AnalysisNL East

NLDS Preview: Phillies vs. Braves

The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies will face off one more time in 2022. This time they meet in the National League Division Series.

During their 19 regular season matchups, the Braves won 11 games and the Phillies won 8 games. There is much more on the line in this series though, as the winner’s season will continue and the loser’s will end.

The Braves are coming off a great season, even though they did not get off to a great start. They began the year with a 24-27 record through May, and were 10.5 games back of the New York Mets for first place in the National League East. Atlanta went on to finish the season with a 101-61 record and won their fifth consecutive N.L. East title.

The Phillies did not get off to a great start either. They began the year with a 22-29 record, and fired their manager, Joe Girardi on June 3. Since then, they have gone on to finish the season with 87 wins, end their 11 year playoff drought, and win their first playoff series in 12 years by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card Series.

The Braves are beginning their defense of their 2021 World Series championship, and the Phillies are trying to continue their turnaround story by reaching the National League Championship series for the first time since 2010.

Here’s a preview of both teams heading into this series:


Atlanta Braves

By being the number 2 seed in the National League, Atlanta did not have to play during Wild Card weekend, so this will be their first postseason action of 2022. Their lineup is deep, and they have plenty of pitching to make another run to the World Series.

Offensively, the Braves were one of the best teams in baseball this year. They averaged 4.87 runs per game, the 3rd most in the majors, and hit 243 home runs, the 2nd most in the majors.

As a team, they allowed the 5th fewest runs in baseball, 3.76 runs per game, and had the 2nd highest strikeout rate, 9.8 K/9. Their defense was also good this year. Atlanta ranked 11th in both DRS, 31, and OAA, 7.

Austin Riley led the way for Atlanta’s offense this season with a 142 OPS+ and 38 home runs. He played in 159 games this year and slashed .273/.349/.528. Riley will be a pivotal player in this series for Atlanta, but they have plenty of other guys capable of producing.

Here are some offensive numbers for some of Atlanta’s other position players:

PlayerBAOBPSLGHROPS+
Ronald Acuna Jr..266.351.41315114
Matt Olson.240.325.47734122
Dansby Swanson.277.329.44725115
Travis d’Arnaud .268.319.47218119
Michael Harris II.297.339.51419135
William Contreras.278.354.50620138

While the offense is their strength, Atlanta’s pitching staff is very good. Their rotation is headlined by potential N.L. Cy Young Award finalist Max Fried, and is followed by Kyle Wright, Spencer Strider, and Charlie Morton. Strider’s availability for this series is uncertain as he continues to deal with an oblique injury. If he is able to pitch, his role is still to be determined.

The Braves bullpen is also deep. Kenley Jansen, A.J. Minter, Collin McHugh, and Dylan Lee are just some of the names we should see out of Atlanta’s bullpen in this series.

Raisel Iglesias is another reliever for Atlanta, and he has been untouchable since being acquired from the Los Angeles Angels at the trade deadline. In 26.1 innings with the Braves, Iglesias has 30 strikeouts and a 0.34 ERA. If the Braves get into any trouble in this series, they will likely look to Iglesias to get them out of it.

The key in this series for Atlanta will be their offense. Their pitching staff is good and I don’t think they will have trouble against the Phillies’ lineup. If the Braves can grind out at-bats, drive the opposing starter’s pitch count up, and get into the limited Phillies’ bullpen, Atlanta should have no trouble scoring runs.


Philadelphia Phillies

Coming off their sweep in St. Louis, the Phillies have some momentum heading into this series. They showed the ability to play in, and win, close games. Game one went into the top of the 9th with the Cardinals up 2-0. Philadelphia rallied to score 6 runs in the inning and went on to win 6-3.

Game two was another close game. Seranthony Dominguez and Zach Eflin were able to get out of late-inning trouble to win the game 2-0.

The offense is headlined by Kyle Schwarber, Bryce Harper, and J.T. Realmuto.

Schwarber led the N.L. in home runs this year with 46. Even though he went hitless in the series against the Cardinals, he did have 2 sacrifice flies. Schwarber has the ability to go deep at any moment, and when he does find his home run swing, he can hit them in bunches.

Harper has not been himself since returning from a broken thumb in late August, but he did have a home run in the second game in St. Louis.

Realmuto was the best hitter in the Phillies’ lineup in the second half and will have to keep that up if they want to have any chance of advancing.

The pitching was very good for the Phillies in St. Louis. Zack Wheeler started game one and Aaron Nola started game two. Both made their postseason debuts, and went a combined 13 innings, giving up 0 runs. The bullpen was also good in the Wild Card Series. Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson, and Zach Eflin were all used out of the Phillies’ bullpen. Eflin was used in the bottom half of the 9th inning in both games, and it looks as though he could be the closer moving forward.

How manager Rob Thomson, whose interim tag was officially removed on Monday, uses the bullpen could be different against Atlanta with it being a best-of-five series instead of a best-of-three series. No matter how he decides to use certain relievers, Alvardo, Dominguez, Roberston, and Eflin are the best relievers the Phillies have.

For Philadelphia, the key in this series is going to be their offense. They have a strong enough starting staff and back end of the bullpen to keep them in games, but their offense has been quiet lately. They scored 8 total runs in St. Louis but could have had more. The Phillies went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, while leaving 10 total runners on base in their series against the Cardinals.

If the Phillies are going to advance, they are going to have to do a better job at the plate when they get runners on base.


Schedule and Probable Starters

Series Schedule:

NLDSDateLocationTime
Game 1October 11Atlanta1:07 pm EST
Game 2October 12Atlanta4:35 pm EST
Game 3October 14PhiladelphiaTBD
Game 4 (if necessary)October 15PhiladelphiaTBD
Game 5 (if necessary)October 16AtlantaTBD

This is how the starting pitching will most likely look for both teams:

NLDSAtlantaPhiladelphia
Game 1Max FriedRanger Suarez
Game 2Kyle WrightZack Wheeler
Game 3Charlie MortonAaron Nola
Game 4 (if necessary)TBDTBD
Game 5 (if necessary)TBDTBD

Prediction

This series should be plenty of fun to watch. The Braves are one of the more complete teams in the majors right now. They can pitch, hit, and play above-average defense.

While the Phillies don’t have a deep bullpen, they have some good arms in the back end, and their starters should provide them with quality innings. Philadelphia’s offense hasn’t been on fire recently, but they have the talent to score runs at any moment.

I think this series will ultimately come down to Atlanta’s pitching against Philadelphia’s offense. The Phillies have been struggling to hit with runners in scoring position, and that is obviously not an ideal way to win games in the postseason.

If the Phillies’ starting pitchers can pitch as effectively as they did in St. Louis, I could see this series going a full five games. I don’t think it goes that far though, as Atlanta is the more complete team. I think the Phillies should be able to win one of the first three games, but ultimately, I see the Braves winning this series in four games.


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Featured Photo: Twitter / @MLB

Bailey Digh

As a life long baseball fan, I enjoy not only watching and writing about my favorite team, the Philadelphia Phillies, but also like writing about the game as a whole.

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