Series Preview: Phillies head to Atlanta to prove their worth

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MLB: JUL 24 Marlins at Phillies
PHILADELPHIA, PA – JULY 24: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) delivers a pitch during the fifth inning of the game between the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies on July 24, 2020 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

For the Philadelphia Phillies, the playoffs start tonight in Atlanta. The Phillies will take on their division rivals in a three-game series on the road, which could be a preview for the first round of the playoffs. The Phils have played the Braves well this season, going 6-6 in their first twelve matchups. These two teams will meet seven times, including tonight, as they both look to move up the ranks in the playoff hunt.

Hot-Lanta?

Around the same time the Phillies collapsed and moved to fire Joe Girardi, the Atlanta Braves were also barely holding on. Atlanta was 23-25 at the time and 8.5 games behind the New York Mets for first place in the National League East. The Braves and Phillies looked underwhelming, allowing New York to take a massive lead in the division. The Phillies and Braves almost seemingly flipped a switch at roughly the same time, and both clubs began to heat up with the summer months. While the Phillies have had one of the best records in baseball since then, the Braves have claimed the best record.

National League Playoff Implications

The Braves have put themselves right back into the thick of the NL East title picture. Atlanta even took the lead from New York for a couple of days before giving it back up. What does this have to do with the Phillies, you might ask?

With seven games coming up against Atlanta, there is a possibility that the team is able to leap them in the Wild Card standings. However, there is also a chance that the Braves will use the Phillies to leap the Mets for first place in the East again. There is a scenario where the Phillies could end up playing the New York Mets in the first round of the playoffs, a team they have struggled to beat all season long.

By taking care of business this weekend in Atlanta, the Phillies could very much put to bed any chances of facing the Mets in the first round. While fans might not want to give the Mets the satisfaction of winning the division, taking care of our own business is the more important play. If the Mets and Braves have a rough weekend, the Phillies could possibly slide back into the East title picture. While the chances are low, a wise man once said, “Never tell me the odds” – Han Solo, Empire Strikes Back.

Aaron Nola’s Big Test

The Phillies will send Aaron Nola to the mound Saturday in the second game of the series. Nola will have the easiest opponent of the weekend, as he faces off against Jake Odorizzi. This is the game on paper that the good guys should win, and Aaron Nola needs to deliver the Phillies to the finish line. Nola cannot start slow or give the Braves easy runs. The Phillies should hit Odorizzi easier than Fried and Strider this weekend, but you can never bank on offense to come. If Aaron Nola takes care of the Braves, he can put to bed the Phillies opponent and the questions of his abilities to pitch in September. If Nola cannot put together a good outing, things will get really interesting when he returns home for his next start at Citizens Bank Park.

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire

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