Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves will rematch last year’s National League Division Series after Philadelphia completed its two-game sweep against Miami Marlins in the National League Wild Card Series with a 7-1 win on Wednesday. The Phillies are dangerous in a short series as they showed last season.
The Braves are loaded as ten players hit 11 or more homers, with five (Matt Olson, Ronald Acuna Jr., Marcell Ozuna, Austin Riley and Ozzie Albies) hitting 33 or more.
Olson led all major leaguers with 54 dingers. At the same time, Acuna, considered an early favorite for the National League MVP award, had 41 homers, 106 RBI, 217 hits, 149 runs scored, 73 stolen bases, an OPS rating of 1.012 and an.337 batting average.
Navigating this lineup is no easy feat for any pitcher; to take down the 2023 Braves three times in a best-of-five series would seem an almost insurmountable obstacle.
Max Fried has led an outstanding three-headed rotation that includes 2022 NL Cy Young runner-up Spencer Strider (2023 strikeout leader) and two-time All-Star Charlie Morton, with Raisel Iglesias closing with 33 saves and 2.75 ERA for 2023.
Phillies fans should take comfort knowing that variance can play an integral part of baseball, and even 100-win teams may stumble their way into October only to collapse with disastrous consequences.
Last season, three National League clubs (Los Angeles Dodgers (111 wins), Atlanta Braves (101) and New York Mets (101). Each one achieved this accomplishment before making it into playoffs.
No one managed to win a playoff round last season; instead, the NL Championship Series was staged between the 87-win Philadelphia Phillies and 89-win San Diego Padres.
Throughout a short series, bats can go silent, or pitching can fall short of expectations. Perhaps that happened here for Atlanta; however, they have an additional issue to deal with.
Simply stated, the Phillies won’t be intimidated or scared away by anything Atlanta throws their way. Last season, they defeated them 3-1 thanks mainly to Bryce Harper and his staggering 1.592 OPS.
Philadelphia may only have won 90 games so far this year – enough for an NL wild-card spot – but their play has dramatically improved after starting 25-32.
Trea Turner in particular, has recovered from a disappointing first half to post an incredible second-half OPS of.902, while Bryce Harper hit six homers over 18 regular-season games while Kyle Schwarber managed 47 homers despite hitting just 197!
The Phillies boast two top two pitchers to rival Fried and Strider on their staff: Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola are making waves in the NLDS after tossing 13.2 innings of no-run ball and 11 strikeouts against Miami Marlins during their four-game sweep, earning their team an NLDS spot after posting 13.2 one-run innings with 11 strikeouts each in an easy victory en route to an impressive 3.56 ERA bullpen performance that ranks seventh overall in MLB.
Please make no mistake: the Phillies are incredibly dangerous against anybody they play in a short series. I expect this series to go five games, with the Phillies again squeaking bythis time in five games.
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