The Phillies cruised over the lowly Marlins to cap off last night’s Wild Card round, which featured four sweeps. Miami had a season worth appreciating, given their expectations, but they were in over their heads going into Philadelphia without their two best starting pitchers, setting the stage for a rematch that has felt inevitable for months between the Braves and Phillies.
These are the two best teams in baseball. I’ve written about it and talked about it on my show profusely. Here’s a video from three months ago.
The Phillies are a wagon in a lot of ways. They have a powerful lineup, a legitimate one-two punch at the top of their rotation in Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, and a plethora of guys that can throw heat out of their bullpen. That makes them a very tough out in October, but there’s also a reason the Braves finished 14 games ahead of this team over a 162-game sample size.
Atlanta’s lineup is better than the Phillies, and it’s not particularly close. The Braves scored 151 more runs than the Phillies this year, blasted 87 (!) more homers, and finished the season with an OPS 80 points higher. Atlanta features the best offense in the history of the game, a night and day difference from what Philadelphia was up against last season.
The Braves starting pitching is also in better shape than it was a year ago. The loss of Charlie Morton stings, but they would much rather be without Morton and have a healthy Max Fried and Spencer Strider, which the Braves didn’t have a year ago. Fried was dealing with a severe illness, and Strider hadn’t pitched in weeks because of an oblique injury. Neither was close to 100%, and their attempts to gut it out failed miserably. That’s not the case this year. Both should be good to go for the NLDS, and they are lined up to pitch four out of a potential five games in this series.
Comparing this matchup to a year ago is comparing apples to oranges. Ronald Acuna Jr. Max Fried, and Spencer Strider were not healthy. Ozzie Albies missed the NLDS, Marcell Ozuna wasn’t the guy he is today, and the Braves didn’t have Sean Murphy. The 2022 Braves, they were vulnerable. The 2023 Braves, this is a juggernaut.
The Phillies are fully capable of winning the World Series, and in a five-game series, anything can happen. But the only people nervous in Braves Country are the fans. Brian Snitker and his guys have revenge on their minds, and over the next week, they have the chance to put their NL East rivals to bed for good, something they’ve been waiting 365 days to do.
Photo: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire