clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

So what? Phillies vs. Braves series preview

The Braves are going to win the NL East, but they know that doesn’t matter come playoff time

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies
Ronald Acuna Jr, presumably realizing that in the playoffs, regular season accomplishments mean little.
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves have been cruising toward the best record in the National League for most of the season. Good for them. They also won the National League East in 2022, and what did that get them come the NLDS? A four-game exit at the hands of the Phillies.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 93-49, First place in National League East

The last time they met

The Braves came to Philadelphia in mid-June and after winning the first game, the second was rained out, prompting the doubleheader on Monday. In the finale, the teams played nine scoreless innings before Yunior Marte’s ineffectiveness combined with an error by Kyle Schwarber allowed the Braves to prevail. (Sigh, remember the days when Yunior Marte was the problematic member of the bullpen?)

What’s the deal with the Braves?

As mentioned, they’re cruising their way to the NL’s best record, a point punctuated by taking three out of four against the (wounded) Dodgers. They’re leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and home runs. Accordingly, they’re leading the league in runs scored.

This is what happens when you have a good lineup, and every single regular is healthy and having at least a 90th percentile season. For instance, Eddie Rosario was a disaster in 2022, yet has an .801 OPS with 21 home runs this year.

You know how we sometimes wonder what the Phillies would look like if Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, and Nick Castellanos didn’t go through lengthy slumps? The Braves haven’t had to ask such questions.

But with the top seed pretty much assured, the Braves have reached the “only bad things can happen” stage of the campaign. If they win games, so what? All it really does is superficially pad their win total. But if they suffer a key injury, or if a sense of complacency sets in? That could prove deadly come playoff time.

I know it would be a darned shame if their lineup avoided slumps all season only to come up small in the playoffs. Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Matt Olson will receive a lot of MVP votes for the exploits this season, but those votes don’t mean a thing once the postseason begins.

As for the pitching

The Braves have also pitched well for the most part and rank second in the league in team ERA. They may turn to a bullpen game in Monday’s nightcap, but the starters for the other three games are quite familiar for Phillies fans.

Charlie Morton

Last season, it appeared as if Morton might be winding down, but the 39-year-old has bounced back nicely. On the other hand, the Phillies have done well against other elderly pitchers the past couple of weeks, so why not hit Morton around as well?

Max Fried

He missed a couple of months this summer but has pitched well since returning. He hasn’t faced the Phillies yet this year, which means this was the last time he pitched against them:

Spencer Strider

It felt like a lot of pundits awarded him the Cy Young Award before the season started, and they’re still listing him among top candidates even though he’s just been good, not great. High strikeout totals are nice and all, but it’s not the end all when it comes to pitching.

He faced the Phillies once before and pitched okay, but it didn’t really matter because the Phillies started Dylan Covey and the game was out of hand by the second inning.

Remembering a crappy Brave from yesteryear

It’s no fun writing about the current Braves who are playing well. It’s much more fun to look back at past seasons and write about a guy who wasn’t good. Today, we’ll remember pitcher Matt Wisler!

The Braves called up prospect Wisler in 2016 and he had an okay season in their starting rotation. They thought he might improve the following season, but the improvement did not come, and he spent much of the second half getting rocked by opposing batters.

The Braves tried to make him into a reliever in 2017, and he put up a 8.35 ERA in 20 appearances. Midway through the following season, he was traded to Cincinatti where he wasn’t much more effective.

Need to flip that switch soon

After the bullpen failed to hold late leads against the Marlins, there’s not a high level of confidence in the bullpen.

It would be a huge boost if the relief corps could actually protect a late lead against the league’s best lineup. However, I don’t think anyone is especially confident that they will.

The good news is, we know that guys like Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alvarado are lights out when they’re right, and sometimes struggling relievers can turn things around almost instantly. Remember that Dominguez was struggling last September to the point where Zach Eflin was being used to close games? But in the playoffs, Dominguez righted himself, and we have to hope he can do so again this season.

More Filet-o-Fish!

Because everyone enjoyed seeing the Filet-o-Fish commercial in the Marlins preview, here’s the follow-up that aired the following year:

We can all agree that the driver is a serial killer, right? The passenger is clearly freaked out by the fish, but the driver is into it, and doesn’t seem to be into it in a good way.

Non-Phillies thought

I’m always disoriented when the Eagles play in the late afternoon slot on Sunday. When the game is over - especially if it's a close game like Sunday - I find myself having lost any sense of time. The game felt like it was about five hours long and it was mostly dark when it was over, and if you told me that it was after midnight, I think I would have believed you.

As for the game itself, it wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. By now, we should know that what happens in week one of the NFL season means a lot, except when it doesn’t.

Closing thought

Four games against a team that they’ll almost definitely have to go through to reach the World Series should be a good test for the Phillies. It should also be a good test for the fans, because watching these games might not be easy on the heart. The Braves’ lineup and the Phillies’ bullpen is a troublesome combination, so if the Phillies have a slim lead (and maybe given the circumstances, there isn’t any lead that isn’t slim), the final innings will feel wrought with peril.

On the other hand, if the Phillies can win this series, it could be a major blow to the psyche of the Braves and their fans. While they likely won’t admit it, they know that another excellent regular season won’t mean much in the long-term if it results in another postseason loss to the Phillies.

Bi-Weekly Report Card: How Do They Matchup for the Postseason?

Predicting the Phillies’ 2023 Wild Card playoff roster

Let’s go full overreaction on Orion Kerkering