The real season begins. Now that all 162 games have been played (or in the case of the Marlins, 161.8 games), the Philadelphia Phillies will host the Miami Marlins in a best-of-three Wild Card playoff series.
When facing a team from Miami in the playoffs, there’s only one way to properly preview the series: By using lyrics from the greatest song ever written about the city of Miami: Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice!
So please stop, collaborate, and listen as Robert Van Winkle and I guide you through what to expect in this series.
Ice is back with a brand new invention
The Marlins are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2020 - and that season barely counts because it was only 60 games long, and they expanded the number of teams to make the field. The Marlins showed how deserving they were of that spot by quickly getting swept in three games. (Yes, I know the Phillies failed to make it even in an expanded field. A retroactive middle finger goes out to Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, and the rest of the 2020 Phillies bullpen.)
The last time the Marlins made the postseason in a real 162-game season was 2003 when they somehow won the World Series. Yes, the Steve Bartman game was 20 years ago in case you wanted to feel old.
Given that long absence, I can’t completely blame Marlins fans for not knowing how to act. After the Marlins beat the Phillies in a series in 2020, a bunch of them crawled out of the woodwork into my Twitter mentions.
Unsurprisingly, I haven’t heard a peep from them since. (By the way guys, how are those “We won the J.T. Realmuto trade!” takes going?) I’ll show them a bit of grace if it happens again, but not much.
Something grabs a hold of me tightly
The Phillies’ bullpen has improved a little since 2020, and their ability to hold on to leads may decide this series. The relievers showed some definite warts in the second half of the season, and there’s not necessarily one reliever you feel 100% confident in.
Does any reliever in the #Phillies bullpen inspire confidence in anybody?— stevenavaroli (@SteveNavaroli) September 20, 2023
Can Craig Kimbrel be trusted to hold a lead in the ninth? Is Jose Alvarado back to his dominant early season form? Has this past week helped get Seranthony Dominguez to where he needs to be? Can Jeff Hoffman handle a save situation?
Turn off the lights and I’ll glow
The postseason is a different animal than the regular season, and I’d like to think the Phillies’ experience from last year will give them the edge over a Marlins team that doesn’t have much of it. But then I remember that in 2022, the Phillies’ first two series were against a Cardinals team filled with playoff veterans and the Braves who were the defending World Series champs. And the Phillies whupped them both.
Speaking of the 2022 Phillies, this year’s edition is clearly better than them. Does that mean that they’ll do what they couldn’t do last year and bring home the trophy? Of course not. Of the Phillies’ five consecutive division winners from 2007 to 2011, the 2008 team was maybe the third most talented. But they were the one that won the World Series.
The 2011 Phillies were better than the 2008 Phillies.— Smarty loves the Phillies (@TheSmartyJones) February 13, 2023
The 2022 Eagles were better than the 2017 Eagles.
Sports are weird.
Every team that makes the playoffs has talent. It’s more about matchups, luck, and having that talent playing well at the right time.
Dance, go rush to the speaker that booms
I know that America generally doesn’t like rooting for Philadelphia sports teams but come on. Every baseball in America should be hoping for more celebrations like this.
This is the best piece of content to come out of the Phillies locker room celebration so far, in my opinion pic.twitter.com/4FddH0RR0F— Jimmy King (@Jimmyking35) September 27, 2023
I’m killing your brain like a poisonous mushroom
Of all the potential matchups the Phillies could have gotten this round, the Marlins are probably the least desirable from a fan point of view. We all have memories of the Phillies coming up small against the Marlins in recent seasons, and Miami came out ahead in this year’s season series as well. (The Phillies did outscore the Marlins in their games this season, if you’re a fan of Pythagorean victories.)
The most recent meeting came in early September in Philadelphia, when the Marlins sandwiched a pair of one-run wins around a four-win victory by the Phillies. Seranthony Dominguez had a big hand in both losses, and as I mentioned earlier, this series might hinge on him being a viable option.
Phillies swept the series. Seranthony lost 2 games— Bobby Cash (@BobbyCash215) September 10, 2023
Deadly, when I play a dope melody
In the first half of the season, the Phillies’ offense underperformed. But since the All-Star Game, they rank fourth in the National League in runs scored, and they’re tied for second since the fans fixed Trea Turner by giving him a standing ovation.
I am encouraged how the Phillies’ hitters have largely avoided lengthy collective slumps since the All-Star Break. Early in the season, the Phillies seemed to have multiple days in a row where it felt like an impossibility to score more than a couple of runs. But those lulls have been minimized, and for the most part, the Phillies offense has looked much like we expected.
Yes, they still had a few games when the Corbin Burneses and Spencer Striders of the league shut them down, but for the most part, they scored runs against pitchers whom they should score runs against.
Anything less than the best is a felony
And speaking of pitchers whom they should score runs against, the Marlins will throw some good, but non-elite starters at the Phillies. Jesus Luzardo and Braxton Garrett are both solid lefties, but neither is the type to make you think that they have no prayer that day. Runs will be tough to come by, but they shouldn’t be impossible.
Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it
In the 2022 playoffs, Rob Thomson showed he had a quick hook with his starting pitchers, sometimes quicker than the fans thought was proper. Last year, Zack Wheeler was coming off a late-season injury, and would tend to lose velocity quickly, so it made sense that he wasn’t asked to go too deeply into games. He seems to be fully healthy this year, so we’ll see if he’s given a little more slack.
As for Aaron Nola, I think the bullpen had better be on call come the fourth inning. We’ve seen too many mid-inning snowballs to give Nola the opportunity to work out of trouble.
Aaron Nola is simply not capable of allowing a hit in the middle innings without giving one up to the next guy too.— Smarty loves the Phillies (@TheSmartyJones) September 20, 2023
They should start intentionally walking the second guy just to limit the damage
If we get to a game three, regardless of who starts the game - and for the record, I think it should be Ranger Suarez - I imagine that they’ll be out of the game by the fifth inning.
Now that the party is jumping
One thing we don’t have to worry about this series is the home crowd providing energy. Maybe homefield advantage means something in baseball, and maybe it doesn’t. But I’m willing to bet that if a Marlins pitcher runs into any trouble, he’s going to hear the fans.
Tired gimmick, different circumstances, yadda yadda yadda I get it, I don’t care. pic.twitter.com/R02JR8PWsB— Brian Coulter (@PhilaBCoulter) October 2, 2023
Quick to the point, to the point, no faking
Of course, home crowd energy can sometimes be a detriment to the Phillies if things start going poorly. When a home crowd is TOO hyped up and the team gets off to a slow start, that can sometimes provide a deflating effect. If I was the Phillies, I’d simply get off to a good start and score some first inning runs.
If Kyle Schwarber wants to hit one of those leadoff home runs that he’s known for, I certainly wouldn’t complain.
I’m on a roll, it’s time to go solo
While a leadoff home run would by nature be a solo shot, it would be preferable if the Phillies hit some home runs of the multi-run variety as well. We’re all familiar with the team’s failings with runners on base this season, and if they want to make a deep run into the playoffs, they can’t afford to have too many of those failings this week.
Rolling in my 5.0
At the start of September, most people didn’t expect the Marlins to make the playoffs, especially when 2022 Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara went down with a season-ending injury. But thanks to a 17-10 record over the final month, they captured the NL’s second Wild Card spot.
There are going to be some pundits who talk themselves into the Marlins because they’re the “hot team,” even though they’re just 6-4 in their last ten, which is actually one game worse than the Phillies during that span. Also, being hot down the stretch of the season has little correlation with playoff success.
I don't think I need to redo this study for the 6th(?) time. Your annual reminder that there's very little correlation between a playoff team's September record and October performance (and less than you might think even based on full-162 record). 162-game WC-era seasons only. https://t.co/c23MYjbhYq— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) October 2, 2023
Many fans might mis-remember how the 2022 Phillies played in September and believe that a hot final month propelled them all the way to the Pennant. But last year’s Phillies actually had a losing record over the final month, and really only made the playoffs because they had a lot of games against the putrid Nationals, while the Brewers fared even worse than they did.
So, congrats to the Marlins for being slightly above average while the other competitors (Chicago went 4-6 and Arizona was 4-6 with four straight losses to end the season) played poorly. But will it carry over into this series? Probably not.
With my rag top down so my hair can blow
It wouldn’t seem right if Nick Castellanos didn’t make some sort of impression in this series, either good or bad. He’s had a mostly good season, but then you remember that he spent most of July looking like the worst player in baseball. And then you remember that it was a clutch home run against the Marlins that got him out of that slump, and you also remember him making sliding catches in the outfield in the 2022 playoffs, and you really don’t know what to expect from the guy.
The block was dead, yo
The Marlins’ success has largely not been due to their offense. For the season, they ranked dead last in the National League in runs scored.
Jealous cause I’m out getting mine
The Marlins’ front office was cognizant of their offensive struggles, and unlike the Phillies, they made tangible improvements to their team at the trade deadline. They traded for Josh Bell and Jake Burger, and while those two haven’t made the Marlins an offensive juggernaut by any means - They’re still just 12th in the league in runs since August 1st - it at least gives opposing pitchers some power threats to worry about.
How huge have the additions of Josh Bell and Jake Burger been in Marlins playoff push?— Will Manso (@WillManso) October 1, 2023
Bell was hitting .233 with 11 HRs in 97 games before trade. He’s hitting .267 with 11 HRs in 53 games for the Fish.
Burger was batting .214 pre-Miami. He’s hitting .304 with the Marlins.
Trying to get away before the jackers jack
Bell has been good, not great since joining the Marlins, but against the Phillies, he tends to turn into one of the best hitters in the league. He has 14 home runs in 58 career games against the Phillies and has put up a .990 OPS in eight games this season.
A trend to watch for this weekend: Josh Bell has 14 home runs and 41 RBIs in 55 career games against the Phillies.— Tim Kelly (@TimKellySports) September 8, 2023
Police on the scene, you know what I mean. They passed me up, confronted all the dope fiends
This has nothing to do with this series, I just find the line hilarious. In the early 90’s, gangster rappers were rising to prominence partly due to expressing some anti-police views. Meanwhile, this white guy with a questionable haircut is out here talking about how the police don’t even give him a second glance.
Miami’s on the scene, just in case you didn’t know it
Due to the Phillies having the higher seed, these games will be played in Philadelphia, not Miami, which means the stadium will actually be filled to capacity.
I once again ask why there is a Major League Baseball team in Florida, let alone two of them. The state of Florida has never shown it can support a team, and yet, that doesn’t stop them from building new ballparks down there.
Kinda wild how Florida is such a massive baseball hotbed, yet the Marlins + Rays have a combined attendance that would rank 14th in MLB. https://t.co/NI4GR2bfHR— Daniel Preciado (@DanJPreciado) September 29, 2023
Marlins fans can claim that people don’t support the team because ownership has never consistently shown a willingness to spend money, and the Marlins have been a bad team for most of their existence. This is a valid point.
However, even when the Marlins were good or had a new stadium, the fans still didn’t turn out very well. And up in Tampa, the Rays have had winning teams for over a decade and are still largely ignored by the populace.
There’s a time for Major League Baseball games to be played in Florida, and that time is Spring Training. The rest of the year let’s keep things further north.
Feasible rhymes that you can vision and feel
Just about every possible scenario seems feasible for the Phillies in the postseason. Lose this series 0-2 without scoring a single run? It could happen! Win every game en route to a World Series title? While unlikely, I can’t completely rule it out.
Here are some potential game summaries:
- Trea Turner hits for cycle in blowout win
- Gregory Soto walks in losing run
- Kyle Schwarber hits leadoff home run in 1-0 victory
- Alec Bohm drops would-be final out, sparks rally
- Nick Castellanos forgets how many outs there are, scores winning run anyway due to error
- Taijuan Walker’s four scoreless relief innings lead to 13th inning win
So fast, other DJs say damn
It feels like Johan Rojas could be an X-factor in this series. The rookie centerfielder has given the Phillies an elite defender at a premium position, and thanks in part to his speed, he’s done better than expected with the bat. Facing two lefties to start the series, I’d expect him to be in the starting lineup both games.
On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if Brandon Marsh is in the lineup both nights. While his numbers against lefty pitching aren’t awful (.717 OPS), Thomson might be tempted to put Cristian Pache or Edmundo Sosa in the lineup instead. (I wouldn’t.)
Keep my composure when it’s time to get loose
The Marlins’ bullpen has been excellent lately, and they’ve got several left-handed options to face Harper or Schwarber in the late innings.
Marlins high leverage arms in Sept:— MDV (@Mardevicre) October 2, 2023
We have a STRONG bullpen https://t.co/B3lDEhaL7G
But there’s a difference between closing out a punchless Pirates team in front of a few thousand mildly interested spectators and staring down Bryce Harper in front of 43,000 rabid fans.
Yo man, let’s get out of here
Nobody should take this series lightly. The Marlins are talented, and in a short series, a couple bad days by a few key players can sabotage even the best team’s chances. That said, the Phillies are the more talented team, they’re healthy, they’ve gotten their pitching lined up, and they have homefield advantage. There’s no excuse for them not to win this. Word to your mother.