The Braves won their third straight NL East crown earlier this month, primarily on the shoulders of National League MVP candidate Freddie Freeman. Cincinnati locked down 11 of their last 14 games on the arm of Cy Young Award candidate Trevor Bauer.
Here's what you need to know going into the Wild Card Round:
What is the format for the 2020 playoffs?
After the COVID-shortened 60-game season, this year's MLB Playoffs is an expanded affair with an eight-team best-of-three Wild Card Series in each league. The top two teams from each division, plus the teams from each league with the next two best records will get to play in the wild card round.
All of the Wild Card games are being played at the home field of the higher-seeded team in the playoffs.
The remaining playoff games and the 2020 World Series will all be played at neutral sites in a "playoff bubble" format similar to the NBA and NHL, in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and disrupting the schedule.
The NLDS will be played at Minute Maid Park, the home field of the AL's Houston Astros; and Globe Life Field, home of the AL's Texas Rangers. The ALDS will be played at Petco Park,, home of the NL's San Diego Padres and Dodger Stadium, home of the NL's Los Angeles Dodgers.
The NLCS will be played at Globe Life Field and the ALCS will be played at Petco Park, while the World Series will be played at Globe Life Field.
When will the Braves play and how can you watch?
The Braves are the number 2 seed in the National League and are playing the number 7 seeded Cincinnati Reds. Their schedule for the Wild Card Round looks like this:
- Game 1 - Wed., Sept. 30 -12 p.m. - CIN at ATL - ESPN
- Game 2 - Thu. Oct. 1 - Time TBD - CIN at ATL - ESPN Networks
- Game 3 - Fri. Oct. 2 - Time TBD - CIN at ATL - ESPN Networks
The winner of the Braves-Reds series will advance to the NLDS. There, they will play the winner of the Chicago Cubs-Miami Marlins series in Houston, Oct. 6-10. Those games will be broadcast on either FS1 or MLB Network.
What do the starting lineups look like for Game 1?
According to MLB.com, as of Monday morning, these are the projected starting line-ups for both the Reds and Braves:
- Aristides Aquino, LF
- Nick Castellanos, RF
- Joey Votto, 1B (L)
- Eugenio Suárez, 3B
- Mike Moustakas, 2B (L)
- Nick Senzel, CF
- Jesse Winker, DH (L)
- Freddy Galvis, SS (S)
- Curt Casali, C
Because Max Fried is a left-handed starter, manager David Bell is likely to field a right-handed-heavy lineup if he sticks with his regular-season style. But if Fried doesn’t go deep, Bell can pivot with several lefty bats including Shogo Akiyama and Brian Goodwin. The Reds rely heavily on home runs with a Major League-leading 61.1 percent of their runs coming via the long ball.
- Ronald Acuña Jr., CF
- Freddie Freeman, 1B (L)
- Marcell Ozuna, DH
- Travis d’Arnaud, C
- Ozzie Albies, 2B (S)
- Adam Duvall, LF
- Austin Riley, 3B
- Nick Markakis, RF (L)
- Dansby Swanson, SS
This will be the first time the Braves have faced Bauer since the right-hander made his Reds debut on Aug. 3, 2019. An Albies triple and Freeman double in the fifth led to Bauer lasting just 4 2/3 innings that night. Atlanta has a right-handed heavy lineup, but this group has had success against right-handers. Freeman produced a MLB-best 1.228 OPS against righties. d’Arnaud (1.026) and Acuña (1.020) also ranked among the league leaders in this category.
Who are the expected starting pitchers?
According to Reds writer Mark Sheldon with MLB.com, Cincinnati is expected to start Trevor Bauer (5-4, 1.73 ERA). Bauer is one of the best pitchers in all of Baseball and a leading candidate for this years' National League Cy Young Award. In his last five starts, he walked six batters and struck our 46.
For the home team, MLB.com Braves beat writer Mark Bowman says left-hander Max Fried (7-0, 2.25 ERA) will be making his first career postseason start. Fried was a Cy Young candidate when he produced a 1.60 ERA through his first eight starts, but he's only thrown six innings since developing back spasms after his Sept. 5 start against the Nationals. He turned his ankle during the first inning of his last regular-season start, this past Wednesday, Bowman said, but he's since thrown a pain-free live batting practice.
Any historic notes about this series?
The last time the Reds and Braves met in the postseason? the 1995 NL Championship Series. Atlanta swept Cincinnati 4 games to 0, moving on to the 1995 World Series.