Phillies-Braves Series Preview

Phillies Braves
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Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves Square Off in the National League Division Series for the Second Straight Season

 

The Philadelphia Phillies took care of business against the Miami Marlins, sweeping the Wild Card series while taking command of both games and winning comfortably. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves take their NL/AL best 104 wins this season into Truist Park for Games One and Two. The stage is set in October, and many fans and pundits alike have their eyes on this rivalry. Philadelphia and Atlanta are major baseball cities with environments ranked among the best in the NL.

Phillies Recap

The Philadelphia Phillies are reigning National League champions and come in on a hot streak like last year’s unlikely playoff run. Their 90 wins are the best for an NL Wild Card team this season, and many formidable hitters boost the offense. At the top of those hitters is former NL MVP Bryce Harper, who headlines an explosive offense. Trea Turner‘s bat picked up at the right time, J.T. Realmuto kept slugging away, Kyle Schwarber launched 47 homers, and Bryson Stott led the team in WAR while improving his batting average to .280. Nick Castellanos led the team in RBI with 106, and Alec Bohm almost reached 100. The Phillies hitting is a top-tier lineup in the NL. The starting pitching also has star names like Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola, and Taijuan Walker and Ranger Suarez posted sub 4.50 ERA and 15 wins for Walker, which led the Phillies.

Phillies Best Performers:

Lineup: Bryce Harper: .293/.401/.499, 21 home runs, 72 RBI. Although Harper was injured coming into the season and played fewer games, his splits are no joke. He leads the Phillies in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Harper’s playoff performance last year will have all eyes on him for this series.

Starting Pitcher: Zack Wheeler: 13-6, 3.61 ERA, 26.9 K%, 1.078 WHIP, 3.15 FIP.

Reliever: José Alvarado: 1.74 ERA, 37.2 K% 1.161 WHIP, 2.41 FIP, 81.0% scoreless outings.

Braves Recap

The Braves’ regular season is among the best in NL/AL history. The lineup is led by a record .501 team slugging this season. The Braves banged 309 home runs as a team, tied for the most in league history. The most notable name in Atlanta, and maybe in the playoffs, is Ronald Acuña Jr., the presumptive MVP of the NL. Meanwhile, the Braves have Matt Olson with the most home runs this year and Marcell Ozuna, who hit 40 home runs this season. The only two starting hitters for the Braves who didn’t hit 20 homers are Michael Harris II (18) and Orlando Arcia (17). The Braves know how to mash and will take advantage of mistakes. The NL leader in wins is Spencer Strider, top pitcher Max Fried, and a surprising Bryce Elder, who posted a 3.81 ERA this season, making this pitching roster high-end during their peaks.

Braves Best Performers

Lineup: Ronald Acuña Jr: .337/.416/.596, 41 home runs, 106 RBI, 73 stolen bases. Acuña’s numbers are off the scales this season, earning the first-ever 40/70 (and 40/50…and 40/60…) season. His presence in the box and speed and disturbance on the base pads give the hitters behind him an advantage over a distracted pitcher. With an OPS at 1.012, the Braves right fielder is a tough out. Acuña leads the Braves in 2B, SB, BA, OBP, TB, and OPS as well.

Starting Pitcher: Spencer Strider: 20-5, 3.86 ERA, 36.8 K%, 1.093 WHIP, 2.85 FIP.

Reliever: Jesse Chavez: 1.56 ERA, 1.096 WHIP, 3.05 FIP, 88.6% scoreless outings.

Game Times

Game 1: Phillies at Braves, Saturday, Oct. 7 at 6:07 p.m. ET, TBS

Game 2: Phillies at Braves, Monday, Oct. 9 at 6:07 p.m. ET, TBS

Game 3: Braves at Phillies, Wednesday, Oct. 11 at TBD, TBS

Game 4: Braves at Phillies, Thursday, Oct. 12 at TBD, TBS (if necessary)

Game 5: Phillies at Braves, Saturday, Oct. 14 at TBD, TBS (if necessary)

X-Factors

Obviously, if Ronald Acuña or Bryce Harper don’t perform, there is a better chance of his team losing. So we’ll focus on the potential series-changing stats that aren’t so apparent.

Phillies X-Factor

Trea Turner: In the first two games of the playoffs for the Phillies, their big batter, Bryce Harper, was left in the dust compared to the field. Harper is batting .167 in the two games, and although Harper has an OBP of .375, his three strikeouts in six at-bats are an eye-sore when matched up on paper against Strider. Insert Trea Turner, whose September run and postseason so far are stellar. With four hits in seven at-bats, Turner’s .571 batting average in two games has helped Philly have some spark down the lineup. Turner’s impressive 30 stolen bases without being caught make more RISP chances for Bohm, Harper, and Realmuto. A massive reason for Phillies’ late success is down to Trea Turner. Without his presence, a reliance on Schwarber to draw walks leading off or light-tower power is a “ride or die” mentality.

Braves X-Factor

Bullpen: The Braves bullpen is among the worst in the league and, since September 1, is the worst in the playoffs (Check out Evan Thompson’s Reliever Roundup and Bullpen Bonanza). The Braves rank dead last among playoff teams and 27th overall, only behind the Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox, and Los Angeles Angels. With hostile departments in clutch, run prevention, and the only positive being their command, the Braves hope their ‘pen can shut the door. The Braves’ only dependable reliever is their middle man, Jesse Chavez. Eventually, someone else has to step up. Overall, the Braves relief corps needs to pick up their game. They gave up seven home runs in their last scrimmage game. Though the Braves have great hitters, the relievers must change their ways to win this series.

Reasons for Success

Going into this NLDS, a lot of bad blood is between these two sides. Here are the reasons why both teams can take this series…

Why the Phillies Will Advance

The Phillies Cinderella Run turns to Chapter Two, hoping for a repeat of last year, except for the World Series. Their hot streak turned into a scorching fire, which trail-blazed them into success and pushed past the Braves last year in the NLDS.

The principles for the Phillies should stay the same and should be just like last year. Any road team tries to steal home-field advantage and push the series back into their territory. Last season, the Phillies did just that, stealing Game One in Atlanta with Ranger Suarez on the mound, returning with home-field advantage and taking both at home.

This year, it will be the same principle, with either Suarez, Walker, or Cristobal Sánchez in Game One, with Wheeler and Nola for Games Two and Three. If the Phillies can steal one, then they go back to Citizens Bank Park with a series tied or up two games, it should be wrapped up with their success at home in recent years.

They’re Hot

If the Braves relievers continue to struggle, and the Phillies have the lineup to take advantage of their mistakes, then they can steal games. Philadelphia has the advantage if the pitching becomes a tight race and both teams go to their ‘pen. Wheeler is starting Games Two and Five, and if he can hold his own, Philly’s chances against the ‘pen tied or down one run give them a fighting edge.

Max Fried also lands on the Braves injury list while battling a blister on his finger. The Braves must also deploy a lesser starter in Philadelphia, which may give the one win the Phillies need to gain momentum.

The Phillies are hot. The Braves came off the identical situational rest last year, which cost them big time. Lightning strikes twice, as some Phillies fans have heard, and it could be the same lightning strike to help them again.

Why the Braves Will Advance

The Atlanta Braves come off one of the most dominant regular seasons of all time, finishing with 104 wins. Their batting numbers are impressive, and their pitching can deal. Coming off a record-setting year, the Braves have home-field advantage all the way through.

The Braves batting splits are better at home than on the road, but their road splits are still better than the league average. The first two games are at 6:07, and the Braves night splits are better than the Phillies night splits. If Atlanta can pull a 2-0 lead going into Philadelphia, it will be a challenging environment for the Braves. But they have the same record at home and on the road (52-29), so they have a good chance of winning at least one in hostile territory.

The Braves batting lineup is as deep as it can get, with Michael Harris II batting around eighth or ninth. On other teams in the league, he could hit in the top half of the lineup. The Braves broke the single-season slugging record and tied the most home runs in the regular season. Marcell Ozuna cracks 40 home runs and usually hits around the sixth spot. All of their core starters hit above the .250 mark. For reference, the major league average this season is .248. The Braves mash, and the Braves can track down leads.

Pitching

Their ability to use main starters in Max Fried and Spencer Strider four out of a potential five games can boost their chances. The pitching can struggle, but with the two aces on the mound, the Braves hope both pitchers can have quality starts.

Strider has had success against Philadelphia this year. In his four starts against the Phillies, Strider is 4-0 with an ERA of 2.42 and 38 strikeouts in 26 innings. Strider has also allowed three walks and two home runs in those starts. If Strider can keep his success, the Braves have a good formula for success.

Max Fried only pitched one game against the Phillies. He got a no-decision, but the Braves won the game by one run. Fried gave up one run, four hits, and two walks on six strikeouts in five innings. If Fried can replicate his start, the Braves have an excellent blueprint to go out and jump into the lead.

The Braves have a deep lineup and some strong starting pitching options. If they can jump into leads early, it may be hard for the Phillies to always be coming from behind. The Braves bullpen needs to fix itself, but the offense needs to retain what they did for 162 games.

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Brooks Thomason

As a up and coming writer, Brooks has been born and raised as an Atlanta Braves fan. Going through the years of Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Brian McCann as a kid, to Freddie Freeman, and Acuña, Brooks has seen Braves stars come and go. However, his fandom always remains with Braves Country.

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