On Saturday, for the first time all season, the Atlanta Braves were held to just zero runs at home when the Philadelphia Phillies won Game 1 of the NLDS by virtue of strong baserunning (five stolen bases), solid defense, and Bryce Harper’s homer.
Philadelphia was propelled by Ranger Suarez and an outstanding bullpen effort from six relievers, while Atlanta got no run support for Spencer Strider from their offense.
After an off day, the Braves look to level the series at Truist Park in Game 2. Let’s break down this matchup and make our pick for Game 2 of the NLDS.
Max Fried could hold the key to Atlanta’s World Series hopes. Their No. 2 pitcher hasn’t pitched since September 21 due to a blister on his throwing hand; since then, he’s pitched only intrasquad games while wearing a band-aid on his finger in an attempt to heal it and stay healthy during an injury-plagued campaign that only saw 14 starts for Fried this season.
Fried was dominant when on the mound, going 8-1 with an impressive 2.55 ERA and 2.75 xERA over nine starts and a 25.7% strikeout rate across his limited starts; injuries did not impact his velocity at all.
Fried is an expert at limiting hard contact. He sits among the top 10% in average exit velocity allowed and utilizes fastball, curveball and changeup pitches to produce weak contact. Although this is Fried’s 2023 postseason debut, he made waves during 2021’s World Series clincher; two stellar starts during that postseason were balanced out with two duds.
Atlanta was held scoreless in Game 1, but don’t be fooled into thinking their bats will remain silent for long. Their offense has been incredible all season long, leading both wOBA and wRC+ in baseball while hitting for both power and average and being one of baseball’s most formidable lineups.
Zack Wheeler continues to shine during this postseason. He got the start in Game 1 of the Wild Card Round and allowed just one run over 6 2/3 innings while striking out eight batters while giving up just five hits and no walks for Philadelphia to cruise past the Marlins and secure victory.
As expected of an established pitcher like Wheeler, his stats speak for themselves: He finished the regular season with a 3.61 ERA in 32 starts, 3.21xERA and an unprecedented career-low 5% walk rate were his accomplishments.
Wheeler makes himself nearly impossible to hit due to his varied pitch mix. He throws five pitches at least 10% of the time, led by his fastball, which has been particularly effective against opponents; they hit just.199 against this 95.8-mph averaged fastball from Wheeler during his Wild Card Round start; 19 times it reached over 97 mph and peaked at 98.6!
The Phillies have their ace going as an underdog, I think I will take that.
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