PHILADELPHIA – Up to this point, the Phillies and Braves have followed the same blueprint as the 2022 season. Atlanta is hoping the similarities end there.
“[The Phillies] “It scares me as much as any team in the game,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said amid his team’s three-of-four win from Sept. 11-13 in Philadelphia.
“There are no secrets about who we are as a team,” Phillies infielder/designated hitter Kyle Schwarber said. “We know who they are, and they know who we are. It will be a tough fight, there is no doubt about that.”
When is the match and how can I watch it?
The first game will take place at 6pm ET on Saturday at Truist Park, and will be broadcast on TBS.
All series are available in the United States on MLB.TV with endorsement from a participating pay-TV provider. Games are available live internationally (except in Canada). Full game archives are available approximately 90 minutes after the game ends.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Velez: Ranger Suarez will almost certainly start for the Phillies, just as he did in Game 1 of the 2022 NLDS against the Braves. Suarez struggled to control that game, walking five batters over just 3 1/3 innings, though he did manage to hold Atlanta to just one run in a 7-6 win. It’s been an up-and-down season for Suarez, who missed three weeks in late August with a right hamstring strain. Upon his return, he put up a 3.31 ERA in his first three games, but struggled to a 7.94 ERA in his final two regular season games, including allowing a season-high six runs for the Pirates in the finale.
Brave: Spencer Strider (20-5, 3.86 ERA) is 7-0 with a 2.01 ERA over seven starts against the Phillies. He went 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA against them this year. But going into this projected start for Game 1, there will be talk about him allowing five runs over 2 1/3 innings in NLDS Game 3 last year. Strider cruised through the first two rounds in dominant fashion and then tired in the third. He has come off the mound just twice in the past 26 days due to an oblique strain.
Strider set a Braves single-season record with an MLB-leading 281 strikeouts this year. He allowed two or fewer runs while completing at least five innings in 18 of his 32 starts that year. This includes all three of his starts against the Phillies.
What is the expected starting lineup?
Velez: Philadelphia plans to field a lineup similar to the one used in the NL Wild Card Series, with some exceptions regarding the batting order. The only personnel change will be the return of left-handed batting Brandon Marsh to left field instead of right-handed Christian Bache, since the Braves started right-handed in Strider. Aside from that, Phil figures to use the same lineup they’ve used down the stretch against right-handers.
Brave: Atlanta matched the MLB single-season home run record (307). It became one of the first teams to draw legitimate comparisons to the 1927 Yankees. This offense became the first AL/NL team to produce a slugging percentage of .500 or better. Marcell Ozuna (1.090 OPS), Matt Olson (1.046 OPS), Austin Riley (1.008 OPS) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (.956 OPS) have all had big hits against the Phillies this year. With the Phils starting left-handed, the Braves will have to decide whether to play postseason champion Eddie Rosario or right-handed hitting Kevin Pillar.
How will the Bulls line up after the start?
Velez: With two days off after the NL Wild Card Series sweep — and another day off between Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS — the Phillies will have their full complement of relievers available. Manager Rob Thompson will continue to use Jose Alvarado and Craig Kimbrel interchangeably in the eighth and ninth rounds, depending on matchups. To fill the gap, Philadelphia will rely on a combination of Gregory Soto, Matt Stram, and right-handers Hoffman, Ceranthony Dominguez, and Orion Kerkering. Michael Lorenzen was not on the roster for the best-of-three NL Wild Card Series, but will likely be added to the top-five NLDS, giving Thompson another potential option out of the bullpen.
Brave: Snitker was able to control his relievers’ workload during the final two weeks of the regular season and while playing simulation games this week. In this new position AJ Minter, Pierce Johnson and Joe Jiménez will serve as the primary setup men for closer Raisel Iglesias. Minter and Brad Hand are the only two left-handers, and Hand had success last month against Schwarber and Harper. Kirby Yates and Jesse Chavez can be used in a variety of middle roles.
Velez: Rhys Hoskins is on the IL for 60 days following left ACL surgery in March. The Phillies said Hoskins has a chance to play in the postseason, but that won’t happen until the World Series. Until then, Hoskins will be limited to DH or pinch-hitting duties. He’s in Clearwater, Florida, where he continues his rehab and takes on live shows as part of the Philadelphia group Staying Ready.
Who’s hot, and who’s not?
Velez: Stott struggled down the stretch, but had an RBI single in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, then smashed a grand slam in the clincher. Turner had a .931 OPS from September 1 through the end of the regular season, then pitched a multi-hit effort in each of Philadelphia’s Wild Card Series games.
Brave: Olson (11 HR, 1.147 OPS), Acuña (11 HR, 1.111 OPS) and Ozuna (9 HR, 1.034 OPS) were three of the game’s most important players post-August. The Braves’ catchers hit .168 with a .559 OPS after the All-Star break.
Anything else fans should know?
Velez: The Phils have won each of their previous two postseason series against the Braves (1993 NLCS and 2022 NLDS). Marsh is 4-for-11 (.364) with a homer in his career against Strider, making him the only active Philadelphia player to hit above .225 against the Atlanta ace. As for some of the Phillies who struggled the most against Strider, Turner is 0-for-14, Stott is 2-for-19 (.105), Realmuto is 2-for-13 (.154), and Castellanos is 3-for-17 (.176).
Brave: Atlanta has won eight of its last 10 playoff games at Truist Park, dating back to the start of the 2021 season. Riley is 6-for-15 with a double and a homer against Suarez. Andrew Jones will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the first game.
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