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Phillies defeat Atlanta; Shift focus to Arizona

(Photo courtesy of Phillies Facebook)

The Phillies defeated the Atlanta Braves Thursday night to advance to the NLCS for a second straight year.

The Braves set regular season records for homeruns and runs scored, but it was the Phillies pitching that finally quieted the Atlanta bats. The Phillies top 3 starters Zach Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suarez combined to give up 5 earned runs while striking out 25 in 4 games against Atlanta. The Braves had one of the greatest lineups of a generation and were led by NL MVP frontrunner Ronald Acuna Jr who only got 2 hits and 3 walks in the series against the Phillies.

The Phillies starters were the highlight of the series, but the bullpen was playing better than they have all season long. In 4 games, the bullpen only gave up 2 earned runs, with both of them coming in the game 2 loss. Rob Thomson was aggressive when using his bullpen with only Taijuan Walker and Christopher Sanchez never getting playing time in the NLDS.

The talk of the town in Philadelphia was the hitting for the Phillies. Nick Castellanos became the first player in MLB history with back-to-back games with multiple homeruns. Trea Turner became the first Phillie to have 4 hits in a postseason game. However, it was Bryce Harper's monster 3 run home run in the 3rd inning of game 3 that sparked the Phillies offense. Following that hit, the Phillies offense never looked back. In the end the Phillies hit .275 with 11 homeruns. 36 hits, and 20 runs against the Braves in the NLDS.

They now shift their focus to a 7-game series with Arizona. The Phillies won the season series 4-3 with Arizona this year, with all 7 games coming during the 1st half of the season. The Diamondbacks are appearing in the NLCS for the first time since 2007 after a sweep of the Los Angelas Dodgers. The Phillies are making their second consecutive appearance in the League Championship Series.

The Diamondbacks have yet to announce who their starting pitchers are for Game 1 and 2, but it is expected that Zac Gallen (17-9 3.41 ERA) and Merrill Kelly (12-8) 3.29 ERA) will get the ball in games 1 and 2. Gallen got the ND in his only appearance against the Phillies this season after he went 5.2 IP 3K and 2ER. Kelly also picked up the ND after going 6IP 3 H and 3K's.

Phillies lifetime against Gallen

Kyle Schwarber: 8 plate appearances .143

Trea Turner: 20 plate appearances .210

Bryce Harper: 13 plate appearances .333

Alec Bohm: 6 plate appearances .000

Bryson Stott: 6 plate appearances .333

JT Realmuto: 4 plate appearances .000

Nick Castellanos: 5 plate appearances .250

Brandon Marsh: 4 plate appearances .500

Johan Rojas: Has never faced Gallen

Phillies lifetime against Kelly

Kyle Schwarber: 8 plate appearances .143

Trea Turner: 24 plate appearances .429

Bryce Harper: 6 plate appearances .200

Alec Bohm; Has never faced Kelly

Bryson Stott: 3 plate appearances .333

JT Realmuto: 9 plate appearances .333

Nick Castellanos: 3 plate appearances .000

Brandon Marsh: 2 plate appearances .000

Johan Rojas: Has never faced Kelly

The Phillies offense is hotter right now than they have been all season long. The Phillies were able to hit the ball well off of Atlanta's top 2 pitchers Spencer Strider and Max Fried. The Diamondbacks pitching rotation takes a big drop after Gallen and Kelly. Brandon Pfaadt has started 2 games for Arizona this postseason. In both games he failed to get past the 4th inning and turned both of those games into a bullpen game for Arizona.

The Phillies are expected to continue using their usual playoff rotation. Zack Wheeler will start Game 1, followed by Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez in games 2 and 3. Taijuan Walker and Christopher Sanchez have yet to pitch this postseason, they are expected to see playing time throughout this series in either games 4 or 5.

The Diamondbacks offense has been led by NL Rookie of the Year front runner Corbin Carroll. So far this postseason Carroll is batting .412 with 2 HR's, and 4 RBI's. Veterans Ketal Marte and Tommy Pham have both been hitting the ball well this postseason, while they both are hitting .318. Even though their lineup isn't as star studded as Atlanta's, the Phillies will still have a handful with a lineup that can hit the ball 1-9.

The Phillies own home field advantage against Arizona, and will play games 1 and 2 at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies are 26-11 at the Bank in the playoffs which is an MLB best record. The Phillies crowd has made their presences known so far in the 4 playoffs games at Citizens Bank Park in 2023.

There are 3 keys for the Phillies in this series against Arizona.

The Phillies need to hit with runners on base. The Phillies avoided a disaster by leaving over 20 runners on base during their series against Atlanta. We also just saw one of the best offensive performances by this Phillies lineup. They can shut Arizona down if they can start hitting with runners on base.

Alec Bohm needs to get going. The Phillies have their lineup set and Bohm is going to hit behind Harper most of the time. With Playoff Harper off to the races already, Tony Lovullo is going to start walking Harper. It will be key for Bohm to get going with Harper and Trea Turner getting on a majority of the time.

Rob Thomson needs to be smart with his pitching decisions. Games 1 and 2 are back-to-back, and then games 3,4, and 5 are all back-to-back to back. Topper made some questionable bullpen calls in game 1 and 4, but in the end it worked out perfectly. With their only being 1 off day in between Philadelphia and Arizona, the decisions need to be made with the long-term view in site. The bullpen has looked phenomenal this postseason, but they've had rest and big leads. We are losing off days in the NLCS, so Topper's decisions need to be made much less aggressively.

The Phillies are looking to head to their second straight World Series, while Arizona wants to return to the Fall Classic for the 1st time since 2001 when they won the title. Looking at both teams, the Phillies have the edge in both starting and relief pitching, and have the much stronger lineup. However, the Diamondbacks just swept a 100-win Dodgers team and are riding a very high confidence level. On paper the Phillies should win this series, but Arizona is not going to go down without a fight. My prediction...Phillies in 5!


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