The Phillies lost the season series against the Marlins by a slim 7-6 margin, though Philadelphia outscored Miami 64-55 in those 13 games.
When they take the field Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park to open the best-of-three National League Wild Card Series, the Phillies will be looking to start another march to the World Series. The Marlins? They’ll be hoping to become this year’s version of last year’s Phillies.
Let’s see how these clubs match up position by position:
J.T. Realmuto had a solid season at the plate (.762 OPS, 20 home runs), but his importance to the Phillies remains his work behind the dish. The 32-year-old remains one of the best in the business when it comes to blocking pitches, and unlike last year, when he made the first postseason appearance of his career, he now knows what it takes to get to the World Series.
Marlins catcher Nick Fortes actually ranked slightly higher than Realmuto in blocks above average, but he was well below average at the plate (54 OPS+), posting a .562 OPS with six home runs in 320 plate appearances. This will be the first postseason appearance for the 26-year-old, who serves as the personal catcher for Jesús Luzardo and Braxton Garrett, Miami’s starters for Games 1 and 2.
Bryce Harper had little trouble making an impact after returning from Tommy John surgery, posting a .900 OPS with 21 homers in 126 games. He began playing first base in late July, starting 36 games at the position. Last year’s NL Championship Series MVP slashed .349/.414/.746 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 games during the Phillies’ pennant run last postseason.
Josh Bell had a positive impact on the Marlins’ lineup after being dealt to Miami at the Trade Deadline, posting an .818 OPS with 11 home runs in 53 games. Last year marked Bell’s postseason debut, when he hit two home runs with a .715 OPS in 10 games for the Padres, who were bounced in the NLCS by the Phillies.
Bryson Stott showed improvement at the plate during his sophomore season, boosting his OPS from .653 to .748 with 15 home runs, 62 RBIs and 31 stolen bases in 151 games. Stott’s 16 outs above average ranked in the 99th percentile, contributing strong defense up the middle for the Phillies. He struggled during his first postseason, hitting .136 with a .482 OPS in 16 games last fall.
Luis Arraez flirted with the .400 mark for nearly three months, hitting .401 through his first 72 games this season. The 26-year-old did capture the NL batting title with a .354 mark, the highest in MLB in a full season since 2010. He also joined DJ LeMahieu as the only players to win batting crowns in both leagues, and he’s the first to do so in back-to-back seasons. This will be the third postseason appearance for Arraez, who ranked at the top of the league in strikeout percentage, whiff percentage and xBA but was last in the league with a -14 OAA.
Trea Turner’s first season after inking a 10-year, $300 million deal was a bit of a roller coaster at times, though he belted 26 home runs with 30 steals and a .778 OPS in 155 games. The 30-year-old will be making his sixth postseason appearance, having won a World Series ring with the Nationals in 2019, though his career production in October has been below his standards (.614 OPS, three homers in 197 plate appearances).
Jon Berti started only 52 games at shortstop for Miami this season, but Joey Wendle’s subpar season has opened the door for Berti, who had a .751 OPS in 422 plate appearances during the regular season, including a mark over 1.200 in September. This will be the third postseason appearance for Berti, who went 3-for-17 (.176) with two stolen bases in five games in 2020. Garrett Hampson, who is a better defender, could also fit into the mix, though Berti’s strong finish will likely give him the edge.
Alec Bohm had his best overall season in 2023, setting career highs with 20 homers, 97 RBIs and 31 doubles while posting his highest on-base and slugging percentages in a full season. The 27-year-old split time between first and third base, displaying better defense at the hot corner (1 OAA) than he did at first (-6 OAA). Bohm had a .654 OPS with one home run in 17 games last postseason, the first of his career.
Jake Burger was acquired by the Marlins at the Trade Deadline, providing a spark to the lineup by slashing .303/.355/.505 with nine homers and 28 RBIs in 53 games. The 27-year-old slugger swatted 34 homers between the White Sox and Marlins, ranking in the top 10 percentile in both hard-hit and barrel percentages. Defense was another story; Burger’s -3 OAA was in the bottom five percent of the league.
Cristian Pache will likely get the chance to start ahead of Brandon Marsh in the Wild Card Series, as the Marlins are throwing a pair of left-handers in the first two games. Pache, a former top prospect in Atlanta and Oakland, had 95 plate appearances over 48 games with Philly, but his best asset is his glove, which can be a difference-maker in the outfield. The 24-year-old appeared in the postseason in 2020 and ’21 for the Braves, going 4-for-22 with one home run.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. missed being a member of this year’s 20/20 club by one homer, finishing the year with 19 homers and 22 steals despite playing only 97 games. Chisolm, who played only one game during the Marlins’ 2020 postseason, had 4 OAA this season and ranked in the top 25 percent of the league in arm strength and sprint speed.
Slight advantage: Marlins
Nick Castellanos belted 29 home runs with a .787 OPS and a 113 OPS+ in 157 games, and while strikeouts continue to be an issue for the 31-year-old -- he whiffed 185 times -- he ripped lefties to the tune of a .930 OPS. This will be the fourth postseason for Castellanos, who has a .188 career average (16-for-85) in 22 games with one home run -- which he hit in 2014 for the Tigers.
Jesús Sánchez hits the ball hard, ranking in the top quarter of the league in both hard-hit and barrel percentages, but he also swings and misses often, ranking in the lower third in strikeout, chase and whiff percentages. Sánchez’s defensive range is average, but he possesses one of the strongest arms in the league, which he hopes to show off in his first postseason.
Kyle Schwarber’s 47 home runs, 104 RBIs, 126 walks and .817 OPS were certainly part of the reason the Phillies earned the first Wild Card spot, but the 30-year-old also hit .197 and led the league with 215 strikeouts, taking the “three true outcomes” concept to an extreme. Schwarber brings a wealth of postseason experience -- he has played into October seven times since 2015 -- hitting 15 home runs with an .899 OPS in 52 career games.
Jorge Soler bounced back from a disappointing 2022 with the Marlins, crushing 36 home runs with an .853 OPS in 137 games. The 31-year-old will be making his fourth postseason appearance, having won World Series rings with the 2016 Cubs (he and Schwarber were teammates) and the 2021 Braves, earning MVP honors in the 2021 Fall Classic. In 26 career postseason games, Soler has six homers and a 1.110 OPS.
Slight advantage: Phillies
Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola will take the ball in Games 1 and 2 for the Phillies, who send out two pitchers who combined for 11 starts last postseason. Wheeler (13-6, 3.61 ERA in 2023) had a 3.00 ERA in three no-decisions against Miami this year, while Nola (12-9, 4.46 ERA in ‘23) didn’t fare as well, going 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts against the division foes.
Jesús Luzardo and Braxton Garrett are slated to start the first two games for the Marlins, who had the third-best rotation ERA in the NL. Luzardo (10-9, 3.63 ERA in 2023) will be making his third career postseason start, having allowed seven earned runs over 7 2/3 innings in a pair of starts for Oakland in 2020. Garrett (9-7, 3.66 ERA in ‘23) will be making his postseason debut.
Slight advantage: Phillies
The Phillies’ bullpen has been an issue for the club for several years, but the unit ranked third in the NL this season with a 3.60 ERA, getting solid seasons from José Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel, Jeff Hoffman, Matt Strahm and Seranthony Domínguez. Kimbrel and Alvarado serve as a 1-2 punch at the end of the game, while the others -- along with Gregory Soto, Orion Kerkering and Michael Lorenzen -- will be available as needed.
The Marlins boast four lefties in their bullpen, including Andrew Nardi and closer Tanner Scott, who will be the ones Miami turns to with a late-inning lead. Scott’s 104 strikeouts led all NL relievers, while Steven Okert, A.J. Puk and postseason veteran David Robertson will also have key roles if the Marlins need innings from their bullpen.
The Marlins won four of six on the Phillies’ home field this season, but many of Miami’s players will be getting their first taste of postseason baseball. The Phillies have waited 11 months for their chance to return to the World Series and finish the job, but after getting to the Fall Classic as a No. 6 seed themselves, they won’t take the Marlins lightly.
Phillies in two