Less than one week left in the season, and the Phillies trail the Braves by 2.5 games in the National League East. How fortuitous for them that they’ve got three games against the Braves this week. If the Phillies win all three - much like they did to start the season - they’ll find themselves in first place.
Record: 83-72 (First place in National League East)
The last time they met
These teams faced off a whole lot in the first month of the season, but not too much since then. The only post-All-Star meeting came in mid-July when they split a four-game series in Philadelphia. The Phillies won the finale behind a strong start by Aaron Nola (in case you were curious whether or not the game took place in September).
The Braves in the second half
Thus far, the Braves have been the least crappy of the five National League East teams. Their tentative first place status was established by going 39-27 since the All-Star Game. That record includes a nine-game winning streak (don’t get too excited, all of the wins were against bad opponents) and come into this series 7-3 in their last ten (also against weak competition).
As you can see, the Braves have had the fourth easiest schedule in baseball over the final month. While we can give them some credit for beating those teams, I’m also not ready to crown them for racking up a few wins over the Orioles.
Easiest Strength of Schedule remaining #MLB— PhillyGodfather ® Sports Bettor (@phillygodfather) September 1, 2021
#8 White Sox
#9 Blue Jays
You know how you sometimes play a video game on easy mode, and then when you face an actual person, you get crushed because you’re unprepared for the jump in difficulty? After a slew of games against last place teams and callow mediocrities like the Padres, the Braves likely won’t know how to react when faced with an opponent that is actually playing hard.
Yeah, they’re must wins games. So what?
All three games are basically must wins. That sounds daunting, until you remember - and I understand if you’ve forgotten over the past decade - that almost all postseason games are must wins. As mentioned earlier, the Phillies swept the Braves to open the season. If they could sweep them once, then it stands to reason that they can sweep them again.
Do it for the greater good
For the sake of baseball fans everywhere, the Phillies need win the National League East. If the Braves win the East, we all know what’s coming: A boring NLDS which ends with the Braves losing. At least the Phillies would provide a breath of fresh air as opposed to watching the Braves’ annual early playoff series loss.
MLB already stepped in to take the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. Rob Manfred needs to realize that it’s in the best interests of the sport to make sure the playoffs don’t take place there either. Put Joe West behind the plate with explicit instructions that the Braves are not to get any calls.
Quick summary of the pitchers the Phillies will face in the series
Morton’s ERA of 3.06 against the Phillies in 2021 seems pretty good, right? That number doesn’t seem quite right, because if you recall when he faced them on May 7th, he allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning. A very favorable ruling by the scorer rendered those runs unearned, but it goes to show that the Phillies may have very well figured him out.
Fried did not have the good fortune to have the official scorer boost his numbers against the Phillies. He got the Opening Day start against them, and quickly put his team in an 0-2 hole. The next time he faced them, he allowed four runs in five innings, and the Braves lost again.
Between his poor performance against the Phillies, and the fact that he took the loss the last time he started a postseason game, Fried probably isn’t the guy the Braves want to lean on for an important game.
Anderson also has a very bad game against the Phillies under his belt this season. In April, he served up home runs to Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper (I’ll get to him in a bit) as the Phillies put up four runs against Anderson in 5.1 innings. I would understand if Anderson gets a little frightened facing Harper again because....
It’s a guarantee that Braves fans will boo Bryce Harper every time he comes to plate. History says that he’ll make them pay. In 33 games at Truist Park, Harper has a 1.022 OPS with 11 home runs. Considering he’s hit a home run in one out of every three games he’s ever played at Truist, it seems very likely that he’ll hit at least one in the series.
And if you think the presumptive MVP isn’t ready to do some damage:
With Phillies 3 games behind Braves in the loss column— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) September 26, 2021
Bryce Harper was asked do they need to sweep in Atlanta?
“Yeah I would imagine a sweep would be nice”
“I think we are confident going into Atlanta. We have 3 games we have to make up in Atlanta. We have to do our job” pic.twitter.com/nmBLS6hUhW
Punchable face analysis
Here’s Braves reliever Tyler Matzek:
Just look at this guy. Maybe he’s actually an intellectual behind that punchable exterior, but I get the impression the most intelligent conversation he’s ever had was regarding his preferred brand of toothpaste.
Dansby is a stupid name. I hope he goes 0-15 this series.
What to expect
- Aaron Nola is going to pitch poorly, but that’s okay. For whatever reason, a poor start by Nola has triggered the offense to score a lot of runs. Whatever it takes, baby.
- Jean Segura has a 1.023 OPS at Truist Park this season. He already has one game-winning hit against the Braves to his credit this season, so why not another?
- J.T. Realmuto will do something to remind Phillies fans why we wanted him back so badly.
Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series
It’s a big late-season series against a divisional opponent. This is what sports is all about. It may be tough at times, but try to enjoy it a little.