It has come down to this. The Philadelphia Phillies hold a playoff spot with their final home series of the year upon us. 2.5 games up on the Milwaukee Brewers, they welcome the Atlanta Braves to town for a four-game series.
Swept by the Braves last weekend in Atlanta, the Phillies will look for revenge this weekend back at home. 6-9 on the year facing the Braves, the Phillies could win the season series with a sweep, but it didn't have to be this way. Going into last weekend the season series was tied at 6-6, neither opponent could get a feel for the other.
At 8-9 in September, the Phillies will look to avoid a fifth straight September collapse. Were they to miss the postseason, 2022 would undoubtedly be the worst of the bunch. The Phillies had a 4.5 game lead in the Wild Card as recently as last Thursday morning. But that lead has dwindled as the Phillies have faltered.
Facing the Braves, this series will likely be their toughest of the year, seeing as their season finale with the Houston Astros will come after they have likely clinched the American League top seed.
The Braves, however, lack the cream of their rotation in Spencer Strider, and thus bring a weaker pitching line to Philadelphia than what was displayed last weekend in Atlanta. Here's how the matchups lineup:
Game One: Thursday 7:15 p.m. EST - FOX | Max Fried vs. Ranger Suárez
In the midst of the best full season of his career, the Phillies have hit Fried surprisingly well. Across three games, they put seven runs across the pate in 18.0 innings. Friday in Atlanta the Phillies took Fried for two runs, both of which were solo homers across six innings, walking thrice and striking out four times.
Suárez seemed to find his footing Friday in Atlanta after a rocky stretch of four starts in which he allowed 16 runs over 20.0 innings. As recently as Aug. 17, Suárez's ERA was down to 3.31, but as of Thursday it sits at 3.53. Pitching as a start for a full season the first time in his career, Suárez has worked through ups and downs, but Atlanta has hit him well over four starts for a 4.09 ERA.
Game Two: Friday 7:05 p.m. EST - NBCSP | Jake Odorizzi vs. Aaron Nola
A cast-off from the Houston Astros' dominant rotation, Odorizzi hasn't excelled in Atlanta like he was expected to. Sporting a 4.54 ERA post-trade, and a 3.75 ERA pre-trade, Odorizzi has yet to adapt to Atlanta. He did, however, handle the Phillies on Saturday, pitching 4.2 innings of one-run ball before being lifted at 93 pitches.
Looking to change the meaning of September Nola, the Phillies 29-year-old ace needs to rewrite the narrative surrounding his performance in big games. Leading all Major League pitchers in K/BB ratio, Nola should be set up for success, but it was eluded him so far in his September career. From the sweltering humidity of Baton Rouge, LA, it has been speculated that cold temperatures throw off his command. Despite an encouraging first two starts this September, Nola allowed four runs on 7.0 innings last weekend in Atlanta.
Game Three: Saturday 4:05 p.m. EST - NBCSP | Kyle Wright vs. Bailey Falter
With a career ERA of 6.56 on just 70.0 innings coming into 2022, few could have expected much out of Kyle Wright. In 2022 he's only pitched 170.0 innings to the tune of a 3.18 ERA with a league leading 19 wins. Despite his spectacular numbers, he's prone to implosions. Twice since July has Wright allowed six earned runs or more, once on Aug. 4 and another time on Sept. 6 — that game he allowed eight runs to a weak Oakland Athletics lineup.
Where has the old Bailey Falter gone and what have the Phillies done with him? This new replacement Falter has a 2.45 ERA over his last seven starts, averaging 5.2 innings per start. His MLB leading extension has fooled hitters and gives extra life to a fastball that tops out at 93 mph. Since Jul. 29, opponents are slashing .213/.248/.360 against Falter.
Game Four: Sunday 1:05 p.m. EST - NBCSP, MLBN | Charlie Morton vs. Kyle Gibson
After leaving Philadelphia following a 2016 in which Morton was injured just four games into the season, he has dominated the Phillies, pitching to an ERA of 3.10 over nine starts with Atlanta. However, 2022 has fared less well than 2021. Across 21.2 innings, Morton has allowed 11 runs against Philadelphia, the Braves going 2-2 in his starts.
Kyle Gibson had an ERA of 2.80 from Jul. 9 through Aug. 27., but September has been a disaster for him. His pitched to a 9.68 ERA as his year-to-date ERA has risen 63 points. The Phillies absolutely need a bounce back from Gibson, looking to count on the back of their rotation headed into the postseason.
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