Home-field isn’t Phillies’ only advantage in NLDS Game 3

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Home-field isn’t Phillies’ only advantage in NLDS Game 3 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

ATLANTA — The Phillies didn’t want to return with the sort of split they achieved in Atlanta, but they’ll have an advantage beyond home-field in Game 3 Wednesday night.

They’ll start Aaron Nola, who has a 3.86 ERA in six career playoff games, four of which the Phillies won.

The Braves’ options appear to be either Bryce Elder, AJ Smith-Shawver or an opener in a bullpen game.

Atlanta would have started Charlie Morton in this spot if he was healthy. The soon-to-be 40-year-old was placed on the 15-day injured list on September 24 with finger inflammation. The Braves had to submit their NLDS roster the day before he was eligible for activation.

Despite walking a career-high 83 batters, Morton had another solid season with a 3.64 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 163 innings. Unlike Elder and Smith-Shawver, he has tons of playoff experience — 80 innings worth. One of those starts was against the Phillies in Game 4 of the 2022 NLDS and Morton lasted only two innings.

Elder and Smith-Shawver are both right-handed rookies who haven’t experienced playoff baseball yet. Elder was a big piece of the Braves’ first-half success but struggled mightily after the All-Star break with a 5.75 ERA in his final 14 starts.

Smith-Shawver made five starts this summer and allowed seven homers and 14 runs in 23 innings.

Nola was not consistently reliable from outing to outing this season, but the Phillies will certainly feel more comfortable with their Game 3 pitching plan than the Braves. His last two starts against the Braves have been strong — two runs over six innings with eight strikeouts on September 20 and six scoreless on June 22.

“We’ve got guys that have had a lot of history with him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Tuesday. “I know he was really good the last time he pitched against us. He’s, again, one of the top pitchers in baseball. Just the assortment that he has, how he can extend games. We’ve had a few guys that have done OK off him. He’s done OK off us, too.

“He’s a tough ride because he’s got so many weapons, and he throws strikes. And he can command his fastball.”

Elder shut the Phillies out over seven innings on June 22 but didn’t make it out of the fourth inning of his start against them on September 20, walking five and allowing two longballs to Nick Castellanos.

Smith-Shawver, who has more swing-and-miss, has never faced the Phils.

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