Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves: Predictions, Odds, Best Bets, Starting Lineups for NLDS Game 2 (10/9/23)
The Atlanta Braves face a must-win situation when they host the Philadelphia Phillies tonight (10/9/23) at 6:07pm for Game 2 of this best-of-five NLDS, which the Phillies lead 1-0. This game might have the best pitching matchup of the series with Phillies ace Zack Wheeler against Braves ace Max Fried.
The Braves are once again the betting with -155 moneyline odds, while the over/under is set at 8 runs. This article provides Phillies vs. Braves analysis, predictions and best bets including a recommendation to bet the under on 8 runs as the best bet in this game.
Phillies vs. Braves Prediction
Projected starting pitchers: RHP Zack Wheeler (13-6, 3.61 ERA) vs. LHP Max Fried (8-1, 2.55 ERA)
We wrote before Game 1 of this series that the Braves were in a must-win situation for that game, despite how crazy it sounds to say that about the best team in baseball during the regular season.
Our logic was that they had the best starting pitching matchup they would have in the whole series, and they needed to avoid a situation where they had to win a game in Philadelphia, where the Phillies have won 8 consecutive playoff games against NL opponents going back to last season.
Well, the Braves did not take care of business in Game 1, and now they face the daunting task of needing to beat Zack Wheeler to avoid an 0-2 hole when the series shifts to Philly. That would be another catastrophic postseason letdown for the city of Atlanta. The must-win pressure for the Braves is even higher for Game 2.
Atlanta looked out of sync at the plate in Game 1 and ended up getting shutout for just the third time all season and the first time since May 12. It was their first shutout at home in the last 187 games (the last time was August 28, 2021). They became the first team in the last 22 years to lead the league in runs and then get shutout in their first playoff game.
Braves led the majors with 947 runs scored in the regular season – 41 more than any other team.
They had been shutout twice all season – never at home and not since May 12th.
Ranger Suarez and 6(!) relievers combine to hold them scoreless in Game 1. What a performance.
— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) October 8, 2023
There are several possible explanations for their offensive struggles. Perhaps the bats were just cold after the long layoff during the Wild Card games. Perhaps manager Brian Snitker’s decision to change the lineup he used so successfully all season turned out to be a mistake. It will be very interesting to see if he keeps that lineup or reverts to the usual for Game 2. Maybe the Phillies’ pitching, especially the bullpen, was just that good in Game 1.
The most likely answer is a combination of all those factors, but it feels like the long layoff had a significant impact. Whatever the case may be, if Game 1 was already a must-win game for the Braves, then the must-win pressure for Game 2 is exponentially higher.
Wheeler was phenomenal in his two starts in Atlanta this season, pitching 8 shutout innings on May 27 and 6 innings of 1-run ball on September 18. However, he got hit hard in his one start at home on September 13, allowing 6 earned – including 3 home runs – over just 5 innings. When he faced the Braves in Atlanta in Game 2 of the NLDS last season, he allowed 3 earned runs over 6 innings in a 3-0 Braves win. Can history repeat itself?
It can if Max Fried pitches the way he has pitched in his limited outings this season, and assuming the finger blister on his throwing hand doesn’t resurface. Fried missed most of this season with a left forearm strain, but when he was available, he pitched like the ace that he is. Fried went 6-0 with a 2.79 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in his 9 starts (51-2/3 innings) since returning from the IL on August 4. That was the 10th-best ERA in the majors over that span, and his 3.06 xFIP was also 10th best.
We don’t expect the Braves’ bats to be silenced for the second consecutive game, but we do expect a low-scoring pitcher’s duel with these two aces on the mound. Even with two of the best lineups in baseball, our favorite bet in this game is the under on 8 total runs.
When it comes to picking a side, it’s hard to imagine the Braves dropping both games at home, but it’s also hard to be confident that they will win with the way the Phillies have been rolling. That pick therefore comes down to the odds, and at -160 there is not much value on the Braves’ moneyline. At plus money, the Phillies’ moneyline (+136) offers better value, so if we were picking the Braves then we would be laying the -1.5 spread to get the +135 odds.
The Braves have won NLDS Game 2 four years in a row, and each time they won by at least 2 runs and shut out their opponents. While we don’t expect another shutout, between those two options, we will lay the runs and pick the Braves to even the series at 1-1.
Phillies vs. Braves Prediction: Braves -1.5 (+135), under 8 runs (-110, best bet)
Phillies vs. Braves Odds
The Braves are the betting favorites with -162 moneyline odds at FanDuel and DraftKings as of this writing, while Caesars and BetMGM are offering the best odds right now at -155. The Phillies’ bets moneyline odds are +136 at FanDuel and DraftKings, and +125 at Caesars and BetMGM.
The Braves are laying -1.5 runs on the spread with the best odds being +135 at BetMGM. The Phillies are getting +1.5 runs with the best odds being -150 at DraftKings.
The over/under is set at 8 runs with BetMGM offering -115 odds on the over and -105 on the under, while other sportsbooks have both odds at -110.
Phillies vs. Braves Key Matchups
Here are the key matchups that could decide Phillies vs. Braves.
Max Fried vs. Phillies lefties
We expect the Braves’ bats to come alive tonight, even against a dominant pitcher like Wheeler, which is why we picked the Braves -1.5 in our Phillies vs. Braves prediction. For that pick to pay off, Fried needs to take care of business against the Phillies’ lineup, especially their powerful lefties.
Bryce Harper and Bryson Stott were the two heroes in Game 1. Harper scored the first run of the game on a Stott RBI, then smashed a solo homer for their second run of the game. Harper is 8-for-29 (.276) lifetime against Fried with a .934 OPS, but the other Phillies lefties have not had much success against him. Kyle Schwarber (3-for-20, .592 OPS) and Stott (1-for-7, .536 OPS) both have averages less than .150 and an OPS under .600 against him.
By contrast, right-handers J.T. Realmuto (13-for-38, 1.026 OPS), Trea Turner (11-for-30, .958 OPS) and Nick Castellanos (4-for-8, 1.375 OPS) all have excellent career numbers against Fried. If that trend continues tonight, then Fried cannot afford to let Harper (especially), Schwarber or Stott do any damage against him.
Phillies’ bullpen vs. Braves
Phillies manager Rob Thomsen was ultra-aggressive with the way he managed the bullpen in Game 1, making the controversial (at the time) decision to pull starter Ranger Suárez after 3-2/3 innings even though he was pitching well. Knowing he had an off day the next day and for 2 of the next 3 days, Thomsen chose to play the matchups with his deep staff of relievers, and clearly it paid off with the shutout victory.
While we expect Wheeler to have a longer leash than Suárez did, it will be interesting to see how patient Thomsen will be if Wheeler gets into trouble early in the game. With another off day tomorrow, he could deploy a similar strategy to try to take a 2-0 stranglehold on the series.
Part of the reason for Thomsen’s strategy in Game 1 is that his analytics show the Braves’ dominant hitters are least effective against high heat (upper 90s, 97+). Suárez does not have that kind of fastball, but the Phillies have multiple relievers that do. If they can be similarly effective late in this game, that could swing the matchup in their favor for the second game in a row.
Phillies vs. Braves Starting Lineups (Projected)
Phillies Starting Lineup
DH Kyle Schwarber (L)
SS Trea Turner (R)
1B Bryce Harper (L)
3B Alec Bohm (R)
2B Bryson Stott (L)
C J.T. Realmuto (R)
RF Nick Castellanos (R)
LF Cristian Pache (R)
CF Johan Rojas (R)
Braves Starting Lineup
RF Ronald Acuña Jr. (R)
3B Austin Riley (R)
1B Matt Olson (L)
2B Ozzie Albies (S)
DH Marcell Ozuna (R)
CF Michael Harris (L)
SS Orlando Arcia (R)
C Travis D’Arnaud (R)
LF Eddie Rosario (L)