The aces are here
What a luxury it is to win Game 1 and have your staff ace taking the mound in Game 2 on Monday night. While Zach Wheeler hasn't quite been at the same level as previous years, he's still the main man in the Phillies rotation, as highlighted by a team-high 21 quality starts and 4.2 WAR.
Wheeler got his postseason off to a tremendous start, with an outstanding performance versus the Marlins. He allowed just five hits, no walks and one run in 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight in the process.
When the Phillies return home, they will be able to put the ball in the hand of Aaron Nola. Similar to his teammate, he hasn't performed as well in 2023, especially compared to last season when he finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting.
However, Nola gained a significant boost in his Wild Card start against the Marlins, giving up just three hits, a walk and no runs in seven sterling innings, while also striking out three. Last season's playoff run provided him with some invaluable experience, so he is now better equipped to handle the heightened intensity and expectations.
Bryce Harper is on a mission
Bryce Harper has achieved more than most during his Major League career. He's been named an All-Star seven times, won two Silver Slugger and a couple of Hank Aaron awards and, most impressively, twice taken home the NL MVP award.
However, the one thing that continues to elude Harper is a World Series championship — the Nationals won it literally the season after he left Washington. As such, he's supremely motivated to win the ultimate prize in baseball, and the Braves could well suffer as a result.
The 2010 first-overall draft pick was in a zone during Game 1 versus the Braves. In four plate appearances, he had two hits and two walks, as he hit an RBI and scored two runs of his own.
In some ways, this is the worst kind of déjà vu for Atlanta sports fans, given how Harper performed against them in last year's NLDS. In four games, he had eight hits, two homers, five RBI, a walk and four runs — the Braves have been warned.
Of course, the main thing for the Phillies is winning the series full stop, no matter how many games it takes. However, the three reasons mentioned plus other factors such as their bullpen and Trea Turner's hot bat so far in the playoffs, have a sweep of the Braves very much in play.