The 2023 Postseason begins for the Atlanta Braves Tuesday when they will face the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the Division Series. The series is a rematch from last fall’s matchup where the Phillies defeated the Braves 3-1 and eventually advanced to the World Series.
That Braves entered the postseason a year ago battling injuries in their rotation and that is again the case. Max Fried finished the season on the injured list due to a blister, but is expected to take the ball in Game 2. Charlie Morton will miss the Division Series with a sprained finger on his pitching hand. Game 1 starter Spencer Strider is healthy and is looking to avenge a rough outing in Game 3 last year where he had been hampered by an oblique injury.
“I think he’s very much ready, especially how he experienced it last year,” Brian Snitker said of Strider. “It was a tough situation for him. So I think he’s probably really excited to have this opportunity tomorrow when he’s healthy and well rested and prepared.”
Strider retired the first six hitters he faced in Game 3 last year, but saw things unravel in the third as his velocity dropped. By the time the dust cleared, he had allowed five runs and was out of the game after just 2 1/3 innings. That one game aside, Strider has pitched well against the Phillies this season, posting a 2.42 ERA to go along with 38 strikeouts over four starts and 26 innings. He and his teammates are excited for the opportunity to face Philadelphia again after last season’s disappointing end.
“I think you embrace it. We wanted this opportunity. I think that we played a lot of meaningful games this year, but down the stretch, we clinched early. There were certainly some times where it felt like we were sort of waiting to get to October and play that meaningful baseball,” Strider said.
“The way things ended last year, everybody was itching to get back into this environment and have this opportunity. So we’re excited. We’re expecting a big crowd to come out and have good fans in a really good environment between two good teams. That’s kind of what we’ve been looking forward to all year is this chance to play, like I said, some energetic baseball here in October.”
The Braves led the majors with 104 wins and clinched home field advantage throughout the postseason. They posted an historic offensive performance and tied the Major League record with 307 home runs. Matt Olson broke the franchise record for homers in a season while Ronald Acuña Jr. put forth a season for the ages by becoming the first player ever with 40 homers and 70 stolen bases. Accomplishments aside, they know all too well how different the postseason game can be and enter the Division Series with a fresh slate.
“That’s what you play for. It’s what you work for is opportunities in the postseason, Strider said. “That’s been our goal as a team for the entire season. When we showed up to Spring Training, we expected to be here. In some ways, this is when the season starts for us.”
“We did a lot of good stuff in the regular season. Some of that will carry over in some ways, but most of it won’t,” Strider added. “So this is sort of a fresh slate. And like I said, we’re excited to play some meaningful, energetic baseball and kind of go out and play our game.”
The Phillies had little trouble sweeping away the Miami Marlins in the Wild Card round. They will send left-hander Ranger Suarez to the mound in Game 1. The Braves beat up on lefty starters throughout the regular season hitting .288/.350/.521 with a league-best 131 wRC+. Suarez made just one start against Atlanta during the regular season and was effective striking out seven while allowing one run over six innings. With an off day Sunday, expect the Phillies to have a quick hook if Suarez gets in trouble.
Philadelphia’s offense is as advertised and it got better as the season went along. Bryce Harper and Trea Turner both started slowly. Harper came back quickly from Tommy John surgery and rediscovered his power stroke over the second half of the season. Turner got off to a woeful start, but found his groove down the stretch and was 4-for-7 with two doubles and two stolen bases in the two games against the Marlins.
“I don’t know that we feel any differently than anybody else we play,” Snitker said when asked about the familiarity of facing the Phillies again. “It’s a team we want to beat. They’re a really good club. I look at that offense, and it’s similar to ours, I think. They’re so powerful.”
It’s a good team, an experienced team. They’ve made a lot of good moves. I think they’re even better than they were last year, quite honestly,” he added. “We played them all this year, and it’s going to be a great series against two really good ball clubs.”
Game Date/Time: Saturday, October 7, 6:07 p,.m. E
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan