McCoy: Another shutout sends Braves to NLCS; Astros advance to ALCS

Another Atlanta Braves game, another display of pitching artistry, another shutout.

For the fourth time in five postseason games, the Braves received shutout pitching from their starters and their bullpen.

Starter Kyle Wright provided six innings of no runs, three hits, two walks, seven strikeouts and the bullpen made certain the door remained closed and locked.

And this beauty sent the Miami Marlins home for a long winter’s nap, a 7-0 mauling by the Braves that completed a three-game sweep in the National League Division Series.

After the Marlins were helpless against Wright for six innings, A.J. Minter, Jacob Webb and Shane Greene pitched three scoreless, one-hit innings. The Braves bullpen pitched 46 scoreless innings out of 49 in five games — two against Cincinnati and three against Miami.

The Braves tucked it into their back pockets early with four runs in the third and three more in the next two innings. The victory advanced them into the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2001 after 11 straight postseason flops.

The Marlins are in bereavement mode, but it was a shocking surprise that they qualified for the playoffs.

It was a team that lost 105 games last season. Early this season, when they took a series from the Philadephia Phillies, a Philadelphia broadcaster said a contending team can’t lose to bottom feeders. The Marlins adopted the disparaging remark, calling themselves ‘The Bottom Feeders.’

Along the way this season, 18 Marlins players and staff tested positive for Covid-19 that forced postponement of seven games that were made up with doubleheaders. The team used 60 players this season and only six played the full schedule.

Miami starter Sixto Sanchez retired the first three Braves in the first inning on five pitches in Game 3 at Minute Maid Park. It was an illusion.

He loaded the bases with no outs in the second and miraculousy escaped with no runs.

He didn’t escape in the third. A walk and three quick hits put the Braves in command, 4-0. Marcell Ozuna punched a firsrt-pitch single to right for a run, Travis d’Arnaud doubled for two and Dansby Swanson lofted a sacrifce fly.

The Marlins made an effort in the third to get back in it against Wright, whom the Marlins whacked around twice during the season, hitting four home runs.

They put the first two runners on base in the third and had the bases loaded with two outs, but Jazz Chisholm grounded out.

Wright left after six innings, turning it over to Atlanta’s super-armed bullpen.

The Braves added a fifth run in the fourth with two outs and nobody on against relief pitcher Trevor Rogers. He walked Ronald Acuna Jr. and he scored from first on Freddie Freeman’s single on which center fielder Magneuris Sierra bobbled the ball for an error.

The Braves' lead ballooned to 7-0 in the fifth on a run-scoring single by Swanson and a run-producing double by former Reds outfielder Adam Duvall, his first hit of the series. They haven’t needed him.

**The Houston Astros and manager Dusty Baker advanced to the American League Championship Series, eliminating the Oakland Athletics, 11-6, in another homer-barrage game in Dodger Stadium.

Afer combining for seven home runs in Game 3 on Wednesday, the two teams combined for six more in Game 4 on Thursday.

The game’s first 10 runs came on home runs and all four Oakland runs came via home runs and until they scored two in the ninth on run-scoring singles.

The A’s grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second on a three-run blast by Ramon Laureano. He homered again in the fifth to provide the A’s with their other run.

Michael Brantley crushed two homers for the Astros, a two-run rip in the fourth and a solo shot in the fifth. The big blast was provided by Carlos Correa in the fourth, a three-runner in the fourth that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead.

Houston’s next three runs came in baseball’s now unconventional manner ... no home runs ... as the lead swelled to 9-4 after six innings.

The Astros returned to the tried-and-true method in the seventh when Jose Altuve connected for a two-run homer and an 11-4 lead.

Oakland didn’t go quietly, scoring two runs in the ninth before it ended.

Since 2000, the A’s have played in the postseason 11 times and only once (2006) advanced to the American League Championship Series.

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