We have arrived. Tomorrow, the Wild Card series kicks off in both leagues, and all eyes in Braves Country will be on what happens between the Phillies and Marlins. No matter what, it will be an NL East showdown in the NLDS, with the Phillies coming into the matchup as heavy favorites.
The Braves and Phillies are all too familiar with each other after meeting in the NLDS last season. The Phillies sent the Braves packing on their way to the World Series, and nobody would be surprised if they did the same thing in 2023.
Philadelphia’s offense is beginning to hit their stride at the right time. After missing some time to begin the season, Bryce Harper has found his power stroke again as October approaches. He has 16 homers over his last 49 games, and there might not be a player in the game today who loves the big moment more than the powerful lefty out in Philly.
However, the most important development for this Phillies team has been the turnaround of Trea Turner. After signing a $300 million contract with Philadelphia this past offseason, he was an absolute liability for the first few months, but he’s been as hot as any player in baseball since the middle of August, hitting .337 with 15 homers in his last 44 games. If the Phillies are going to make another magical postseason run, you can bet Turner is going to play a massive role in that happening.
Much like the Braves, Philadelphia has power up and down their lineup, which is going to make them a tough out for anybody in October. They also have one of the best one-two punches in the game heading their rotation.
Zack Wheeler has been consistently great for years now. He leads all National League pitchers in fWAR, and while Aaron Nola is amid one of the worst seasons of his career, he’s a big game pitcher that ended the season on a high note with a couple of fantastic outings.
Philadelphia’s bullpen also features a boatload of guys with incredible velocity. This is a group that has struggled at times, but they were terrible last season and came up huge in the playoffs. That’s baseball, and velocity out of the bullpen is something that generally plays in October.
Throw in the fact that this entire series will take place in Philadelphia, and it’s going to be very difficult for the Marlins to come out on top and advance, but this is a Miami club that has some fantastic pitching, and they’ve had a lot of success against the Phillies in the regular season this year.
The Marlins surprised a lot of people this season, sneaking into the playoffs on the final week. They’re one of the better stories in baseball, but unfortunately, they are coming into the postseason hobbled.
The strength of this team is their starting pitching. However, both Sandy Alcantara and Eury Perez, two of the best young pitchers in the game, will not be available, so there will be a ton of pressure on Jesus Luzardo tomorrow in his first postseason game with the Marlins. He’s an absolute stud that is capable of shutting down the best of lineups on any given night. He’s also 2-0 against the Phillies this season. You have to think that if the Marlins are going to pull off this upset that they must win tomorrow with Luzardo on the mound.
Braxton Garrett will get the ball in Game 2. He may not be quite as talented as Alcantara or Perez, but he’s no walk in the park either, posting a 3.66 ERA this season. Garrett also has a 1-0 record versus the Phillies this season.
The biggest gap, in terms of talent, in this series exists between the two offenses. The Phillies feature one of the most potent lineups in the league, loaded from top to bottom. The Marlins, on the other hand, are in the bottom third of the league in most offensive categories. They are 26th in runs scored, 22nd in home runs, and 19th in OPS. It’s highly unlikely they can keep up if these games turn into a shootout, which puts that much more pressure on their pitchers to be nearly perfect on the road in a hostile environment.
This going to be an uphill battle for the Marlins to come out on top, but postseason baseball is often unpredictable. The Fish are playing with house money, and in a three-game series, anything can happen.
Photo: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire