Man, what a week it’s been for the Braves. After a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss in extras to the Nationals on last Wednesday, I was already mentally preparing for that top Wild Card spot. Down a game in the standings with three head-to-head versus the Mets, the Braves needed a seemingly impossible sweep (facing deGrom, Scherzer, and Bassitt) to control their own destiny.
And those crazy motherf*****s did it.
After grinding out a cardiac-event-inducing 2-1 win against the Marlins, the Atlanta Braves are your 2022 NL East Champs. (That’s five in a row for those keeping count, not that we are.)
With that being the case, it’s time to turn our focus to the NLDS.
2022 NLDS Matchup: Cardinals or Phillies?
Looking at this Wild Card Series, I’m a bit torn. Which of these teams would I rather face in the NLDS?
Both of the offenses are potent. The Phillies have Schwarber/Harper/Realmuto/Bohm, and the Cardinals have Goldschmidt/Arenado/Pujols. If either of those groups gets hot in October, the MLB is in trouble. I’m going to give a slight edge to the Cardinals here since Goldy and Arenado have been MVP-caliber players all season and Pujols has found new life at 45 (or however old he is).
Defense? Not as close. The Phillies have the worst defense of any playoff team — advantage Cardinals.
Rotation? The Phillies will likely roll with Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, and Kyle Gibson as their four-man playoff rotation. The Cardinals have Jack Flaherty, Jose Quintana, Jordan Montgomery, Adam Wainwright, and Miles Mikolas.
Personally, I’d rather face the Phillies rotation. They’re both good staffs, but the Braves have seen the Phillies more. Regardless, the Braves have proven time and time again that they don’t care who’s on the mound. They’re going to hit ’em.
Head-to-head record? This isn’t a great comparison because the Braves have played the Phillies 19 times and the Cardinals just seven. Atlanta is 11-8 against Philly and 4-3 against St. Louis. Now, if we count Kenley Jansen‘s walk-off walk as an anomaly, I think 5-2 is a more accurate representation against the Cards.
Braves NLDS Matchup Prediction
Now that we’ve taken a look at the Braves’ potential opponents, it’s time to call our shot.
I’m taking the Cardinals to win the Wild Card Series 2-1.
As someone who’s been to Busch Stadium, hosting that series is a massive advantage for St. Louis. The Phillies’ offense should be able to produce enough to win a game, but all signs are pointing to the Cardinals taking care of business. They’re simply the better team.
The “voodoo magic” from the Cardinals is what scares me the most about the NLDS. We all remember the 2012 Wild Card game (still not an infield fly) and the 2019 NLDS (well, I don’t remember anything after about the third inning). And now we have to deal with the Pujols-Waino-Yadi sunset retirement tour. Maybe the MLB will use the juiced balls for that series? Good. The Braves mash more home runs than anybody except that team with the Mickey Mouse stadium in New York.
The biggest advantage is the first-round bye the Braves clinched by coming back from down 10.5 games to the Mets to win the NL East. That means whoever the Braves face in the NLDS will have already thrown at least two, if not three of their best starters. We may see their fourth starter in Game 1, who would have to go toe-to-toe with Max Fried.
Whatever happens in the Cardinals-Phillies series, I just hope it takes three games to get there.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire