Braves not focused on the external storylines of the NLDS against the Phillies

The Braves take on the Phillies in the NLDS. Can they avenge last season's 3-1 NLDS loss? Hear from Spencer Strider and Austin Riley.

Braves! Phillies! The rematch! Atlanta seeks revenge!

The National League Division Series between the Braves and Phillies is a highly-anticipated matchup between two powerhouses. There are tons of intriguing narratives and storylines.

But to those playing, those are only that – narratives and storylines.

“I think more than anything, people (on the outside) are probably more excited that we’re playing,” A.J. Minter said. “I mean, we’re entertainers at the end of the day. But we don’t even really think about last year. Yeah, we wanna get revenge and beat them, and we felt like we had the team to win a World Series again last year, and we just ran into a really good team. They earned (their way) to be there.

“Then again, we’re just excited, just to face the Phillies. It’s gonna be special, it’s gonna be electric. The atmosphere is gonna be really exciting and good. We just want to give the people what they want.”

But it does say something about the Braves that they’ve generated so much buzz. They’ve had a historic regular season. The 2023 club could be the best in franchise history. It might feature the top offense in MLB history, depending on how you choose to debate it.

In the baseball world, all eyes are on this series. Yes, there are other exciting matchups. But this one, which begins Saturday at Truist Park, has probably been hyped more than any other, if only going by social media.

And it makes sense, with the Braves having an eye-popping season.

“We’re the team to beat,” Minter said. “We know that. People are coming for us. I feel like we deserve to be in the spotlight. We’re an exciting team. I feel like we give the people home runs and excitement, and give them everything they wanna see. We deserve to be in this situation, and we know it’s a lot of responsibility that comes with it.”

On Friday, Braves manager Brian Snitker and his players were complimentary of the Phillies, who finished in second place after winning 90 games – 14 fewer than Atlanta. The Phillies handled the Marlins in the Wild Card Series. They were postseason darlings a year ago.

Their offense poses a real threat to the Braves, who have rotation questions. Max Fried is dealing with a blister and Charlie Morton won’t pitch in the series. The Phillies’ ace, Zack Wheeler, can dominate. Their bullpen features good arms.

“It’s a good team, an experienced team,” Snitker said. “They’ve made a lot of good moves. I think they’re even better than they were last year, quite honestly. We played them all this year, and looking at them now. And it’s going to be a great series against two really good ball clubs.”

The Braves certainly remember what happened last year. If it motivates them now, they wouldn’t say it.

“I feel like we’re always a motivated team,” Ronald Acuña Jr. said through interpreter Franco García. “What happened last year is in the past. So our goal stays the same, just go out there and win.”

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Acuña is ready for a postseason run

Two years ago, Acuña was injured while the Braves won the World Series. He tore his ACL months before that.

He didn’t feel fully healthy last season.

Now, he’s at his best.

“He’s probably the one guy that’s coming through his skin right now to get this thing started, because I talked to him, now you’re going to get that opportunity because he’s whole and he’s healthy,” Snitker said. “And like I say, even coming off a great year like he did, I know he just can’t wait to get this thing started and be able to perform in that platform.”

On Friday, Acuña said he feels like he did in 2019, when he played without restrictions. He takes comfort in knowing he’s healthy.

“Thankfully, right now I feel like I’m 100 percent back to being normal,” Acuña said. “I’d be lying if I said that I thought that I would ever be able to get back to 100 percent. Last year, I felt like I was saying all the time that, yeah, I’m 100 percent, I’m 100 percent, but I feel like that was just something I was telling myself just to -- you know, for my mind really.”

What will make the difference?

In a best-of-five series between two terrific teams, what will be the difference-maker?

“The little things,” Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “Not giving up extra outs. Not giving up outs on the bases. So I would say the little things. Especially with how dynamic both offenses are, you give them an extra out – say it’s a runner on first, they get an extra out, boom, three-run homer and it just totally changes everything. I’d just say the little things, more than anything.”

“People who make the least amount of mistakes – that’s what it comes down to,” Minter said. “And the one big hit. Everyone’s gonna have a big hit in a game, and it just comes down to who’s gonna get it? Obviously, I’m biased, and I tell everyone the bullpen is gonna win you a World Series. Not to put any more pressure on the bullpen, because our job is to keep it close, because we know how dangerous our hitters are, how relentless they are. Just keep it close, don’t give up any crooked numbers, go out and be aggressive, and see what happens.”

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