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Wild Card Thursday Takeaways: Braves sweep into NLDS with second straight shutout of Reds

It’s win or go home time across the MLB playoffs Thursday on a day that could see as many as four teams sent packing — or set the stage for a wild Friday of winner-take-all matchups.

From the day’s opening Cincinnati Reds-Atlanta Braves matchup to the late-night Milwaukee Brewers-Los Angeles Dodgers Game 2 in L.A., here are the heroes, turning points and takeaways from each of Wednesday’s games.

Atlanta Braves 5, Cincinnati Reds 0

Game 2 hero: Ian Anderson sparkled in his postseason debut, striking out nine in six sharp innings while adding to the Reds’ offensive woes with every K.

What it means: The Reds were the favorite “upset” pick of the first round due to the strength of their starting pitching, but now we know why Trevor Bauer and Luis Castillo went a combined 9-10 this year — the Reds don’t hit, and they especially don’t hit away from cozy Great American Ballpark. Bauer and Castillo allowed just one run over their outings, but that’s one more than the Reds scored in two games. (You would think getting shut out in consecutive postseason games is rare, but it happened to both the Rockies and Braves in the 2018 division series.) The Reds had just one extra-base hit in the two games.

Credit the Atlanta pitching, however. In Game 2, rookie Ian Anderson looked every bit as dominant as he did during his six regular-season starts, when he posted a 1.95 ERA and allowed just one home run in 32.1 innings. He threw 17 first-pitch strikes to the 22 batters he faced, but what was impressive is that he wasn’t just pounding fastballs. Of those 22 first pitches, nine were four-seam fastballs, 12 were curveballs and one was a changeup. Anderson is just 22, but pitched with the command and poise of a seasoned veteran. We know the depth of the Braves’ rotation is a problem and that will get tested in the next round, but Max Fried and Anderson look like a formidable one-two punch and they have a deep bullpen to chew up innings when the back of the rotation does start. — David Schoenfield

Next up: The Braves will face either the Cubs or Marlins in the NLDS, but must wait an extra day to find out after Thursday’s Cubs-Marlins game was postponed due to weather.

The Reds head to the offseason with some major questions to answer about their lineup struggles.

More Thursday games:

Game 3: White Sox at A’s, live on ESPN

Game 2: Cardinals at Padres, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 2: Brewers at Dodgers, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN

Note: Marlins at Cubs postponed to Friday due to weather.

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