Updated with more information at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 8, 2020.
HOUSTON — Not since the days of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz had the Atlanta Braves pitched like this in the playoffs.
And even that trio — all of them now in the National Baseball Hall of Fame — didn't throw the way these Braves have this postseason.
"What those guys did on the mound is almost mind blowing," manager Brian Snitker said.
Rookie right-hander Kyle Wright dazzled for six innings in his MLB postseason debut Thursday afternoon as the Braves beat the Miami Marlins 7-0 for a three-game sweep and their first trip to the National League Championship Series since 2001.
Wright (1-0), who turned 25 last Friday, was sharp despite not pitching since Sept. 25, allowing three hits and walking two batters with a career-high seven strikeouts. A.J. Minter, Jacob Webb and Shane Greene finished the five-hitter.
Atlanta became the second team in MLB history to throw four shutouts in its first five games of a postseason, joining the 1905 New York Giants, who did so behind Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity.
After two rounds the Braves have already pitched the most shutouts in a single postseason in franchise history, outdoing the 1996 and 1991 teams that threw three each as both lost in the World Series. They are one shutout shy of tying the MLB record for most in a postseason set by the 2016 Cleveland Indians over 15 games.
"It's pretty cool to have that many shutouts, and it points to how good we've been as a staff," said Wright, perhaps not fully grasping the team's place in history.
Atlanta had lost eight straight NL Division Series, including the past two seasons, before outscoring the Marlins 18-5, including 11-0 in the final two games. The Braves are 5-0 with a 0.92 ERA in the postseason, having allowed five runs in 49 innings after ranking 15th in the majors in the regular season with a 4.41 ERA.
The staff has fanned 59 batters and walked nine while allowing just 30 hits in the postseason.
"It's been fun," catcher Travis d'Arnaud said. "They've just been executing."
There were only a few scattered cheers as the Braves wrapped up the series in an almost empty Minute Maid Park, the home of the Houston Astros but a neutral site for the NLDS where the only fans allowed were players' friends and families.
Atlanta will play the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Diego Padres in the NLCS starting Monday at the Texas Rangers' Globe Life Field in Arlington. The Braves had not advanced to the NLCS since they were led by those previously mentioned co-aces and switch-hitting slugger Chipper Jones and managed by Bobby Cox. Jones and Cox are also in the Hall of Fame.
First baseman Freddie Freeman, who has spent his entire 11-year career in the majors with the Braves, understands more than most what finally returning to the NLCS means.
"A lot of these guys don't know much of the history in that clubhouse," the 31-year-old four-time All-Star said, "but now we get to start our own, and hopefully it's a good run for us."
D'Arnaud hit two doubles, with the first one driving in two runs in Atlanta's big third inning. The veteran who bounced around the majors with three teams in a tough 2019 season has helped steady Atlanta's young starters this year, and he has provided run support, too. D'Arnaud was 6-for-10 with three doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs in the series against Miami.
The Marlins, who lost 105 games in 2019, were the feel-good story of this postseason after overcoming an 18-player coronavirus outbreak that forced the team from the field for a week after its season-opening series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Marlins reached the postseason for the first time since 2003, and with a front office led by Derek Jeter and a dugout headed by manager Don Mattingly, two former New York Yankees stars, they came in confident after sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the wild-card round.
The young team was overwhelmed by the Braves, though, and the franchise lost a playoff series for the first time after entering 7-0 with titles in 1997 and 2003.
"We've taken another step forward," Mattingly said.
Marlins rookie Sixto Sánchez (0-1) walked Ronald Acuña Jr. to start the third inning, and Acuña stole second base before advancing to third on a single by Freeman. Marcell Ozuna laced a single that scored Acuña.
D'Arnaud knocked a double off the bullpen in right-center field to send two home and extend the lead to 3-0. The Braves tacked on another run on a sacrifice fly by Dansby Swanson.
Sánchez, who threw five scoreless innings in Game 2 of the wild-card round, was done after that, having allowed four runs on as many hits with three walks as he tied his shortest outing of the season.
The Marlins had a chance to cut into the lead in the bottom of the inning when they loaded the bases with two outs, but Jazz Chisholm grounded out to end the threat. It was a theme throughout the game for Miami, which went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
"At the end of the day, we have to be happy but not satisfied with what happened," shortstop Miguel Rojas said of the season.
Atlanta added a run in the fourth when Acuña scored from first after center fielder Magneuris Sierra committed an error on a single by Freeman. The Braves continued to pour it on in the fifth when Swanson had an RBI single and Adam Duvall sent him home with a double to make it 7-0.
Atlanta's win overshadowed a terrific catch by Corey Dickerson in the second that helped Sánchez escape a bases-loaded with no outs jam. Sánchez struck out Duvall for the first out before Dickerson dived to catch a ball hit by Nick Markakis just before it hit the grass, likely saving multiple runs from scoring.
Dickerson's catch came a day after Markakis made a perfect throw to pick Dickerson off at second in the eighth inning of Game 2.
"We know it's not where we want to go, but we did give ourselves an opportunity this year," Mattingly said. "I think that's a step forward for us."