going too deep in the ballgame.

Starting 11 games, he accumulated just 55 innings and pitched into the seventh inning only twice this season. Like Trevor Bauer, he has plenty of playoff experience, although this will be his first starting assignment on the postseason stage. In eight relief appearances, he’s been saddled with a 7.11 ERA in 6.1 frames.

Game 2 features a couple of right-handers making their debuts in the MLB Playoffs. Luis Castillo (4-6 3.21 ERA) battles rookie Ian Anderson (3-2 1.95 ERA) of the Braves. When you look across the NL leaderboard for starting pitchers, you’ll see La Piedra’s name prominently displayed.

Luis Castillo ranked sixth with an 11.4 K/9 rate and his 0.64 HR/9 was the third-best mark among NL starters. Also, Castillo’s 58.4% ground ball-rate was the best in the senior circuit. Castillo has been at this best over the past month.

In his last five starts, Luis Castillo is  4-1 with a 2.20 ERA. Throwing 32.2 innings, Castillo has racked up 37 strikeouts while only allowing 22 hits. Finally, right-handers are slugging just .290 against La Piedra in 2020 which is a perfect antidote for the Braves right-handed-hitting sluggers.

Even though he’s only 22-years old, Ian Anderson has not shown any signs of being intimated by the bright lights of Major League Baseball. In fact, it’s Anderson who is doing the intimidating. Through his first 32.1 big league innings, Anderson has whiffed an impressive 41 hitters and yielded just 21 hits.

The third overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft has been especially nasty to left-handed hitters. Lefties are slashing a feeble .145/.254/.145 without an extra-base hit. Expect a lot of offspeed pitches from Anderson. Per Fangraphs, he uses his curveball and changeup slightly more than 50% of the time.

If it comes down to a decisive Game 3, Reds Country will have to like their chances. Sonny Gray (5-3 3.70 ERA) will take the mound for the Redlegs against Kyle Wright (2-4 5.21 ERA) for Atlanta.  Gray gave the Reds faithful a scare after going on the IL following two subpar outings. However, it appears Gray isn’t too far removed from the dominant presence he’s been since joining the Reds.

Starting two games since being activated, Sonny Gray has tossed 10.1 innings allowing just four hits with 10 strikeouts. Gray has made four postseasons starts and his numbers are excellent. Sporting a 2.95 ERA Gray’s yielded just 14 hits and two long balls in 21.1 innings. A similar performance Friday will have the Reds marching on in the MLB Playoffs.

Even though his overall numbers leave much to be desired, right-hander Kyle Wright is currently pitching the best he has all season. In his last two starts, he’s surrendered just three hits and two runs over 13 innings. However, there are some numbers that will make Reds Country feel much more comfortable.

Lefties absolutely crush against Wright. Slashing .288/.402/.521 with four round-trippers, it’s the type of game you could foresee Joey Votto or Mike Moustakas taking over. Also, Wright is very generous with free passes. Tossing 38 innings this year he walked 24 hitters. For a group as patient as the Reds, they could spell serious trouble for the 24-year-old Vanderbilt alum.