On the Braves, Schumaker said: “Obviously the Braves are – we didn’t really know how to pitch them, honestly. I don’t think the league did. We were trying everything, and it starts with the top of that middle of the order. There’s just – they make you pay when you make a little bit of a mistake.”
The Braves were MLB’s best offense and arguably the greatest in history, even tying the single-season home run record with 307. It led the Braves to 104 victories and their sixth consecutive NL East title. The division has produced three postseason participants in each of the past two postseasons.
Because of their talent, and the fact they eliminated the Braves a year ago, many believe the 90-win Phillies have a legitimate shot at another upset. One primary reason: aces Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, who combined to allow one run over 13-2/3 innings over two games against the Marlins. Schumaker, who was a coach on the Cardinals last year when the dual aces helped the Phillies eliminate them, said he’ll be seeing that pair in his nightmares.
“The Nola-Wheeler combo right there was as good as you’re going to find in the major leagues, and their back-end bullpen with (Jose) Alvarado and a playoff-tested (Craig) Kimbrel, and (Gregory) Soto was throwing 102 mile-an-hour sinkers, whatever it was, they are really tough. And they’re coached really, really well.”
The Braves went 9-4 against the 84-win Marlins, but they won nine of 10 before taking their foot off the gas during a late September series sweep in Miami right after the team clinched the division. The Phillies were 6-7 against the Marlins before sweeping the Wild Card Series.
The looming NLDS is expected to be close. Schumaker said he’ll be tuning in.
“It’s going to come down to bullpen and starting pitching,” he said. “I think it always does. That’s no different with the Braves and the Phillies. It comes down to starting pitching and bullpen, and it’s going to be a really good series because they’re both coached so well and they’re so talented that I’m looking forward to watching it.”
The NLDS begins Saturday at Truist Park. The Braves-Phillies winner will face either the Dodgers or Diamondbacks in the best-of-seven NL Championship Series.