Preview: Can The Phillies Shock Braves Again in Game 2

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Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suarez (55) delivers during the first inning of Game 1 of a baseball NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

For the second straight season, the Fightins proved they do not fear the Atlanta Braves.

While the Braves dominated their way through Major League Baseball this season, the Phils are starting to prove that confidence means everything this time of year.

Regular season record does not mean much when it comes to playoff baseball. Last season the Braves won 101 games and lost to an 87-win Phillies team in the NLDS. This season the Braves won 104 games, and are now trailing a 90-win Phillies team in the NLDS.

Longtime baseball writers and reporters can complain all they would like that the new playoff format is a disadvantage to the top seeds, but as far as I am concerned, words do not win championships.

Phillies-Braves Outlook

Enough with the off-the-field banter however, it is time to break down what we can expect to see on the field Monday night for Game 2 of the NLDS.

With their win on Saturday night, the Phillies took the home-field advantage away in this series. Following Game 2, they will host two of the remaining three games at Citizens Bank Park in this series.

Including the Marlins series from last week, the Phillies are 8-2 in home playoff games in the Rob Thomson era. We saw this team beat Atlanta in both games in South Philly last year in the NLDS and how the crowd absolutely took over those games.

Philadelphia Phillies designated hitter Bryce Harper (3) hits a solo homer against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning of Game 1 of a baseball NL Division Series, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

By winning Game 1, the Phillies just need to win their remaining home games to clinch a spot in the NLCS. While it would be great to get two home playoff games, I would argue that a win tonight in Atlanta may be the more important victory.

Heading home with a 2-0 lead versus a tied series at 1-1 is huge. Having to win just one game at home boosts the chances of advancing astronomically and the Phillies have seen a recent surge in World Series probability. Following their win in Game One, they are now the favorites to win the National League.

The Braves will not go down quietly in this series. Atlanta’s high-powered offense will get going at some point and the Phillies have to be ready for that counterpunch. Overcoming Ronald Acuna Jr, Matt Olson, and Austin Riley will be no simple task for the Phils.

Phillies-Braves Starting Pitchers

Zack Wheeler will take the mound tonight in Game 2 and be challenged by Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves.

Wheeler was dominant in his first appearance this post-season, going 6.2 innings against the Marlins. In that game, he allowed just 1 earned run, 5 hits, and struck out 8 Miami batters.

Zack started against the Braves three times in 2023, and two of those starts just so happened to be in Atlanta. In those two games, Wheeler was 2-0 with a 0.63 earned run average. He had 14 innings pitched and 17 strikeouts across those two starts.

Phillies Zack Wheeler
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler throws during the first inning in Game 5 of the baseball NL Championship Series between the San Diego Padres and the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Max Fried is coming off the Injured List to make his start in Game 2 of the NLDS. Fried has been dealing with a blister on his throwing hand, which could become a factor in this game for the Phillies.

On the season, Max was 8-1 with a 2.55 earned run average for Atlanta. He spent a lot of time this season banged up, but when he was able to go, Max proved why he is one of the best young arms in the game.

In his only start against the Phillies this season, he threw 5 innings of 1-run ball. He allowed four hits and one earned run to the Phils, striking out 6 in his outing.

Final Thoughts

In this NLDS, I expected the series to go 5 games. The scenario that played out in my head had gone: Braves, Phillies, Phillies, Braves, Phillies. This would see the Phillies stealing two games on the road and advancing to the NLCS for a second straight season.

I guessed wrong on Game 1, but I am hoping that I nail my predictions for Games 2 and 3. If the Phillies can get another strong outing by Zack Wheeler, they put themselves in a great position to win this series at home on Wednesday night.

It will not be easy and the Braves’ bats will show up in Game 2. If Rob Thomson and the Phillies can counter will be the story of Monday night’s rematch.

The Braves celebrating winning the NL East on our home turf back in September. A win tonight can avenge that loss and give the Phillies a chance to celebrate once again at Citizens Bank Park.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)