Last month, after Atlanta polished off its third series win over the Phillies in as many tries, I wrote:
The bottom line is this: The Phillies, if nothing else, have made themselves relevant after one month of baseball, but if they wish to remain that way beyond the Sixers’ playoff run and into the summer months, the offense needs to wake up and they need to start handling their shit against teams like the Braves.
At the time, “teams like the Braves” meant average ones that possess less talent than the Phillies. Atlanta was a surprising 16-11 and a team seemingly playing above its head. Fast forward three weeks to this morning ahead of what is arguably the most meaningful series played at Citizens Bank Park in nearly seven years, and, well, it appears the Braves are very much for real. They are good, and they are feeling it right now:
They enter tonight’s series opener between the current top two teams in the NL East with a 28-17 record, a plus-65 run differential, and having already spent 20 days this season atop the division.
What I wrote back in April still technically remains true—the Phillies do need to starting handling their shit against teams like the Braves. It’s just for a very different reason. Atlanta is not the hapless opponent that I initially suspected would willingly help pad the Phillies’ win total. They are instead a team that has, to this point, outpaced the Phillies while mastering them in the process. Will the Braves ultimately prove to be the 100-win juggernaut that they are currently on pace to become? That seems ambitious, but they are most certainly not a cute ,early-season feel good story that will slowly drift into irrelevance by summer’s end.