Admit it, you were going to let your sports fan anxiety consume you no matter who the Phillies Wild Card Series opponent was going to be, imagining all kinds of scenarios where the opponent, no matter who it would have been, would find a way to pull off an upset.

Once you learned the opponent would be the Miami Marlins, that anxiety went into overdrive.

Your internal monologue probably went something like this:

“Why did it have to be these guys? They give us fits all the time! They won the season series. They were the primary reason we missed the playoffs in 2019. And 2020. AND 2021! We can never beat this team. They’re the underdog story in waiting. Whatever devil magic they seem to conjure against the Phillies is going to make them immune to the mystique of Red October. We’re doomed!”

O.K. Maybe it wasn’t internal. Maybe those words escaped your lips. Maybe you tried to find others who agreed with you so you could create a pop-up support group.

Whatever the case might be, when the Phillies and Marlins commence tonight at 8 p.m., your Nervous Nellie group chat will be ablaze with concern with every pitch that doesn’t go your way. Your TwiXter feed will be lighting up with the anti-everything trolls who relish in your jitters. And your own self-created doubt will make tie your stomach in knots for the better part of three hours.

That’s baseball. More specifically, that’s playoff baseball.

Embrace it. Love it. Let it fuel you for as long as the Phillies are part of it, which could be as few as two days and as many as 33, and enjoy the ride:

In the interest of giving you a prescription to manage that feeling of uneasiness, take two of these and call me in the morning:

  • With the exception of at second base and maybe centerfield, where the Marlins could have a slight advantage, the Phillies have better players at the other six positions on the field, designated hitter, starting pitching staff, and bullpen. With the lone possible exception of starting pitching, none of them are close.
  • The Phillies may have lost the season series to the Marlins 7-6, but they outscored them 65-55 in those games. For all the worry that that the Phillies won’t be able to hit the Marlins pitching, they averaged five runs per game.
  • The Marlins are missing their two top starters in the playoffs, as Sandy Alcantara and Eury Perez are out with injuries. Their best hitter, N.L. Batting champion Luis Arraez, has had just one at bat in the last 10 days while he has been nursing an ankle injury.
  • The Marlins’ best righthanded relief option is David Robertson. Think about that for a second.
  • Marlins players have more playoff experience than you might think, but not much in the way of success. Jorge Soler won the World Series with the Braves in 2021, and was a monster in the playoffs. Robertson won the World Series with the Yankees in 2009 and went back to the World Series with the Phillies last year. Johnny Cueto first appeared in the playoffs against the Phillies – losing the clinching game of the 2010 NLDS when he was with the Reds. He later won a World Series with the Royals, although he’s been purely mediocre in the post season with a 4.54 ERA over eight career starts. And Yuli Gurriel won two titles with Houston, but has just a pedestrian .711 OPS in 326 career postseason ABs. The rest of the Marlins playoff experience includes 17 ABs in the five games over two seasons by Arraez when he was with the Twins (all losses), A few relief appearances by J.T. Chargois for Tampa Bay in a 2021 ALDS loss to the Red Sox, one at bat by Garrett Hampson for the Rockies in the 2018 NLDS, two ugly starts, and one extended relief appearance, by Jesus Luzardo for Oakland in 2019 and 2020, A miserable three-year playoff run, which included a trip tot he World Series, for Joey Wendle when he was with Tampa from 2019-2021 (he hit .194 in the playoffs), Ryan Weathers, who had one relief appearance for the Padres in the 2020 NLDS, and a couple of guys who made appearances in the bastardized, Covid-19 shortened 2020 playoffs for the Marlins –  Jon Berti (.176 Avg) and Jazz Chisholm (3 AB).
  • Almost everywhere you look, baseball “experts” are picking the Phillies. Three ESPN writers. 19-of-20 writers at the Athletic. All three writers at Sports Illustrated. All three writers at Ben Verlander (yes, Justin’s bro, in case you didn’t know) on the Flippin’ Bats podcast. And yes, both Bob and I on Crossed Up.

Oh, and maybe the Phillies hype video will help quell some concerns (look for my cameo) –

Now, the big thing that everyone is talking about from the Marlins’ standpoint is their abundance of left-handed pitching. While it’s true that there was a time this season where facing lefties was a cause for concern for the Phillies, in the end, it didn’t end up being a problem.

They ended up slashing .256/.327/.452 for a .778 OPS against lefties this season, which was seventh-best in all of baseball.

It shouldn’t matter that the Phillies are facing two lefties in Luzardo and Braxton Garrett in Games 1 and 2. Nor should it matter that Miami deploys four lefties from their bullpen (closer Tanner Scott, setup man Andrew Nardi, and middle relievers A.J. Puk and Steven Okert).

If we’re being fair to the Marlins, and we need to be, these guys are decent pitchers, and when they’re on, they are tough to hit.

Trea Turner is 0-for-8 with a walk lifetime against Luzardo. Bryce Harper is 1-for-9 against him with five strikeouts. Alec Bohm is 1-for-12 with four strikeouts. J.T. Realmuto is 1-for-13 with a walk and five strikeouts. That doesn’t sound promising, but it’s a small sample.

On the other side, Kyle Schwarber has homered off Luzardo:

Nick Castellanos is 2-for-7 with two walks. Bryson Stott is 4-for-6, Edmundo Sosa is 3-for-6 and Cristian Pache, who is likely to start ahead of Brandon Marsh in Game 1, is 2-for-4. Marsh is 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against Luzardo.

It’s certainly a mixed bag based on a bunch of small samples, but if you want to look at more telling numbers, look at how right handed hitters have fared against the Marlins’ lefties for the entire season:

  • Luzardo – .248/.313/.432; .745 OPS, 19 HR, 58 XBH
  • Garrett – .261/.300/.448; .749OPS, 17HR, 52 XBH

For the Phillies to be successful Monday and Tuesday, they’re going to need their righties to be difference makers.

Sure, Harper is on another level in the playoffs. We saw that last year. And yes, Stott has vastly improved against lefties this season and Schwarber has gone yard against them 15 times this season. But if the Phillies are going to make quick work of the Marlins, it’s going to need to be the right handers who come through.

Turner, Castellanos, Bohm, and Realmuto especially are going to be the key hitters in this Wild Card round. The Phillies will need them to get after Luzardo and Garrett.

Pache will start, but I anticipate both Marsh and Weston Wilson, who made a semi-surprise appearance on the Wild Card roster in lieu of an extra pitcher (Michael Lorenzen was left off the roster), will see at bats and playing time in the outfield.

Wilson will likely be called upon against one of the four lefty relievers as a pinch hitter if the Phillies are behind or in need of a big hit. Marsh will likely bat for either Pache or Johan Rojas against a righty reliever with the Phillies trailing. If they’re ahead, the Phillies will likely stick with both Pache and Rojas because of their elite defensive abilities.

Meanwhile, on the hitting front, the Marlins are much less effective against righties than lefties. For the season the Marlins slashed .253/.312/.400 for a .712 OPS against righties while slashing .280/.332/.423 for a .755 OPS against lefties.

As such, the Phillies aren’t only going to lean on Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola as starters, but the right handed arms in the pen will be in the spotlight. Specifically Craig Kimbrel at the back end and Jeff Hoffman and Orion Kerkering in the setup roles, and even Seranthony Dominguez, likely in an earlier appearance.

It’s also because of this imbalance that if a Game 3 is needed, the Phillies could consider Taijuan Walker as a starter, and not Ranger Suarez or Cristopher Sanchez, both of whom could be deployed out of the bullpen as Swiss Army knife-types.

Ultimately, the Phillies are the better team. They have more thump in the lineup, better pitchers, and possibly the deepest bullpen in the opening round. The Marlins are a good team and they could be annoying for a few innings in these games, but I’m banking on experience, depth and an ability to matchup better for crucial plate appearances later in games than the Marlins can.

I said it on the podcast, and I’ll say it again here. Phillies win in two. Save all your anxiety for the next round.