As many expected throughout the entire season, two NL East teams will meet up in the postseason. However, which two is a bit of a surprise. Instead of the Braves running into the 101-win Mets, who were eliminated last night by the Padres, Atlanta will host the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS, who snuck into the playoffs as the sixth seed.
Tale of the Tape
Atlanta Braves — #2 Seed NL, 1st Place NL East (101-61)
Home Record: 55-26
Away Record: 46-35
Record Against Teams Above .500: 40-37
Philadelphia Phillies — #6 Seed NL, 3rd Place NL East (88-75)
Home Record: 47-34
Away Record: 40-41
Record Against Teams Above .500: 34-47
Season Series (11-8 Braves)
These two division rivals didn’t meet for the first time this season until late May for a four-game set at Truist Park. They split the series, with Wheeler and Nola pitching like aces in the Phillies’ two wins. I imagine that will play a big factor in this series as well. If those two can’t lead Philadelphia to victories, I don’t see how they have any chance of advancing to the NLCS.
The teams met again about a month later, with the Braves taking two out of three at Citizens Bank Park. Matt Olson delivered in a big way with two homers in Game 1 of the series, and Kyle Wright shut the Phillies down in Game 2. However, Aaron Nola was once again able to save the day for the Phillies in Game 3. It also didn’t help that Atlanta gave up 14 runs.
The next series also took place in Philadelphia, and this time, the Phillies took two out of three. They would meet again three days later for a two-game set at Truist Park that the teams split. Both games the Braves won out of those five were pitched by Spencer Strider, who has owned the Phillies offense this season (more on that later).
For the most part, these two teams have played each other very evenly. The only outlier came in mid-September at Truist Park. It was a three-game set that the Braves were able to sweep and was once again capped off by Spencer Strider, who tossed six innings of one-run ball with ten strikeouts. The only hit he allowed was a homer to Alec Bohm in the sixth inning.
Three days later, the Braves would meet the Phillies for the last time in what was one of the most pivotal series of the season as Atlanta attempted to chase down the Mets. Things started off brutally. Ranger Suarez out-dueled Max Fried in Game 1, and the Phillies walloped the Braves in Game 2. To make matters worse, the Braves then put Spencer Strider on the IL with an oblique injury. At that point, it really felt like Atlanta was losing a grip on any chance they had of winning the NL East. But as they did time and time again this season, they bounced back and won their final two games against the Phillies, and the rest is history.
What is the status of Spencer Strider?
Right now, it looks like Strider will be a go for the NLDS. He threw off the mound yesterday and said he “feels great,” but even if he does go, I’m not sure how the Braves will choose to utilize him. Will he start Game 3 or 4, or could the team attempt to use him as a hybrid reliever. I’m leaning towards him starting because he’s dominated the Phillies this season, going 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA against them, but the Braves will be ultra cautious with him, knowing they need Strider for the later rounds if they want to accomplish their ultimate goal.
Can the Phillies continue to be road warriors?
The Phillies haven’t been home in over two weeks. Their last three series of the regular season took place on the road, and then they traveled to St. Louis for the Wild Card Series. It hasn’t affected them yet, but this will be by far their biggest test as they face the reigning World Series champions on their turf — a place the Braves have dominated this season. If the Phillies fall behind 2-0 in the series, it’s difficult to see them advancing to the NLCS.
Who on the Phillies pitching staff will step up?
Because they had to pitch in the Wild Card Series, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler will likely only be available once each in this series, so the Phillies will need other guys to step up in a big way if they want to advance. Ranger Suarez has been fantastic for them, and he will probably get the rock in Game 1, but it’s more than just starting pitchers. The Phillies bullpen has been atrocious all season. That will have to change if they want to knock off the Braves.
I’ll keep this short and sweet. It’s baseball, so anything can happen, and the Phillies have played the Braves well all season. But there is a difference between regular season and postseason baseball. The Braves will have all hands on deck and this is a mismatch. Atlanta has the better offense, and they have a far better pitching staff. If they lose this series, they have nobody to blame but themselves.
Braves advance 3-1
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire