Being an experienced team doesn’t guarantee anything.
But it certainly helps.
The five-time National League East and defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves will enter the NL Division Series Tuesday with an edge in experience when they host the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1.
The sixth-seeded Phillies swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card round as the Braves awaited their opponent.
“I think experience in the playoffs is huge,” Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson said. “This is the fifth year of us doing this. You start to understand how to slow down certain moments. You start to understand what it’s going to take in certain moments to be successful.”
While the Braves own home-field advantage in this series, they’re well aware of how talented their opponent is in the Phillies.
“I think the Phillies are hitting on all cylinders,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “They’ve got everybody back. Their starting pitching is really good. Their circle of trust in that bullpen — they worked through some issues there. I think that’s a really good bullpen. And they’re playing really, really well now.”
The Braves will hand the ball to Max Fried (14-7, 2.48 ERA regular season) on Tuesday. He has a 4-4 record with a 3.74 ERA in 18 career appearances (12 starts) against Philadelphia.
“You know that every single team you’re playing this time of year is an amazing team and they’re really well-rounded,” Fried said. “You’ve got to bring your A game.”
Ronald Acuna Jr. is expected to start on Tuesday, but he was excused from Monday’s workout due to a family matter.
The Braves will play this entire series without Ozzie Albies, who’s recovering from a fractured right pinky finger.
The Phillies earned a playoff spot for the first time since 2011 and picked up their first series victory since ’10.
That’s thanks in large part to Rob Thomson.
Thomson replaced Joe Girardi after a 22-29 start and went 65-46 the rest of the way. Early Tuesday afternoon, the Phillies lifted the interim status and signed Thomson to a two-year contract extension through the ’24 season.
Thomson became only the fourth manager to take over a team that was at least seven games under .500 and lead it to the playoffs.
What changed with the managerial move?
“He’s just a very good person. He let us be ourselves,” Game 1 starter Ranger Suarez said of Thomson. “There’s a lot of freedom that we feel when we’re around him. And the most important thing is that we’re comfortable because we can be ourselves.”
“This is the only place I want to be moving forward,” Thomson added.
Bryce Harper launched a mammoth home run in Game 2 to help clinch the series against the Cardinals. After missing 52 games with a broken left thumb, Harper scuffled down the stretch with three home runs in 35 games since his return. But the reigning NL Most Valuable Player rallied in the postseason to help cement his first career series victory.
“Hopefully the more I go, the more comfortable I get,” Harper said. “Everybody knows I’m not being myself right now. But each day, I feel good. I feel better each day.”
The Phillies will hand the ball to Suarez (10-7, 3.65 ERA regular season) for the first time in the playoffs this season. Suarez has a career record of 2-2 with a 3.21 ERA in 15 appearances (six starts) vs. the Braves.
The Phillies were 3-6 at Atlanta during the regular season. The Braves won 11 of 19 games on the season series.
–Field Level Media