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Anderson shines, Braves shut out Reds again to sweep series

Ian Anderson dazzled in another shutout performance for Atlanta, and the Braves won a playoff series for the first time in almost two decades by sweeping the light-hitting Cincinnati Reds with a 5-0 victory Thursday.

Ronald Acuña Jr. had three hits for the NL East champions, including a run-scoring double in the fifth. After winning Wednesday’s series opener 1-0 in 13 innings, Atlanta broke open Game 2 on two-run homers by Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall off Raisel Iglesias in the eighth.

Anderson struck out nine in six innings as the Braves snapped their record-tying string of losses in 10 consecutive postseason rounds since their last playoff series win in 2001. Atlanta will face Miami or the Chicago Cubs in the NL Division Series in Houston.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo throws during the fifth inning in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series against the Atlanta Braves, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP PhotoJohn Bazemore)

Just like in 2001, when Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz helped lead the way, Atlanta's pitching staff delivered.

The 22-year-old Anderson allowed two hits and walked two in his playoff debut after six regular-season starts. Will Smith, Chris Martin and Mark Melancon each threw one perfect inning.

Cincinnati wasted a solid performance by Luis Castillo, who struck out seven in 5 1/3 innings in his first postseason start. Trevor Bauer struck out 12 in 7 2/3 scoreless innings in the Reds' Game 1 loss.

Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. hits an RBI double during the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP PhotoJohn Bazemore)

Atlanta jumped in front in the fifth. With two outs, Austin Riley took off from first base on a pitch Acuña lined into the gap in left center. Riley scored easily and Acuña stood on second base, pumping both fists in the air in celebration.

Cincinnati left 13 runners on base Wednesday, and its scoring frustrations continued.

Anderson’s second walk of the second, to Freddy Galvis, loaded the bases with two outs. Tucker Barnhart’s groundout to second base ended the inning.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo, center left, is relieved by manager David Bell during the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP PhotoJohn Bazemore)

The Braves had been 0-7 in their last seven potential clinching games in the postseason, including 0-2 in their NL division series loss to St. Louis last year.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Reds: C Curt Casali, who normally starts with Castillo, was held out due to a sore wrist before entering the game in the eighth. Barnhart, who has split playing time with Casali, was the starting catcher.

Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies (1) throws to first after forcing out Cincinnati Reds' Eugenio Suarez (7) during the second inning in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. The Reds' Mike Moustakas was safe at first. (AP PhotoJohn Bazemore)

Braves: After sitting out the final two regular-season games with a sore quadriceps, Riley had no setback in the series opener. That doesn’t mean Riley is fully recovered. “I think he’s sore,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t think this is something that is just going to go away. ... He’s just going to have to manage it. I think he’ll be all right. He just has to be careful out of the box and on certain plays.”

UP NEXT

Reds: Will play the Cleveland Indians in their 2021 spring training opener on Feb. 27 in Goodyear, Ariz.

Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies (1) throws to first after forcing out Cincinnati Reds' Eugenio Suarez (7) during the second inning in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. The Reds' Mike Moustakas was safe at first. (AP PhotoJohn Bazemore)

Braves: Will face Miami or the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the NL division series in Houston on Tuesday.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Atlanta Braves' Marcell Ozuna (20) hits a two-run home run during the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP PhotoJohn Bazemore)

Cincinnati Reds' Shogo Akiyama of Japan, heads to the dugout after grounding out during the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP PhotoJohn Bazemore)

Atlanta Braves' Adam Duvall rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP PhotoJohn Bazemore)