Buckle up. It’s time for Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves, Spherical 2. It’s each the second spherical of this postseason — extra on that later — and the second 12 months in a row that the 2 NL East rivals have met within the October baseball colosseum. Final 12 months, the Phillies squeaked into the playoffs, received on a roll and worn out the 101-win Braves en path to the World Collection — an upset with an exclamation level added by Rhys Hoskins’ bat-slam homer.
Nicely, now the groups meet once more. Lots of the circumstances look the identical. The Braves are a juggernaut — 104 wins this time, simply division champs behind Ronald Acuña Jr.’s historic season and the most effective offenses MLB has ever seen. Matt Olson blasted 54 homers, Sean Murphy joined as beginning catcher, and Austin Riley tallied the quietest 37-homer season on file. After a season-long show of excellence, it will be a disappointment if the Braves didn’t get to have fun with a parade.
On the opposite facet, the Phillies are once more a wild-card group, but it surely feels completely different this time. Invigorated by final 12 months’s pennant run, the Phillies have saved the unbuttoned, unbothered vibes however progressed into arguably a extra well-rounded group. With Trea Turner within the fold, Bryce Harper plying his commerce at first base and a number of other younger gamers arriving or enhancing up the center, the Phillies accelerated away from the remainder of the wild-card chase. Given the state of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitching employees, it’s not unreasonable to assume the Phillies truly pose the best risk to the Braves’ NL supremacy.
As Jayson Stark identified at The Athletic, that is solely the third time in MLB historical past that division rivals have met in consecutive postseasons. The earlier cases had been unquestionable classics: the New York Yankees and Boston Pink Sox in 2003 and ‘04 and the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros in 2004 and ‘05. That’s the 3-0 comeback, the Carlos Beltran sequence, the Albert Pujols homer off Brad Lidge, the Aaron Boone homer.
One way or the other, it doesn’t really feel like a stretch to assume this sequence will maintain the lineage going. So let’s tackle three massive questions to remember because the NLDS begins Saturday.
Who past Spencer Strider is pitching for the Braves?
The Braves are the rightful favorites right here, however they’ve a really apparent obstacle to development. Heading into this sequence, younger ace Spencer Strider is the one Braves starter who’s each undoubtedly wholesome and undoubtedly good. Max Fried, the 29-year-old lefty who has fronted this rotation in earlier runs, is terrific however has been coping with a blister. He pitched a simulated sport Tuesday as a part of Atlanta’s efforts to maintain the group on the sector and avert any potential bye-round points which may or may not have contributed to final season’s Phillies defeat. Clearly, the hope is that Fried pitches both Sport 2 or Sport 3. Veteran Charlie Morton, the employees’s theoretical No. 3 pitcher, gained’t be again for this sequence due to a finger damage.
So it’s Strider, possibly Fried (and possibly a compromised model) after which some questions for supervisor Brian Snitker and president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos. Almost definitely, they may belief Bryce Elder with the third slot and hope that additional relaxation can reset him to his early-season self.
From Opening Day by means of June 22, the 24-year-old right-hander posted a surprisingly good 2.40 ERA, regardless of middling strikeout numbers and a contact-oriented method. In 16 begins after that, his ERA was 5.31, because the strikeout fee plummeted even decrease and walks and homers caught as much as him. It’s true that workload would possibly’ve affected his stability on the tightrope that’s his command-over-stuff method, but it surely’s not clear whether or not the Braves can belief that to enhance mightily within the playoffs.
Atlanta’s different choices are rookie AJ Smith-Shawver (4.26 ERA in 25 1/3 MLB innings) or somebody even much less pedigreed, equivalent to Allan Winans. Almost definitely, Snitker will lean on the bullpen to absorb extra innings and hope his group can survive and get Morton again for the subsequent spherical.
Are the Phillies simply constructed for October?
Beating the Miami Marlins isn’t proof of greatness, however the Phillies took care of enterprise emphatically within the wild-card spherical, following a 2022 postseason through which they discovered one of the best variations of themselves on the similar level of the season. There’s no less than some heft constructing behind the concept that Dave Dombrowski’s stars-first rosters are extra primed for successful on the earth of the playoffs.
Success throughout 162 video games and 6 months is fueled by having nice gamers, sure, but it surely’s additionally closely depending on having marginally higher solutions for a litany of down-the-priority-list questions. Who’s our fill-in second baseman for 3 weeks in Could? Who’s the Seventeenth-best aid pitcher within the group? What number of guys on the 40-man roster can play an above-average middle area? The Braves and Dodgers are perennial contenders as a result of they, in their very own methods, persistently ace these assessments. The Phillies, in addition to Dombrowski’s earlier groups, have been extra hit-and-miss on the long-term undertaking of the summer season, however the high-stakes, high-concentration problem of the playoffs — the oral presentation, the one massive paper — fits them completely.
With the marked enchancment of Bryson Stott, who logged a 101 wRC+ in his second big-league season and walloped a grand slam against the Marlins, the addition and eventual resurgence of Trea Turner and the arrival of Johan Rojas in middle, the Phillies deploy a postseason lineup with one thing approaching no weak spots. The truth that the Braves additionally did that each one season (and can proceed to take action for the subsequent, oh, decade or so) doesn’t even have any bearing on the results of this sequence.
In a brief sequence, there’s a flattening impact. Acuña, Ozzie Albies, Riley, Olson and Murphy handily outplayed the Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber-Turner-Harper-J.T. Realmuto-whoever else constellation within the common season — and certain would over 25 or 50 extra video games. However they’ve solely three to 5 video games to resolve this factor.
And when the relative significance of the Twenty third-to-Fortieth members of the group is decreased, the Phillies immediately stack up nicely towards the Braves — and nearly some other group in baseball.
Litmus check: Do you truly just like the MLB postseason format?
OK, this can be a meta query in regards to the sequence, but it surely’s a query nonetheless. If the identical development of outcomes from the NL wild-card sequence (No. 4 Phillies over No. 5 Marlins, No. 6 Diamondbacks over No. 3 Brewers) occurred within the NFL, the top-seeded Braves would face Arizona, not Philadelphia. MLB’s format doesn’t re-seed the competitors after the primary spherical, so the Braves successfully get a harder street than the No. 2-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers.
It’s not precisely an integrity subject, however this explicit case supplies an instance of baseball’s finest group being dealt a significantly harder opponent in a shorter sequence (best-of-five) with a narrower margin for error and the next likelihood of randomness. Within the second, that gained’t diminish something — it’s, actually, extra prone to heighten the stress and amp up the drama — however whichever group falls might fairly ask whether or not its regular-season accomplishments gained it an applicable degree of posteason profit.
Braves-Phillies appears to be like like an amazing sequence, appointment tv. It could be each higher and extra befitting of the circumstances, all issues thought-about, if it got here within the best-of-seven Championship Collection, like these traditional Yankees-Pink Sox and Cardinals-Astros matchups.