The Philadelphia Phillies are back in the playoffs, clinching the number 1 wild card spot and guaranteeing themselves a home series against whoever ends as the 2nd seed in the wild card race. As of now, that seems to be the Arizona Diamondbacks, however, the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres & Miami Marlins are all battling for the last 2 spots. After Johan Rojas hit the game winning single to clinch #1 seed, the Phillies celebrated into the night, with NBC Sports Philadelphia there to film and capture it all. The guys were getting loose and having a great time, but you could tell there was something still on their minds. Yes, making the playoffs meant the team met one of their goals….. but the next goal is still priority number one, Winning the World Series.
With the Phillies official back in the playoffs, they are expected to take this weekend series lightly, allowing some rest for their usual starters as well as a bullpen that could desperately use it. Getting these guys rested should help them get rejuvenated as the Phillies will depend on their pitching and power bats to eliminate whoever their opponent will be. Each potential opponent the Phillies could face brings in a different challenge. Let’s dive into the prospective opponents:
In 2023, the Phillies and Diamondbacks met for 7 games total with the Phillies taking the series matchup 4-3. The Diamondbacks are a team that completely caught everyone off guard this year, seemingly becoming a playoff contender overnight, led by the expected Rookie of Year, Corbin Carrol. Carrol had an unbelievable season, batting .282 with a .352 OBP, 25 homer/53 steal campaign and finished top 10 in WAR. Leading the Diamondbacks’ pitching staff is South Jersey’s own Zak Gallen who is becoming must-watch tv. Gallen is an NL Cy Young candidate, with 17 wins, a 3.49 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and 217 strikeouts, currently 7th in baseball. Gallen also went a blistering 12-2 in Arizona, which luckily, Philadelphia won’t have to travel to. The Diamondbacks do a great job of small ball, however, do have some power bats as well with Lourdes Gurriel Jr and Christian Walker who is coming off his first 30 homer/100 RBI season.
Coming into the season, the Chicago Cubs were considered an afterthought in the NL Central. Projected as a bottom dwelling team, they have completely caught the league off guard. Led by NL Cy Young candidate Justin Steele, the Cubs have started to falter as of late with a September record of 11-15 going into their final series of the season. This team is led by Comeback Player of the Year candidate Cody Bellinger, young shortstop Nico Hoerner, outfielders Seiya Suzuki & Ian Happ, and newly signed Dansby Swanson, who Phillies fans will remember from his time in Atlanta. The Cubs have been carried by great pitching from Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman and focus on power and speed on the bases, with 6 players hitting over 20 homers this year and 5 players with double digit steals. The Phillies dominated the Cubs during the regular season, going 5-1 in the 6 total games they played.
San Diego Padres:
Bryce Harpers’ NLCS homerun against the Padres last year to send the Phillies to the World Series will live in Phillies Folklore for centuries. The Phillies dominated the padres as well this year, to the toon of 5-2 in the 7 games against, with the Phillies averaging 5 runs per game against San Diego. The Padres disappointed their fans as they were expected to take a jump from last year’s success, especially after the signing of Xander Bogaerts. The Padres are still led by their big 3 of Fernando Tatis, Juan Soto and Manny Machado, as well as the much-improved Ha-Seong Kim. The Padres are built to outhit their opponents with 8 players with double digit homers. Padres ace Blake Snell, another NL Cy Young Contender, had a great season, although metrics show he has been extremely lucky. Snell leads Major League Baseball in ERA with a 2.25, while also leading the league in walks allowed. Snell has always been a big strikeout pitcher, currently 3rd in baseball with 234 ks.
The Miami Marlins will finish 3rd in the NL East, led by MLB Average leader, Luis Arraez. Arraez hit an unbelievable .353, also coming in third in total hits. Marlins have had the injury bug hit in September, losing 2022 NL Cy Young, Sandy Alcantara. The Marlins lead the 2023 series splits against the Phillies, winning 7 out of 13. The Marlins are the typical small-ball team in today’s version of baseball. They hit for contact and eek out wins with a strong bullpen, currently sitting with a -58 run scored differential. For comparison, should they make the playoffs, they would have the worst run differential by over 100 runs to every other playoff team and have 130 less runs scored then the Phillies.
All 3 potential opponents of the Phillies have weaknesses that the Phillies need to exploit. Overall, the Phillies are in a great position to win 2 at home at Citizens Bank, where they would then face the Atlanta Braves in a 5 games series. Red October is back in Philly. Philadelphia…. IT’S TIME.