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Ian Anderson and Braves Bullpen dominate as Braves beat Reds 5-0 to advance to NLDS

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Though the offense finally came alive, the Braves pitching shined once again.

National League Wild Card Game 2: Cincinnati Reds v. Atlanta Braves Photo by Adam Hagy/MLB Photos via Getty Images

THEY DID IT!

THE BRAVES HAVE WON A PLAYOFF SERIES!!!!

And though there were times of struggle, there were also times of dominance and triumph that shows how special this team can be.

Just like yesterday, the first half of today’s game was full of excellent pitching and anemic offense. Through the first 27 outs, Luis Castillo and Ian Anderson allowed just five hits and only two walks while striking out 13 batters. The fact that Anderson was able to match Castillo pitch for pitch was incredibly impressive and exciting.

The Braves had an opportunity in the first, when a single from Ronald Acuna Jr. and steal put him at second base for Marcell Ozuna and Travis d’Arnaud. However, neither slugger could get the run across, and the score was tied at 0 after one. The Reds decided they wanted to make some noise of their own, as a single and two walks loaded the bases for Tucker Barnhart with two outs, but Anderson retired him on a ground out to end the threat.

From that point on, both Castillo and Anderson were in cruise control. Neither starter allowed more than one baserunner in a half inning from the bottom of the second through the top of the fifth innings, as both offenses remained baffled. Both pitchers were in complete control, especially with their secondary offerings.

Finally, the Braves offense decided it did not need to wait 13 innings to break through today. A Nick Markakis single and then an Austin Riley ground out placed Riley at first with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Fortunately, the next man up was Acuna Jr., and he laced a double into the left center field gap that scored Riley for the first run of the day. Castillo intentionally walked Freeman and then forced Ozuna to fly out to end the inning.

The Reds had the strength of their order up in the top of the sixth inning, but it was no match for Ian Anderson, as he recorded his eighth and ninth strikeouts of the day. Anderson completed six innings, allowing two hits and two walks with the nine strikeouts. Anderson’s fastball, curveball, and changeup were all effective today, as a mixture of all three contributed to plenty of swings and misses and called third strikes. This performance was likely better than anyone could have imagined, and significantly increased the confidence that Anderson can deliver when called upon again in later rounds.

Though d’Arnaud led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a single, the Braves could not capitalize on the opportunity. That hit would be the only one for a while, as the Reds, Braves and Reds again were retired in order through the middle of the eighth inning, thanks to great performances from Will Smith, Chris Martin, and former Brave Lucas Sims.

Then, in the bottom of the 8th, the Braves decided to remind the Reds, baseball, and history just who the heck they are.

A walk to Freddie Freeman, a bomb by Ozuna, a strikeout by d’Arnaud, a single by Ozzie Albies, and another two-run home run by Adam Duvall quickly made the score 5-0, and after a perfect ninth inning worked through the middle of the Reds order by Mark Melancon, the Braves had their first playoff series victory since 2001.

Though it took far longer in both games than anyone would have preferred, the Braves offense made it count when they needed too. However, though other ways may have been more ideal, this is a very satisfying way to win for Atlanta. It was the Braves starting pitching, perhaps against the best combo of starters they will face this postseason, that matched Trevor Bauer and Luis Castillo pitch for pitch, and along with the Braves bullpen, did not allow a single run the entire series. It is very likely the offense will get it together earlier in games going forward, and if this level of pitching can remain, the Braves will be very tough to beat

History be damned, the Braves have won a playoff series, Young arms are emerging, the depth of the lineup delivered, and the Braves relief efforts were dominant. And though we are where we would be in any other year and there is plenty of work to be done, this team has now shown it has the ability to make this season one of the best this franchise has had in a long time.

GO BRAVES! ON TO THE NLDS!!!!!!!