Braves sweep Reds, advance in postseason for first time since 2001

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ATLANTA — When the Braves last advanced in the postseason, they returned to Atlanta after two games in Houston and defeated the Astros in a three-game sweep. Nineteen years later, they’re finally advancing again, completing a sweep in Atlanta that will send them back to Houston.

Behind All-Star outfielder Ronald Acuna, sluggers Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall, along with budding star starter Ian Anderson, the Braves defeated the Reds, 5-0, on Thursday afternoon at Truist Park to complete the two-game wild-card series sweep.

The Braves outscored Cincinnati 6-0 in the series, which proved to be a pitching exhibition before the home team slugged two homers in the eighth, capping a four-run inning.

It was the Braves’ first postseason series victory since 2001. They had lost 10 consecutive series, tied for the MLB record, before ending their misery Thursday. The win moves the Braves to a National League Division Series against the Cubs or the Marlins, which will be held in Houston as part of MLB’s 2020 postseason bubble. They’ll have four days to prepare for the next round.

Acuna provided the game’s first run with a two-out RBI double in the fifth against Luis Castillo. Austin Riley, who’s been battling quadriceps tightness in the past week, scored from first.

Ozuna, who was 0 for 8 with five strikeouts in the series entering the eighth, belted a two-run homer that essentially put the game out of reach for the Reds’ anemic offense. Duvall added his own two-run shot against his former team for more insurance.

Acuna outhit the Reds by himself (3 to 2). It already was his third three-hit postseason game, which ties Andruw Jones for the most by a player before turning 23 in MLB history, according to data provided by MLB statistician Sarah Langs.

On the pitching side, Anderson gave no indication his first career postseason start was only his seventh start in the bigs. The righty allowed two hits over six scoreless innings, striking out nine and walking two. He tied Steve Avery for the most strikeouts by a Braves pitcher in his postseason debut.

Anderson also became the fourth-youngest starter to pitch six or more scoreless innings in a postseason game since 1990, trailing only Madison Bumgarner (2010), Avery (1991) and Michael Wacha (2013). He outpitched Castillo, who was likewise excellent in holding the Braves to one run over 5 1/3 innings.

The NLDS will begin Oct. 6. It will be a best-of-five series against the winner of the best-of-three Cubs-Marlins series, which Miami leads 1-0. Game 2 of the series was postponed Thursday because of inclement weather in Chicago and the teams will resume play Friday.

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©2020 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)