Philly had no trouble dispatching the Marlins in a Wild Card sweep, with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola throwing a combined 13.2 innings of one-run ball and the offense grinding down Miami’s pitching staff until it finally broke. The Phils had some ups and downs this year, but Citizens Bank Park remains a raucous place to play and they’re starting to look like the reigning NL champs.
The Braves, meanwhile, had quite literally one of the best offenses the sport has ever seen, with two bonafide MVP candidates in Ronald Acuna Jr. and Matt Olson pacing them to the best record in baseball and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. As if this historic division rivalry needed any more juice, you know Atlanta will be motivated to get the bad taste of last season’s NLDS loss to Philly out of their mouths.
Let’s go over odds to win the series on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Phillies vs. Braves odds
The Braves, to no one’s surprise, enter this series as -165 favorites, with Philly coming in at +140. But who should you be putting your money on? As good as Atlanta has been, I’m not sure it’s worth playing it safe here given how little juice you’ll get from a Braves bet.
For you to back a -165 favorite, you need to be very confident — why else would you risk so much for so little reward? — and despite Atlanta’s prodigious offense, it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine them losing this series if you watched them down the stretch this season. The Braves went just 16-13 over their last 29 games, and their pitching was genuinely a problem: Atlanta had the sixth-worst starters’ ERA in baseball in September at 5.77. Some of that was certainly easing up on the gas with the division and No. 1 seed more or less wrapped up, but there’s still real cause for concern here; Spencer Strider remains prone to random blowups, Max Fried and Charlie Morton have spent the last couple of weeks on the IL and Bryce Elder had a 5.11 ERA in the second half.
Of course, the Braves can outslug just about anybody, but they might actually have to in this series, and that’s a risky way to play — a couple cold days, or a run of bad BABIP luck, and all of a sudden you’re going home. That’s especially true given how dangerous Philly’s pitching staff is looking right now. Wheeler is as good as it gets, and Nola turned back the clock with his dominant Wild Card effort. But that’s just the tip of the spear: The Phils have a ton of bulk depth (Ranger Suarez, Taijuan Walker and Cristopher Sanchez are all viable options to start a game or piggyback off of each other in whatever combination Rob Thomson thinks best) and a bullpen so deep that they sailed through the first round hardly having to use legit high-leverage options like Seranthony Dominguez, Jeff Hoffman and Matt Strahm. When Orion Kerkering is your 12th arm, you’re in pretty good shape, and it’s not hyperbole to argue that Philly has the best bullpen remaining in the postseason.
Orion Kerkering, Disgusting 88mph Sweeper. pic.twitter.com/scbeyokKHD— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 5, 2023
All of which is to say that Philly has the pitching to keep themselves in this series rather than getting buried by an avalanche of Atlanta homers, and if that’s the case it remains to be seen whether this Braves staff can hold up under playoff pressure. Again, this isn’t to argue that Atlanta shouldn’t be favored, or isn’t the more talented team; they should, and they are. But the Phillies are very live dogs here, and we know they won’t be scared of this team; they aren’t scared of anyone, and while they lost the season series five games to eight, those games were plenty competitive. (Plus, again, we know what happened the last time these two teams met in the postseason.) That makes them the more worthy risk here at +140.
Prediction: Phillies +140