The most important series of the 2021 MLB season in the NL East will take place this week at Atlanta's Truist Park. The first-place Atlanta Braves will host the second place Philadelphia Phillies for a three-game set. The series could potentially decide the division race.
"We'll see what happens," Braves manager Brian Snitker told reporters, including MLB.com's Mark Bowman, on Sunday. "We've got a lot of work to do, but you'd rather be in this position than the other. Shoot, it's kind of fun to wake up, have a cup of coffee, then you can't eat and all you want to do is go to the ballpark."
The Braves (83-72) enter this week's series 2 1/2 games up on the Phillies (81-75). The Mets, Nationals, and Marlins have already been eliminated from postseason contention. The NL East is down to two teams and they'll wrap up their season series this week.
"As a team, as a whole, I think we're confident going into Atlanta," MVP candidate Bryce Harper told reporters, including MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, on Sunday. "We have to go down there, we have to do our job, we have to be ready to go from Pitch 1. Get 27 outs a game, and we have to be very good with all 27 of those outs."
Here are the details for this week's Braves vs. Phillies series at Truist Park. Select games can be streamed on fuboTV (try for free).
|Date||Start time||Starting pitchers||TV|
Tues., Sept. 28
7:20 p.m. ET
RHP Zack Wheeler (14-9, 2.79 ERA) vs. RHP Charlie Morton (13-6, 3.53 ERA)
Bally Sports South, NBC Sports Philadelphia, FS1
Weds., Sept. 29
7:20 p.m. ET
RHP Aaron Nola (9-8, 4.64 ERA) vs. LHP Max Fried (13-7, 3.12 ERA)
Bally Sports South, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Thurs., Sept. 30
RHP Kyle Gibson (10-8, 3.60 ERA) vs. RHP Ian Anderson (8-5, 3.60 ERA)
Bally Sports South, NBC Sports Philadelphia, MLBN
Hoo boy, look at those pitching matchups. No. 1 vs. No. 1, No. 2 vs. No. 2, and No. 3 vs. No. 3, as the baseball gods intended. The calendar says it's still the regular season, but make no mistake, the Braves and Phillies are playing a postseason series in Atlanta this week. These games are enormous.
Here are four things to know going into this week's series at Truist Park, with a prediction thrown in for good measure.
1. The Phillies lead the season series, but ...
... the Braves have had the edge at Truist Park. Overall, the Phillies are 9-7 against the Braves this season despite being outscored 75-64. In Atlanta though, the Braves are 4-2 against the Phillies, though they've only outscored them 35-32. The games in Truist Park have generally been close. Still, you can be sure the Braves are happy this series is being played on their turf.
It should be noted the Phillies will clinch the season series over the Braves with one win this week. That could come into play should these two teams finish with an identical record and have to play a Game 163 tiebreaker to decide the division. In that case, the team that wins the season series would have home field advantage in the tiebreaker game.
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2. The Braves can clinch the NL East
Atlanta can clinch their fourth straight NL East title this series. All they have to do is sweep the three games. Anything less and the division will still be up for grabs going into the final weekend. And in that case, there's the potential for some chaos early next week. Matt Snyder explained it earlier this week:
The Braves have a game against the Rockies that was rained out and wasn't made up. If it does end up mattering (meaning if this race ends next Sunday with one team having a half-game lead), they'll have to play that game after the regular season was supposed to be over. Keep your eyes on this one.
No one, and I mean no one, is rooting harder for the Braves this week than the Rockies. The absolute last thing the Rockies want to do is get on a plane following Sunday's game in Arizona and fly to Atlanta to play a meaningless (to them) makeup game against the Braves on Monday. Rockies players want to begin their offseason vacations Monday, not play a makeup game.
The Phillies remain mathematically alive in the wild card race, we should note. That said, it's a long shot. They will be eliminated from the wild card race with their next loss or the next Cardinals win. Realistically, it's NL East title or bust for Philadelphia.
3. Both teams are without a key player
Neither the Braves nor the Phillies will be at full strength this series. Atlanta of course lost wunderkind Ronald Acuña Jr. to a torn ACL back in July. He was on pace to contend for the MVP award prior to the injury. Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has since patched up his outfield with Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, and Jorge Soler.
The Phillies, meanwhile, are without first baseman Rhys Hoskins. He battled groin and abdominal injuries last month, and required season-ending core surgery on Aug. 31. Hoskins was the team's second-best hitter behind Harper prior to the injury. Brad Miller has since stepped in at first base and he's been very good the last few weeks, especially against righties.
4. Who's hot, who's not
The old saying is it's not who you play, it's when you play them, and the Braves and Phillies both have several players riding hot streaks going into the series. Here are some numbers over the last 14 days:
On the flip side, the Braves hope Dansby Swanson and Travis d'Arnaud get going this series. Those two are a combined 15 for 84 (.178) with 29 strikeouts in the last 14 games. As for the Phillies, Didi Gregorius and Andrew McCutchen have really dragged them down of late. They're a combined 16 for 84 (.188) over the last two weeks despite only 12 strikeouts.
Let's close with a prediction because why not? The official CBS Sports prediction: Phillies win two of three, and the NL East race remains interesting into the final weekend. Wheeler and Fried have been incredible, and I have the Phillies eking out a win in the rubber game Thursday. That sets us up for an exciting weekend.