The Philadelphia Phillies will take on division rivals the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series this week. Philadelphia won their first postseason series since 2010 with a sweep of the Cardinals in the Wild Card round. Atlanta earned a first-round bye with a 101-61 record and a fifth straight division championship. The Braves will be embarking on their title defense as they are the reigning World Series champions. The Phillies will be hosting their first home postseason game since 2011. 

The Phillies started their return to the postseason by vanquishing the team that ended their last trip in 2011. Now, they will face the team they’ve lost the season series to every year since 2017 including an 8-11 record this season. 


Game 1- Tuesday, October 11th at 1:07, FOX

Ranger Suárez (10-7, 3.65 ERA) @ Max Fried (14-7, 2.48 ERA)

Game 2- Wednesday, October 12th at 4:35, FOX

Zack Wheeler (12-7, 2.82 ERA) @ Kyle Wright (21-5, 3.19 ERA)

Game 3- Friday, October 14th, TBD, FS1

TBD @ Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25 ERA)

Game 4 (if necessary)- Saturday, October 15th, TBD, FS1


Game 5 (if necessary)- Sunday, August 16th, TBD, FS1



Phillies Rotation

Philadelphia was able to sweep two games in St. Louis thanks in large part to the efforts of Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. The two starters combined for 13 shutout innings with six hits, two walks, and 10 strikeouts. Their dominance allowed Philadelphia not to overwork its weak bullpen and only use their most trustworthy relievers. 

However, the dynamic duo will not start until games 2 and 3 respectively. Ranger Suárez will take the ball in Game 1. Suárez had been on a roll late in the season, with a 2.50 ERA in 12 starts following the All-Star break until allowing 6 runs in 3 innings to the Astros on 10/4. 

Suárez faced the Braves five times this year and went 1-2 with a 3.21 ERA. The right-handed heavy Braves lineup had a line of .233/.303/.359 against the lefty Suárez this season. As a whole, right-handed hitters hit .263 off Suárez this season with a .756 OPS. 

Phillies Bullpen

The depleted bullpen benefited from the dazzling starts of Wheeler and Nola in the NLWCS. Philadelphia was able to only use their four best relief pitchers in the shortened series. They are Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson, and Zach Eflin. That quartet allowed three total runs in 5 combined innings of work. Two of those runs came on Juan Yepez’s pinch hit home run off of Alvarado in Game 1.  

This is the Phillies formula for winning. They need their starters to get deep into games so they can hide their less trustworthy relievers, especially in higher leverage situations. That said, Dominguez came into the playoffs struggling. He had a 1.64 ERA in 46 games from March to August but then had an 11.57 ERA in eight appearances in September and October. Dominguez entered Game 2 in St. Louis with a runner on first and one out and proceeded to allow a single to Albert Pujols to put the tying run on first. He then struck out MVP candidates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado swinging to get out of the jam. 

Phillies Offense

The Phillies lineup is the strength of their team. They waited until the ninth in Game 1 to come alive and got just enough offense in Game 2 to win. Philadelphia won despite their 1-2-3 hitters going a collective 1-22 with 7 Ks in the series. The bottom of the lineup carried them outside of Bryce Harper’s home run in the second inning of Game 2. Alec Bohm, Brandon Marsh, and Jean Segura had some of Philadelphia’s best offensive performances. However, they will need Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, and J.T. Realmuto to come alive to beat Atlanta. 

Hoskins and Realmuto in particular will be very important in Game 1 against Atlanta if lefty Max Fried does start as anticipated. Fried has limited the Phillies left-handed hitters to a .160/.250/.360 batting line against in four starts this season. Hoskins has a career .172 AVG and .604 OPS against Fried while Realmuto owns a .333 AVG and 1.028 OPS against the Braves lefty. 

X-Factor- Alec Bohm

Bohm was one of the Phillies best players against the Cardinals. He went 2-5 at the plate with two doubles and two walks and made a handful of highlight reel plays in the field at third base. He also took a 101 MPH Ryan Helsley fastball to the shoulder with the bases loaded and got up clapping while the Phillies scored the first of their six runs in the ninth. Bohm hit .342 against the Braves this season in 19 games with five extra base hits including a home run and 7 RBIs. If Bohm can continue his postseason heroics, the Phillies will have a chance to beat the Braves. 


Braves Rotation

Atlanta has a strong rotation, posting the ninth best ERA in the Majors (3.72) and third best xFIP (3.50). However, their rotation as a whole struggled against the Phillies this season with a 4.84 ERA and 3.69 xFIP in 19 games. As mentioned before, Max Fried will most likely take the ball in Game 1 with World Series MVP Kyle Wright taking the ball in Game 2. Game 3 will be up in the air. Charlie Morton could take the ball as a traditional starter. Or rookie ace Spencer Strider could make his first start after suffering an oblique injury in a limited capacity. Or Strider could be deployed as a piggyback. More on him later. 

Braves Bullpen

Atlanta’s bullpen is also strong with the fourth best ERA in the Majors at 3.03. They are also third in the league in strikeout percentage (27.3%) and fourth in WHIP (1.14). Trade deadline acquisition Raisel Iglesias has been a lethal addition, as he has allowed one earned run in 28 appearances with the Braves. The ‘pen is anchored by closer Kenley Jansen who led the NL in saves at 41 and finished one shy of the MLB lead. Jansen posted a 3.38 ERA across 64 IP in his first season in Atlanta and had his best strikeout percentage (32.7%) since 2017. He was among the league’s best at limiting hard contact (.169 xBA) and extra base hits (.292 xSLG) in his age 35 season. 

Braves Lineup

The Atlanta lineup is loaded with talent. They finished the regular season with the third most runs scored, led the league in slugging (.443), and were second in OPS (.761) and home runs. This is a team that looks to win games with extra-base hits and home runs.

Austin Riley leads the way for the Braves deep lineup. Riley finished the season among the top ten league wide in slugging (.528) and OPS (.878) and was fifth in the league in home runs (38). He hammered the Phillies this season to the tune of a .351 AVG and .921 OPS in 19 games. 

The Braves as a whole hit .262 against the Phillies this season with a .752 OPS and averaged 4.6 runs per game. That’s just a hair over what the Phillies averaged against the Braves at 4.5 runs per game. There are no easy outs in the Atlanta lineup. Anyone 1-9 is capable of taking you deep or slugging extra base hits. 

X-Factor- Spencer Strider

Strider, along with teammate Michael Harris II, is a favorite for rookie of the year. The 23-year-old fireballer finished with an 11-5 record and 2.67 ERA in 31 games with 20 starts. Strider began the season in the bullpen before he was moved into the starting rotation, dominating across both roles. In four games against the Phillies with three starts, Strider went 4-0 and allowed 3 runs in 21.1 IP. He struck out an eye popping 34 Phillies hitters in those 21.1 innings, the most he had against any team this season.

However, Strider’s status for the NLDS is uncertain. He’s been on the injured list since September 18th with an oblique strain. It’s hard to believe that he won’t pitch at all in this series, but exactly how much he can pitch is the important question. In the likely scenario that Strider is on the postseason roster, there’s also a strong chance he will be limited in his first games back in a month. That leaves manager Brian Snitker with options. Strider can either be deployed as a short-term starter with the bullpen behind him, he could be a relief ace like how his season started, or he could be utilized in a piggyback with Charlie Morton. Strider is arguably the biggest weapon in the Braves arsenal against the Phillies as he’s completely dominated them this season. The less he pitches in this series, the better the chances the Phillies have of pulling off an upset. 


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