The air is a little crisper, the leaves are starting to change colors, game 162 is in the books. This all means one thing: the MLB postseason is upon us. For the 90-win Philadelphia Phillies, the sky is the limit for their playoff aspirations.
If you recall, they barely managed to scrape into the playoffs a year ago as the third-best team in the NL East. While it looked like tough sledding as the third Wild Card, they managed to take out the Central Division champion Cardinals (who are nowhere to be seen this postseason) before going on their surprising and well-deserved run to the World Series.
So, what are realistic expectations for the 2023 edition of the Phillies? Is it World Series or bust for this squad, or will fans be happy just getting to the Division Series?
The Phillies face a treacherous path to the NLCS
The bracket is set for an all-NL East affair for the first two rounds.
To kick things off, the 84-77 Miami Marlins are heading to Citizens Bank Ballpark for the best-of-three Wild Card Series. The Phillies will be the favorite heading into this matchup despite finishing with a 6-7 record against their division foes this season.
The Marlins' pesky offense may have too much bark and not enough bite to get the job done. They finished with the fourth-highest batting average (.259) and the most single-base hits (979) in the majors but scored the fifth-fewest runs (668).
While it's not a lock, the Phillies will be expected to prevail in the Wild Card round and set up a rematch of last year's NL Division Series with the Atlanta Braves.
The 104-win juggernaut Braves looked unstoppable for much of the season and won eight of 13 contests between the two teams. At least the Phillies can hang their hat on the 2-1 series win and the battle they gave Atlanta in the teams' final series of the year.
The best-of-five NLDS may simply come down to who can hit the most home runs.
The Braves, led by MVP shoo-in Ronald Acuña Jr., hit a record-tying 307 home runs this season. While the Phillies launched 220, their second-half power surge makes this matchup more even than it looks. Both teams hit 107 long balls over the final two months of the season.
Based on their regular season success, Atlanta will be massive favorites against every challenger this postseason. So, realistically, if you're looking for a place where it would make sense for the Phillies' season to end, the NLDS would be a logical endpoint.
But it's October baseball, and no matter how unbalanced the matchups look, anything can happen ... and usually does.
So, what if the Phillies prevail?
NEXT: Can the Phillies make it to the World Series?