Here we have a rematch of last year's NLDS. The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves three games to one on their way to winning the National League Pennant. Both teams return with most of their lineups looking similar to last year. While the Phillies don't have Rhys Hoskins, they do have Trea Turner this season. On the other side, the Braves have replaced Travis d'Arnaud with Sean Murphy and they will have Ozzie Albies in the lineup instead of Dansby Swanson. The usual suspects are still here though. Let's see if Atlanta can exact some revenge or do the Phillies just have their number in October.
NL Divisional Round: #4 Philadelphia Phillies vs. #1 Atlanta Braves
The Braves were 8-5 against the Phillies this season, but we know that means nothing as they were 11-8 last year and got beaten up in the best of five. Atlanta has the most dangerous offense in the majors. They set a National League record for home runs in a season with 307. They also scored 947 runs which eclipsed the total from 2022 by 158. Aside from the Los Angeles Dodgers this year, the last team to score 900+ runs in the National League was the 2003 Atlanta Braves. They also lost in the NLDS that year. Philly finished in the top five in just about all major hitting categories so they will not be going quietly.
The top six hitters in the Phillies lineup are about as scary as it gets starting with Kyle Schwarber. Say what you want about his .197 batting average. The dude gets on base over 34 percent of the time and hits a bomb about every 15 times he gets to the plate. It does not get any easier after that. Turner became the only major league player ever to steal 30 bases in a season without getting thrown out. That's efficient. Bryce Harper does his thing. Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, and JT Realmuto can all hit. And if tragedy strikes anywhere in the world, you can count on Nick Castellanos to blast one.
Atlanta is led by the favorite to win the MVP, Ronald Acuna Jr. Add in Albies, Matt Olson, Austin Riley, and Marcell Ozuna and you have 205 home runs. That is more than 17 TEAMS hit this season and tied with the San Diego Padres. There is no easy out with this group. Sean Murphy had a great year in his first go-around in the NL. Michael Harris II matched his impressive rookie year almost identically in many categories.
The Phillies will roll with lefty Ranger Suarez today. He was better on the road this season and has fewer innings on his arm than Taijuan Walker which is why Rob Thomson likely elected to go with the lefty. It could set Walker up to pitch at home in Game Four. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola will surely pitch Games Two and Three. They dominated the Miami Marlins allowing just eight hits and one run over 13.2 innings. Wheeler will be available for Game Five, if necessary, on regular rest due to the odd schedule of the NLDS.
Atlanta begins the series with Spencer Strider. The strikeout king and Cy Young candidate pitched better than his 3.86 ERA would suggest. The Braves have lefty Max Fried tabbed for Game Two. He has been excellent when he has been on the mound. The southpaw has pitched well against Philly over the past two years with a 2.89 ERA and a 31/8 K/BB rate. The Braves will have to depend on either Bryce Elder or AJ Smith Shawver for Game Three as Atlanta is without the services of Charlie Morton, Mike Soroka, or Kyle Wright.
Philadelphia's bullpen was solid this season. Despite losing closer Jose Alvarado for a good chunk of the season, the Phillies held it together. Alvarado has been good since returning in August, holding batters to just a .527 OPS. Craig Kimbrel got rejuvenated in September as well, posting a 1.50 ERA. Matt Strahm is a Swiss army knife and has strikeout stuff with the ability to pitch multiple innings. With Gregory Soto, Jeff Hoffman, and Orion Kerkering, the Phillies have enough arms to keep the Braves in check late.
Atlanta has one of the best closers in the game with Raisel Iglesias. They also have plenty of guys to match the Phillies hitters late in the game and who have closer experience. AJ Minter and Brad Hand are two veteran lefties that have closed games before. Joe Jimenez occasionally locked down games for the Detroit Tigers. Let's not forget Kirby Yates who led the NL in saves with 41 and struck out 101 batters in 2019.
As good as Atlanta's 104 wins look, they have their warts, especially on the pitching side. The Phillies are one team that can keep up with them offensively. Philadelphia may strike out a bunch against Strider today, but if they can keep it close, the Phils may take Game One. If that happens, Wheeler and Nola may just win the next two. Phillies in a sweep.
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