On Sunday night, the Philladelphia Phillies completed a sweep of the Atlanta Braves with a 5-1 victory. Sweeping the reigning National League East champions is certainly a big statement from the new-look Phillies but how much should we read into this one-sided opening series?
The story of the series was the Phillies’ explosive offense. All four of the newly acquired veterans played an important role in scoring 23 runs across the three games, with Bryce Harper hitting his first two homeruns. However, due to the Braves’ injury problems, this series was the perfect oppurtunity for the Phillies new lineup.
With Kevin Gausman and Mike Foltynewicz on the injured list, the Braves had rookies starting two of the three games. Gausman and Foltynewicz likely would have been the number one and two starters. On top of this two of the Atlanta’s best relief pitchers, Darren O’Day and A.J. Minter were also unavailable. A large proportion of the runs scored by the Phillies were against relievers that may not have been in the game if the Braves had a healthy roster.
Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson made their first and second major league starts respectively, in the place of. With these starts coming in the opening series on the road and against their divisional rivals, you can see how the pressure may have affected their performances. It is safe to assume that Wright and Wilson, along with the Braves’ other young pitchers, will imporve as the season progresses.
From the Phillies’ point of view the players expected to perform met expectations while most of the weak spots on the roster did little to change people’s minds about them. Specifically, Obdubel Herrera only picked up one hit and had some poor at bats in crucial situations while Nick Pivetta struggled in his first start.
This opening series may have been the biggest the gap between the Braves and Phillies will be all season and there is good reason for that. The Braves’ injury problems meant that this was not a fair test of how the two teams will compare as the season goes on. We also did not learn much about the Phillies as the veteran additions of Jean Segura, Andrew Mccutchen, Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto were all viewed as guaranteed performers before the season.
While the Phillies roster is mostly made up of players at their peak, the Braves have a lot of young players that should improve as they gain more experience. The combination of Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies at the top of the order has already been productive but it is difficult to forget that they are entering their first and second full seasons respectively. This suggests that there is still room for improvement. The upcoming young pitchers for the Braves, combined with the upside in the lineup means that the Braves could be one of the best teams in baseball by the end of the 2019 season.
One thing that we can be certain of is that the next meeting between these two teams, in mid June, will be much closer.