Starting on Saturday night, the Phillies and Braves will face each other for the third time in postseason history, an epic battle of divisional rivals that could end up being the best series of the entire postseason.
Both teams smash the ball out of the ballpark, although Atlanta has done it consistently the entire season with a lineup that is as scary as anything we’ve ever seen before. Of course, there are no holes in the Phillies’ lineup right now, either. Atlanta’s starting rotation is leaking a bit of oil, with Max Fried dealing with a blister issue and Charlie Morton missing the series entirely. The bullpens are about even, and while Atlanta has home field advantage in this series, it’s more likely the Phils will steal one in Georgia than the Braves taking one at Citizens Bank Park.
In other words, there should be no shortage of memorable moments to emerge from this upcoming NLDS, adding to a short, but rich, history of playoffs moments between these two teams. Here is my ranking of the top-10 Phillies-Braves moments from the 1993 National League Championship Series and last year’s Divisional Round tilt.
10) Bryson Stott Into the Corner
As I wrote about earlier this year, there has been no pitcher over the last century that has been as effective against the Phillies than their right-handed ace Spencer Strider, and everyone was terrified of facing him in Game 3 of the NLDS last year. Through the first two innings, he was his usual dominant self, but ran into trouble in the third inning. After Brandon Marsh advanced from first to third on a pickoff error by Strider, Stott worked a nine-pitch at-bat before lacing a double down the right field line.
That knock sent the crowd into a frenzy and appeared to break the seal against Strider in that inning, as you’ll no doubt see a bit further down on this list.
9) Brandon Marsh’s Three-Run Shot
After wasting a scoring opportunity in the 1st inning of their clinching Game 4 win last year, the Phillies put runners on 1st and 3rd with one, bringing Brandon Marsh, last year’s 9-hole hitter, to the plate. Morton had been hit on the arm by a comebacker a few moments earlier, and perhaps that affected him enough to allow Marsh to lift a long fly ball that left the yard over the right field wall to give the Phils an early 3-0 lead.
There is nothing like your team hitting a three-run home run in the playoffs. It’s just so good.
8) Nick Castellanos’ Catch
There’s no doubt Nick Castellanos’ 2022 season at the plate was substandard, and he will never be mistaken for a Gold Glover in right field, but in the playoffs, he perfected a very specific type of 5-star defensive play.
Here, in Game1, as the Phils struggled to close out a big lead, Atlanta was down 7-6 and, with one out, William Contreras hit a blooper to right that would have been huge trouble had it fallen. Thankfully, Castellanos made the first of three of these identical sliding catches in later rounds of the playoffs, saving the game and that all-important Game 1 victory that set the Phils on their way to the four-game series win.
7) Mickey Morandini Down the Right Field Line
Earlier in the game, Morandini hit a line drive right back up the middle at the Braves’ Cy Young winner, Greg Maddux. While Maddux stayed in the game, the shot clearly hurt him, to the tune of six runs allowed in their Game 6 clincher. The coup de grace was Morandini’s two-run triple down the right field line that clinched one of the greatest upsets in MLB postseason history.
6) J.T. Realmuto Inside-the-Parker
Hard to believe Realmuto’s inside-the-parker in Game 4 of last year’s NLDS would be only in 6th on this list, but it’s a pretty amazing list.
5) Curt Schilling 5 Straight Ks
One of the most electrifying moments in any Phillies playoff game was Curt Schilling striking out the first five Braves hitters in order in Game 1 of the ‘93 NLCS.
Schilling would set a Phillies playoff record with 10 Ks in their eventual Game 1 win that, ultimately was won by...
4) Kim Batiste’s Game 1 Walk-Off
One inning earlier, Kim Batiste wanted to dig a hole for himself somewhere along the first base bag and crawl into, which would have been a feat given the Astroturf and cement he’d have to dig through. Batiste had booted a sure double-play grounder in the 9th inning to turn a taut, well-played win in Game 1 into a tie ballgame.
But the baseball angels were smiling on Batiste, who stepped up to the plate with John Kruk standing on 2nd base in the bottom of the 10th with a chance to redeem himself. And boy, did he ever.
Batiste’s hit goes down with George Vukovich’s walk-off home run in Game 4 of the 1981 NLDS and Matt Stairs’ Game 4 blast against the Dodgers in the 2008 NLCS as one of the greatest postseason moment for a bench player in franchise history.
3) Lenny Dykstra HR Off Wohlers
The Phillies led 3-0 going into the bottom of the 9th thanks to eight insane shutout innings from Curt Schilling, only to watch Mitch Williams give all three runs away. So, up stepped the MVP runner-up, Lenny Dykstra, to try and save the series for the Phillies.
Dykstra’s home run shocked Atlanta and gave the Phillies a 3-2 series lead heading back to Veterans Stadium for the eventual clinching Game 6.
2) Mitch Williams Final Out
After blowing two saves in Games 1 and 5, Williams was back out there to protect a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the 9th. And much to the shock of the entire nation watching, Williams retired the Braves 1-2-3 to clinch one of the most unexpected pennants in postseason history.
1) Rhys Hoskins Bat Spike
Should this be No. 1? I don’t know, maybe it shouldn’t, but it may very well be the coolest postseason moment between these two teams, given the narrative surrounding it.
Hoskins had been struggling at the plate. The night before, a crucial error had resulted in the Phillies losing Game 2 in Atlanta. The unhittable Strider was on the mound, and a sold-out Citizens Bank Park crowd was going ape in the first postseason game the city had hosted in 11 years. So when Hoskins hit his blast and spiked his bat to the ground, it released the frustrations of more than a decade of failure, and gave the Phillies a shocking 4-0 lead against the formerly invincible Atlanta righty.
Maybe this is recency bias, but this is still one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history. Sometimes, context matters.
Let’s hope we add some more moments to this list this week.