ATLANTA — Is there any team the Braves want to see less than the Phillies this time of year?
The Phils dominated in Truist Park Saturday night, just as they did a year ago in the NLDS, taking Game 1 with a 3-0 victory. This win not only gives the Phillies momentum, but it also strips the Braves of their home-field advantage for the remainder of the series. If the series goes the full five games, both teams would have two more games on their home turf. However, the Phillies have an additional advantage with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola scheduled to pitch in three of the remaining four games.
The Phillies have been on a winning streak, winning Game 1 of all six postseason rounds they’ve played in the past year. Their consistent victories have placed them in the driver’s seat, even as underdogs in these series.
The pressure is mounting for the Braves. Despite winning 104 games and tying the major-league record with 307 home runs, they haven’t played meaningful baseball for months. The focus for them has been maintaining their significant second-half lead on the Dodgers for home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs. To better prepare for this series after a long layoff, Braves manager Brian Snitker had his team play intrasquad games in front of fans.
The Phillies have a history with the Braves, having eliminated them last year and playing them tough in 2023. Although Atlanta won the regular-season series, 8-5, five of those games were decided in the eighth inning or later.
While some teams may be intimidated by Atlanta’s offensive firepower, the Phillies are not. In fact, as Nick Castellanos stated, “We’re eager and excited for this series because it’s the next chapter on our journey to get a ring.” The team’s confidence in each other makes them look forward to playing anyone, including the Braves.
The Braves’ offense was stifled by Ranger Suarez, who retired 10 of the first 11 hitters he faced. Suarez effectively used his changeup and curveball, leaving the Braves with weakly hit balls all night.
Phillies manager Rob Thomson chose to go to the bullpen early, bringing in Jeff Hoffman in the fourth inning with two outs and two runners on base. Hoffman struck out Michael Harris II, leaving the Braves’ bases loaded and shutting down their offensive threat.
Thomson’s strategy was to manage aggressively with days off in between games. The Phillies have a deep bullpen, allowing them to use pitchers like Craig Kimbrel, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, and others in high-leverage situations. Their bullpen proved effective in shutting down the Braves’ offense.
Seranthony Dominguez made a crucial strikeout against Ronald Acuña Jr. in the fifth inning, with runners on the corners and the Phillies leading by a run. Dominguez’s performance in this crucial moment could prove to be the turning point of the series.
Orion Kerkering, who recently played in Double A, impressed in the seventh inning, retiring all three batters he faced in just eight pitches. His quick success earned him Thomson’s full trust.
The eighth inning saw another excellent performance by Matt Strahm, with the Braves putting their first two runners on base. Strahm, however, induced a flyout and started a double play to halt the Braves’ potential comeback.
The Phillies scored their first run off Spencer Strider from a Bryce Harper walk and an errant pickoff attempt that allowed Harper to move into scoring position. Bryson Stott’s single on a 0-2 count brought Harper home. Strider had a strong record on 0-2 counts before this game, making the run even more significant.
Harper extended the Phillies’ lead in the sixth inning with a home run off Strider’s slider, further silencing the crowd at Truist Park.
In the eighth inning, Sean Murphy’s catcher’s interference with J.T. Realmuto loaded the bases and allowed the Phillies to score an insurance run. The call stood upon review, causing unhappy Braves fans to throw trash onto the outfield, resulting in a delay of play.
The Phillies are looking strong, playing their best baseball at the right time. They showed their skill in the wild-card round against the Marlins and continued their impressive performance with a challenging win in this game.
Now, the Phillies are just two wins away from reaching the NLCS for the second consecutive year. After a day off, the series will resume with Game 2 on Monday night. The Phillies’ Aaron Nola will face off against the Braves’ Max Fried, whose blister on his left index finger will be closely monitored by Atlanta.
David Rodriguez brings the excitement of Major League Baseball to readers. With a deep appreciation for America’s pastime, he covers the latest MLB news, scores, and player achievements, keeping fans up to date with their favorite teams and players.