Braves blank Marlins to advance in MLB playoffs

Los Angeles (AFP) –

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Atlanta pitcher Kyle Wright struck out seven batters over six scoreless innings and the Braves advanced in the Major League Baseball playoffs on Thursday by defeating the Miami Marlins 7-0.

The Braves swept Miami 3-0 in the best-of-five second-round series and booked a berth in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, which starts on Monday.

It's the first time in 19 years the Braves, who lost 95 games in 2015, have advanced to the NLCS.

"It means a lot," Braves star first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "Coming from where we were five years ago to where we are now is a complete 180. For us to be in this situation is completely incredible.

"This group of guys is special. Our confidence level is pretty high."

The Braves will face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Diego Padres, with the Dodgers hoping to complete a sweep later Thursday.

The Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays were also looking to advance Thursday with the Astros trying to eliminate Oakland and the Rays trying to oust the New York Yankees in the American League playoffs.

Wright, a 25-year-old American right-hander, scattered three hits and two walks with solid bullpen support to secure a decisive victory.

Over 49 playoff innings pitched, the Braves have allowed runs in only three while making a club-record 5-0 post-season start with four shutouts.

"Our pitchers had something to say," Freeman said. "Kyle Wright was humongous."

Atlanta tagged Marlins pitcher Sixto Sanchez for four runs in the third inning to break the game open and send the 22-year-old Dominican right-hander to the showers.

Atlanta's Ronald Acuna walked and stole second base, then took third on Freeman's line-drive single and scored on Marcel Ozuna's single to right field.

Travis d'Arnaud followed with a two-run double to right field and scored on sacrifice fly outs by Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson.

"We have to keep on keeping on," said d'Arnaud. "We all feel really good. Our pitchers have been great. If they keep putting up zeroes, we have a good chance of winning."

The Braves made it 5-0 in the fourth when Acuna walked and scored on a fielding error by Miami's Magneuris Sierra on a two-out Freeman single.

Atlanta stretched the lead to the final margin in the fifth as Albies doubled and scored on a single by Swanson, who scored on an Adam Duvall double.

The Marlins, who hadn't reached the playoffs since 2003, suffered the first playoff series loss in team history, having won the World Series in their two prior post-season appearances.