Leaning on his sinker much more Tuesday evening versus the Marlins, 22-year-old Bryse Wilson guided the Braves to their third-straight NL East title, not to mention perhaps a career-best outing as he left after five innings having allowed just three hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 23, 2020
It was a significant victory for many reasons…
First of all, the win was only Wilson’s third in the majors, and his first since July 3rd of last season, when he tossed a six-inning, five-hitter against the Phillies. For a former highly-touted teenage prospect, quality pitching performances have been hard to come by for Wilson. But most importantly, Tuesday night’s 11-1 win clinches the East, marking yet another exciting season as one of the sport’s most talented up and coming clubs.
However, a big win for an important prospect pitcher and a third consecutive division title were not the only things at play on Tuesday. As MLB’s late-night games on the West Coast ended after midnight, the Braves’ playoff seeding and potential first-round opponent also were impacted.
The Braves currently hold the NL's No. 2 seed, leading the Cubs by one game. Their postseason run begins next Wednesday when they'll host a best-of-three series at Truist Park.
— Gabe Burns (@GabeBurnsAJC) September 23, 2020
Entering Wednesday, thanks to the Cubs’ loss to the Pirates and the Phillies dropping a double-header to the Nationals in DC on Tuesday, the now no. 2 seed Braves are slated to face the no. 7 seed Reds in a Wild Card best-of-three series at Truist Park IF the season were to end today. In the span of 24 hours, the Braves moved up a spot in the NL playoff picture and also saw their Round 1 opponent change from the Cardinals to Cincinnati. And given just how wide open the National League is (save for the Dodgers’ no. 1 seed), the next week should feature even more movement across the league.
If the season ended today…
NL Playoff Slate — First Round
- #8 Brewers @ #1 Dodgers
- #7 Reds @ #2 Braves
- #6 Marlins @ #3 Cubs
- #5 Cardinals @ #4 Padres
For days the Braves and Cubs had been going back and forth, tying each other with their overall records, though Chicago always held the advantage given their intra-division record. However, the Braves win over Miami on Tuesday not only puts the Braves a game ahead of the Cubbies in terms of record (33-22 / 32-23) but also in overall division play (23-15 / 22-16). And with how the two team’s 2020 regular season schedule is lined up the rest of the way, it seemed unlikely the Braves would catch Chicago during the week, as the Cubs face MLB’s worst team over the next few days, before heading to the White Sox for their last three games this weekend. But a Braves’ series win over both the Marlins and upcoming Red Sox could very well result in a locked-up no. 2 seed heading into next month’s postseason.
Last week, I attempted to look at which potential teams the Braves should prefer to face, while also listing which were more or less likely. At that point — with the Braves still the no. 3 seed — it appeared the Cardinals were the most probable opponent for the first round. Here’s how I ranked them:
This was before both Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson decided to pitch like former top-tier prospects (and the unfortunate news regarding Cole Hamels), so the thought then was that perhaps the Braves would be better suited simply holding onto the third seed and potentially playing a team like the Cards or Marlins. But given the Phillies were swept Tuesday (now having lost four in a row), both the Reds and Brewers are currently playing well, and obviously the Braves are beating up on the Marlins (pushing Miami out of the picture), everything could be completely different by the time the season concludes next Sunday night.
Playoff-position wise, who knows if the Braves are in a better position right now or not, compared to a week ago (they’ll hold home-field advantage during the first-round regardless). But one thing’s for sure, even with Hamels being shut down for the year, the Braves’ most-recent improvements regarding their starting pitching and continued hitting from the lineup will make who they match up with in Round 1 a moot point.