The National League’s sixth seed, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the second-seeded Atlanta Braves, winners of the NL East, open their best-of-five divisional round series Tuesday in Georgia. Atlanta, the defending World Series champion, is listed as a favorite to advance to the NLCS, (-180 odds on the series price at DraftKings), with Philadelphia catching +165 at BetMGM.
The Braves’ odds are the shortest for any of the four favorites in this round.
Phillies lefty Ranger Suarez has been tabbed to start Game 1 against Braves lefty Max Fried.
Phillies vs. Braves Game 1 Betting Line
Atlanta is priced between -180 and -190 to win the series opener, while Philly can be had for +158, per odds available the day before the game. Here are current odds from US sports betting apps.
Atlanta won 11 of 19 games between the teams this year, with the Braves going 6-3 at home and the teams splitting 10 games in Philadelphia. Atlanta outscored Philly 88-85 overall.
It will be the first postseason meeting between the teams since 1993, when Philly’s “Wheez Kids,” who went 97-75 that season and were led by a roster of graybeards that included 42-year-old Pete Rose, beat the Braves (104-58) in the NLCS 4 games to 2.
How They Got Here
The Phillies (87-75 in 2022), who finished 14 games behind Atlanta in the East, just completed a two-game road sweep in the wild-card round against the St. Louis Cardinals, holding them to two runs in the series. Both came on a pinch-hit homer in Game 1 off reliever Jose Alvarado.
Atlanta (101-61), which edged out the New York Mets for the division crown via tiebreaker, has been resting since the regular season ended Wednesday, as have the other Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the majors.
Phillies vs. Braves Pitching Matchups
With regard to pitching, both teams have disadvantages when setting up their rotations.
For Atlanta, RHP Spencer Strider might pitch only briefly, if at all, while recovering from an oblique injury. He last appeared in a game Sept. 18. Although he wasn’t the team’s top winner, going 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA, he was 4-0 against the Phillies, including one in relief appearance. He had a 1.27 ERA vs. Philly with 34 strikeouts in 21.1 innings.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, won’t get to give an opening-game start to ace Zack Wheeler, the Cy Young runner-up in 2021, who is scheduled for Game 2 on Wednesday. He last pitched Friday. And Aaron Nola, who worked 6.2 scoreless innings at St. Louis on Saturday in Game 2 of the wild-card round and was perfect against Houston for 6.2 innings in the wild-card clinching game last Monday, isn’t scheduled to start until Game 3 on Friday. To the Phillies’ dismay, he wouldn’t be available the rest of the series as a starter unless he worked on short rest or there were rainouts that extended the series.
So, in the opener it will be the No. 3 starter in the rotation, Suarez (10-7, 2.65), who was 1-2 vs. the Braves. What’s troublesome for Philly is that Atlanta hit .265 this year against lefties, better than their .249 number vs. righties. On the positive side for the Phillies, though, was that in Suarez’s two September starts vs. Atlanta, he allowed one earned run in 12 innings. Then again, in his tune-up last Tuesday, he yielded three homers in three innings in a loss at Houston.
Also, are the Phillies getting even the slightest bit travel weary. Counting the end of the regular season, Tuesday’s game will be their 13th straight on the road and in their fifth city. Wednesday’s game gives them the longest road stretch by any team this season. They won’t get to play at home till Friday, 19 days since facing Atlanta on Sept. 25.
Suarez’s first-game mound rival, Fried, was 14-7 with a team-leading 2.48 ERA, but he was 0-2 against the Phillies. Like the Braves, Philly also hit lefties better than righties (.266 vs. .248).
RHP Kyle Wright, who led the major in victories, going 21-5 with a 3.19 ERA, is slotted to work Game 2. His win total matches the highest for anyone the past six seasons. He was 2-1 vs. Philly, giving up eight hits in 19 innings.
Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.34) is slated for Game 3. He struggled against the Phils in five 2022 starts, giving up 16 earned runs in 32 innings, going 0-1.
Offensively, there are no holes in the lineup for the favored Braves, who have eight players who have hit 15-plus homers, led by third baseman Austin Riley’s 38.
The Phillies, meanwhile, have only four such sluggers, but no one better in the National League than leadoff man Kyle Schwarber, who had 46 home runs. No one struck out more than he did in the majors, either — 200 times.
In the running game, a big edge goes to Philly, which was fifth in baseball in stealing bases and probably will get to test Atlanta catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who year after year has had issues throwing out runners. On the other hand, Philly All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto might be the best.
Phillies vs. Braves NLDS Prediction
Top to bottom, Atlanta’s lineup should give the Phillies trouble, especially when extending at-bats and forcing Phillies manager Rob Thomson to remove starters early.
Although Philly’s bullpen wasn’t bad against St. Louis, new closer Zach Eflin twice walked a tightrope before closing out the victories, recording the save in Game 2. In the regular season, Phillies relievers had the worst regular-season ERA of any of the 12 playoff teams.
One more thing, the Phillies corner outfielders, Schwarber in left and ex-Reds star Nick Castellanos in right, don’t cover a lot of ground. Atlanta hitters could be taking the extra base with regularity.
In summary: Atlanta in 4.
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