The Atlanta Braves are one win away from their first NLCS since 2001.
Ian Anderson threw 5.2 innings off shutout baseball and Travis d'Arnaud and Dansby Swanson both went yard, leading the Braves to a 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins in Game 2 of their NLDS matchup. The Braves lead the best-of-five series 2-0.
Atlanta has failed to advance past its first postseason round in each of the club's last nine playoff appearances. The franchise has not reached the World Series since losing to the New York Yankees in 1999, their fifth and final appearance of that decade.
Anderson, a 22-year-old rookie, hasn't given up a run and has struck out 17 in 11.2 playoff innings. He fanned eight and allowed just three hits against a Miami lineup that appears to be running out of steam.
The Marlins, baseball's best Cinderella story, appear to be close to midnight. Pablo Lopez threw five solid innings of two-run ball but couldn't atone for an anemic lineup.
P Ian Anderson: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 8 K, 1 BB
C Travis d'Arnaud: 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
SS Dansby Swanson: 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
P Pablo Lopez: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 7 K, 0 BB
3B Brian Anderson: 1-for-2, 2B, 1 BB
DH Jesus Aguilar: 1-for-4
So Long, Marlins, You Were a Nice Story
There's not really much more you can say. In an era where people pretend "no one" believes in them—even the Los Angeles Lakers, led by LeBron James, are trying to pull off the stunt in the NBA—truly not a soul outside the Marlins clubhouse thought this team would make the playoffs.
After more than half the team contracted COVID-19 and threatened the MLB season, some didn't even think Miami would record more than 10 wins.
Instead, the Marlins rallied themselves amid the adversity, reeling off a winning record during the regular season before upsetting the high-priced Cubs in the Wild Card round.
There just doesn't appear to be anything left in the gas tank. The Marlins blew their chance after rocking Max Fried in Game 1, with manager Don Mattingly's decision to trust Sandy Alcantara into the seventh inning proving to be a disaster.
These Marlins don't have the offensive firepower to have a margin for error; rocking Fried for four runs in four innings is the Miami equivalent of the Yankees hitting back-to-back-to-back home runs.
The Marlins will have a chance to stretch this to four games when the struggling Kyle Wright takes the mound for Atlanta; we all know how teams based in that city tend to fare when having a seemingly insurmountable lead. That said, the Marlins pulling off three straight wins would be a herculean task.
Can Kyle Wright Be the Third Starter the Braves Need?
If the regular season is any indication, the answer is a resounding "no." Wright was 2-4 with a 5.21 ERA and 1.55 WHIP during the regular season and has looked like a borderline MLB starter throughout his young career. Those numbers were actually an improvement to his career stats. Wright has lacked elite strikeout ability and command throughout his MLB career and certainly isn't the person the Braves want to hand the ball in postseason action.
Unfortunately, they have to.
Cole Hamels and Mike Soroka won't be available for the remainder of the 2020 season, and nearly every other pitcher the Braves tried out for their spots in the rotation has been shelled. Wright's 5.21 ERA looks pretty great when compared to the 8.88 mark of Touki Toussaint, or 8.49 from Robbie Erlin, or the ugly efforts Josh Tomlin put together in starts.
The Braves managed to take care of business without having to use Wright in the Wild Card round, but that won't be an option in longer series. Wright's going to have to take the mound at least twice in the NLCS, which alone will hurt Atlanta's odds of knocking off the Dodgers or Padres.
The only way the Braves have a shot at reaching the World Series is if Wright finds consistency he's not yet shown in his career.