NLDS Preview: Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins

It’s been about four days since the Atlanta Braves last won a playoff series.

Goodness, that sounds much better than what we were saying a week ago. After going almost two decades without advancing in the MLB Playoffs, the Braves took down the Cincinnati Reds in consecutive games in the Wild Card round.

Following that brief foray against a new opponent in the Reds, the Division Series brings with it a very familiar foe in the Miami Marlins. By knocking off the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs, the Marlins kept their unblemished playoff series record alive to set up a matchup between NL East foes.

That’s right, in case you somehow hadn’t heard, the oft-maligned Marlins have still yet to lose a playoff series, having won the World Series in both of their previous postseason trips in 1997 and 2003.

But all that is in the past. How do the 2020 Marlins line up against the this year’s Braves?

Season Series

The Braves went 6-4 against the Marlins this season, and it’s tough to say what the more notable achievement was within that. It was certainly impressive that the Braves solidified their third consecutive division championship by taking the first three games of a four-game set in Atlanta during the season’s final week. On the other hand, it’s hard to overlook the 29-9 shellacking the Braves put on the Marlins earlier in September.

Either way, the Braves had the upper hand this season over the Fish.

Comparing Lineups

Much like they had in the last round, the Braves have a pretty clear edge over the Marlins when it comes to offense. While the bats were fairly stifled for most of the 1-0 win in Game 1, they came to life late in the second game to put away a 5-0 clinching victory.

And as should be expected, it was some of the marquee names doing the heavy lifting. Ronald Acuna Jr. drove in a run with two doubles, while Freddie Freeman had the game-winning RBI in the 13th inning of Game 1 and Marcell Ozuna put Game 2 out of reach with a 2-run home run and selfie Marcellebration.

Three home runs made the difference for the Marlins in their opening series, with Corey Dickerson and Jesus Aguilar providing the power in the first game and Garrett Cooper putting Miami over the top in Game 2.

Over the course of the season, Atlanta has the much higher-powered offense here. The Braves hit .280 off Marlins pitching this year with an .851 OPS and 17 homers in 10 games, while Miami managed just a .717 OPS with 10 homers in those games. But Braves’ pitching will need to be wary about Aguilar, who posted a .997 OPS against the Braves this year with home runs off Max Fried and A.J. Minter, the only one Minter allowed this season.

Advantage: Braves

Comparing Rotations

These matchups should be almost as fun as the ones from the last round.

After coming out on top in a duel with Trevor Bauer by tossing seven scoreless innings, Fried will get the game ball against Sandy Alcantara. All the Marlins’ righty did in his postseason debut last week was throw 6 2/3 innings with a single run allowed on a solo home run.

In the second game, one would expect that Ian Anderson – the Braves’ rookie that carded six scoreless innings of his own to outmatch Luis Castillo last week – would face the Marlins’ Sixto Sanchez. Also a rookie, Sanchez blanked the Cubs for five innings as Miami sent Chicago packing last Friday.

The third game is a bit of a question mark for Miami at the time of writing. Kyle Wright will be getting the ball for Atlanta after settling in nicely in his final three starts of the year, which saw him pitch 19 innings and show much better command. Pablo Lopez would seem a likely candidate to face him for the Marlins after posting a 3.61 ERA for the season with a 1.186 WHIP, but he was also the starter for that 29-9 thrashing, giving up 7 runs in 1 2/3 innings.

If the series goes beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess who we’ll see for either team in Game 4. Were there a fifth game, I’d expect Fried vs. Alcantara again, but let’s hope it doesn’t get to that.

Advantage: Braves

Comparing Bullpens

The Braves’ bullpen has been special all year, and the relievers stepped up again to eliminate the Reds. Pitching a combined 9 scoreless innings in two games, the trio of Will Smith, Chris Martin and Mark Melancon really shone in the second game. Not a single Cincinnati hitter reached base in the game’s final three innings, and those three needed just 38 pitches to close out the series.

Smith was especially brilliant. After a rocky start to his Braves’ career following COVID-related issues to begin the season, Smith showed fans why he was such a target last offseason. The lefty appeared in both games, throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and no baserunners allowed.

The Marlins’ relievers did their part, too, though. In a two-game sweep, the Miami bullpen threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed just two baserunners, both doubles off Brandon Kintzler.

Both of these units have been reliable this year and especially in the postseason, but the Braves’ bullpen is just on another level.

Advantage: Braves


Last round, I chose not to make a prediction, but now I’ll say that I was surprised at how resilient the Braves were against some stout pitching. I would’ve picked the Reds in three games.

This time, I’m not going that cowardly route. The Braves are the better team in every phase of the game when compared to the Marlins. Especially in a power-friendly park in Houston, the advantage is all on the Braves’ side to make a return trip to the NLCS, a formerly annual occurrence that hasn’t happened since 2001.

I’ve got the Braves in three games.

30 thoughts on “NLDS Preview: Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins”

  1. I know I was talking bad about our pitching matchups against potential opponents a couple weeks ago, but the Marlins are an exception to that. We have a clear matchup edge in Games 1 and 2. Sanchez gets the edge over Wright pretty clearly in Game 3, but that’s without taking anything else (lineups, defense, bullpen, etc.) into account. Given that I thought the Reds had the rotation edge in both games last series and it turned out that, in reality, Game 1 was a push and Game 2 was actually Anderson’s edge, and given the fact that I picked the Braves to win in 2 despite all that and they did, I’ll pick Braves in 3 here. I know it’s us, but on paper, this should not be close.

  2. Honestly, this is the first post-season series that I would say that the Braves were certainly (if not dramatically) better than our opponent since, well, the 2001 NLDS vs. Houston.

    The ’02 team (incredible bullpen) & ’03 team (awesome lineup) had special qualities, but they ran up against the wrong teams (Giants & Cubs) in a short series. The ’04 & ’05 Braves were easily the shakiest clubs of the 14-year run. Losing the the Giants in 2010 stung, but that bunch turned out to be pretty good & nobody was surprised that we lost to LA in our recent match-ups. The losses to the Cards… I’ll call those rounds near toss-ups. Can’t say either club was dramatically better.

    Anyway, the Braves should win this series. No excuse if they don’t. Give the Marlins credit for grit, etc., and I never really want to seem overconfident in a short series… but, I’m sorry, they’re the inferior club. I’ll give Miami a game, but that’s it.

    Looks great.

  3. Agreed 100%. Take nothing for granted at any time for any reason — the Marlins are, as Mac never failed to point out, PURE EVIL and they have a surgically-implanted posterior horseshoe as soon as the calendar turns to October — but our boys are better on both sides of the ball. No time for cap-tipping. Let’s beat hell out of ’em instead.

  4. Sign the deal, gents. I see Freddie aging well. I’d go 5YR/$135M, easy.

  5. This Braves team reminds me a lot of last year’s Nationals. Both have big pluses, and question Mark’s, too. Like last year’s champs, the Braves never seem to be out of many games. They don’t quit. Those bats and that pen may be unbeatable.

  6. Ryan, love the logo and, if you are taking orders, I’ll take a shirt—XL.

    I realize they are not likely to change the team name any time soon, but I think there is a decent chance it will happen at some point. It’s worthwhile to advocate for a name that honors the greatest Brave of them all—especially in a way that keeps a logo that’s similar to what they have used for decades.

  7. We’ve lost Seaver, Brock, and Gibson in the last couple weeks — I just hope someone is looking in on Hank and Willie!

  8. The Marlins came up with a very curious pitching lineup: Alcantara in Game 1, Lopez in Game 2, and Sanchez in Game 3, which is what I’d describe as reverse order of quality. It’s a little like holding Mike Soroka back until Game 3.

    I know Sandy Alcantara isn’t a bad pitcher, and I know that we utterly annihilated Pablo Lopez earlier this year, but I generally fear Lopez a lot more than I fear Alcantara. Obviously, if we stumble in the first two games, they could certainly counterpunch with great force when Sanchez takes the bump in the third game.

    But I sure don’t mind facing their worse guys first.

    (H/t to MLBTR.)

  9. Manfred’s nightmare has to be handing a World Series trophy to the Astros in a few weeks, right?

    Seriously, those guys should have been banned from the playoffs for at least a year.

  10. coop…

    got an email last night from our friend…he has asked me to post it..

    “Good evening, Blazon.

    Kay’s slip and fall led to discovery of a malignant tumor. After five years her cancer recurred and had spread throughout her nervous system. She died one week after her 71st birthday on our son’s 50th.

    A friend introduced us and our gang hung out at Kay’s house. Another friend hinted she would be amenable to dating me. She had two children from a previous marriage, was on food stamps and working for minimum wage. I had just lost my job as a reporter for taking what I thought was a principaled stand but my managing editor thought was insubordination.

    Here I was, two years out of the Navy, no job, going back to school and my GI hadn’t started. My car had just been repossessed – things like that happen when you draw no paycheck and your government dole was overdue by two months – and Kay had two kids, aged three and five.

    We hitched a ride with her cousin and her new hubby to a free concert (Black Oak Arkansas) in Americus GA. We have been together ever since, for 46 wonderful years. She’s shifted planes of existence, but I expect to join her when I’m called home. All eternity to spend with her sounds about right.

    Thanks for asking. I will miss Kay, but she is always with me. I’ll be fine but probably won’t have much to say on the Journal but will remain a faithful reader.

    Be well, friend.


  11. Oh, God, I’m so sorry to hear that. Thanks for sharing that, Blazon. Love to coop and a hope that he can find peace.

  12. Coop is the best. After this round of playoffs, we will turn our focus to a long-standing BJ citizen, and I’ll start planning a care package we can send to our dear friend.

  13. Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
    No hungry generations tread thee down;
    The voice I hear this passing night was heard
    In ancient days by emperor and clown:
    Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
    Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
    She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
    The same that oft-times hath
    Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

    Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
    To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
    Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
    As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
    Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
    Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
    Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
    In the next valley-glades:
    Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
    Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

    John Keats

  14. Well, Coop, when you are up to reading, my sister was probably on the Student Union Board which brought Black Oak to Georgia Southwestern College (74?).

    That was also the place I got to see Charlie Daniels Band, Mother’s Finest, and the frequently recurring touring band, Eli. I will always remember Charlie sitting on the stage and playing his fiddle underneath his leg.

  15. Sounding like no Contreras or Camargo in the NLDS and add Ynoa and Wilson.

    Also Starling Marte out for the NLDS.

  16. Somehow, I was able to get 4 tickets to game 6 of the NLCS when they went on sale. Hope we make it there.

  17. So sorry to hear about your family, coop. Thinking of you guys.

    Looking over the Marlins, the top of the lineup is better that I remember, although the bottom half is butt. Miguel Rojas crushed the ball in this short season after years of below average hitting, so I’m not sure what’s up there. Keeping Berti off the bases and Aguilar in check would seem to be the keys. Their defense appears to be suspect, so let’s hope the Braves make some good contact and force their hands.

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