The Philadelphia Phillies stunned the Atlanta Braves last season on their way to being the National League representative in the World Series.
The Phillies are vying to see history repeat and will attempt to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Division Series when they visit the Braves on Monday night.
Philadelphia won Game 1 3-0 on Saturday behind a group effort — namely Bryce Harper’s home run, a postseason franchise-record five stolen bases and a five-hit shutout featuring seven hurlers.
“This team to a man has this innate toughness to them, (are) really resilient, and they just keep fighting,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “And as a group, they do the same thing. So it’s a great combination of talent and make-up that we have on this club.”
The Braves, of course, recognize the not-so-friendly situation.
“We’ve got to regroup, come back and just play our game,” Atlanta third baseman Austin Riley said. “I trust all the guys in this clubhouse and would go to war with any of those guys.”
Left-hander Max Fried (8-1, 2.55 ERA regular season) will start for the Braves against Philadelphia right-hander Zack Wheeler (1-0, 1.35 this postseason).
Atlanta will seek to find its offense against Wheeler after managing just five singles in Game 1. That powerful offense that tied the major league record with 307 homers was shut out for the first time since May 12.
“It’s one game,” said Braves first baseman Matt Olson, who led the majors with 54 homers. “You play a five-game series for a reason.”
Philadelphia only needed four games to win last season’s NLDS with Wheeler being on the mound for the lone loss. He allowed three runs and four hits in six innings in Game 2.
“It is a new year, so yeah,” Wheeler said. “It is different, but at the same time, we’re here, same circumstances basically, and against a tough team, and good lineup. So you’re still going to have to bear down and pitch really well.”
Wheeler, 33, is 12-7 with a 3.18 ERA in 27 career regular-season outings against the Braves. That includes a 2-0 mark with a 3.32 ERA in three matchups against Atlanta in 2023.
Ronald Acuna Jr. has smacked four homers off Wheeler. Ozzie Albies and Olson each have hit two.
Fried had a forgettable Game 1 outing in last season’s series with the Phillies as he was torched for six runs (four earned) and eight hits over 3 1/3 innings.
Fried, 29, made just 14 starts this season, missing time with hamstring and forearm injuries. He also has been battling a blister on his left index finger and will be making his first appearance since Sept. 21.
“Right now, as far as visuals and the way it feels, it just feels like my finger is healed and back to normal,” Fried said of the blister. “… We’ve just been leaning on the more cautious side, realizing that this is kind of what we’re waiting for.”
Fried started once against Philadelphia this season and allowed one run in five innings during a no-decision. Overall, he is 4-4 with a 3.62 ERA in 19 career regular-season appearances (13 starts) against the Phillies.
J.T. Realmuto has hit three homers off Fried and Harper has gone deep twice.
The Philadelphia running game could again be in action. Trea Turner stole two bases while Harper, Brandon Marsh and Bryson Stott each stole one in the opener.
“We can do a lot of different things to score runs, and we’ve done it all year, where we’ve scored by using our speed and some small ball,” Thomson said. “We’ve also won games by slugging.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker saw enough in Game 1.
“We’ll have to do a better job than we did. That’s for sure,” Snitker said. “Overall, they’re very opportunistic, and they got a lot of guys with a lot of success in stealing bases, too.”