The Phillies and Padres are both much different teams than the last time they met originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Three National League teams have won 100-plus games this season, but it’s the Phillies and Padres, winners of 87 and 89, who remain the last two.
Both teams heated up at the perfect time to win on the road in the wild card round and knock off their division winner in the division series, and now meet in the NLCS, which begins Tuesday night at 8:03 ET at Petco Park.
The Padres start their ace, Yu Darvish. The Phillies have yet to announce their starting pitcher, but it should be Zack Wheeler, who will pitch on an extra day of rest. The Phils are in line to start Wheeler and Aaron Nola in the first two games of the best-of-seven series.
Darvish faced the Phillies twice this season when the teams met in mid-May in Philly and in late June in San Diego. He pitched seven scoreless innings to beat them for the first time, then allowed three runs over six and the next nine strikeouts.
The Phillies won that second Darvish start by leaving San Diego with a series victory a day after Bryce Harper broke his thumb at the hands of Blake Snell. It seemed at the time that Harper’s injury might derail the Phils’ season, but they went 32-20 in the games he missed.
The teams look much different since their last series ended on June 26. Didi Gregorius was in the cleanup spot and Odubel Herrera hit sixth against Darvish on the day. A third of the Padre’s at-bats went to players no longer on their roster.
The Padres were the most active team in the league leading up to the trade deadline, acquiring Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Nationals, Josh Hader from the Brewers and Brandon Drury from the Reds. They have a deep lineup with forwards that can hurt you from anywhere.
They faced three left-handed starters — Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Anderson — in the series against the Dodgers, so it’s a different look for them to start the NLCS against the Phillies.
This could be the lineup for San Diego’s first game:
1. Jurickson Profar, LF (S)
2. Juan Soto, RF (L)
3. Manny Machado, 3B
4. Josh Bell, DH (S)
5. Jake Cronenworth, 2B (L)
6. Brandon Drury, 1B
7. Ha-Seong Kim, SS
8. Trent Grisham, CF (L)
9. Austin Nola, C
Grisham, who hit just .184 in the regular season, was the Padres’ hottest hitter in the playoffs. He is 8 for 21 (.389) with three homers and has reached base in 14 of 27 plate appearances. Nola also did damage from the bottom of the order, going 8 for 21 with a pair of doubles.
Bell, Drury, Kim and Wil Myers are a combined 11 for 83 (.133) with 34 strikeouts.
Hader was money in the playoffs with a four-game scoreless streak. He put just two of 15 batters on base and struck out seven. One of the Phillies’ many amazing late-inning comebacks came against Hader on June 7 when he was still with the Brewers. Both Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling took him deep for his first two earned runs of the season.
Thus began a nearly three-month stretch in which Hader allowed 28 runs and eight homers in 21 innings for a 12.00 ERA. His opponents hit .362 in that span. He was traded to the Padres in the middle of it, but didn’t return until the final few weeks of the regular season. He’s on his way now, having pitched 13⅔ consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.
San Diego’s most frequent reliever so far in the postseason has been rookie right-hander Robert Suarez, who had a 2.27 ERA during the regular season. He pitched six shutout innings in the playoffs. Like Hader, his fastball averages 98 mph. Suarez also has an above-average changeup to beat lefties, who hit just .181 against him with no home runs. While most teams would use left-handed relief to face Kyle Schwarber or Bryce Harper late in games, the Padres could still use Suarez in such a spot in the eighth inning. He faced Freddie Freeman and Cody Bellinger twice in the NLDS, and last week he faced Max Muncy and Jeff McNeil.
They have a lefty specialist in Tim Hill, who faced Schwarber and Harper once each, retiring Schwarber and walking Harper. He doesn’t miss many at-bats.
In the rotation, it’s possible the Padres could elect to start left-hander Sean Manaeo instead of right-hander Mike Clevinger. Manaea had a rough end to the regular season and didn’t start in these playoffs, while Clevinger struggled against the Dodgers in his one start.
After Darvish, it looks like Blake Snell will start Game 2 with Joe Musgrove on regular rest to start Game 3.
The Phillies hit Musgrove hard on June 23rd. Schwarber and JT Realmuto shut him down and he allowed six runs while striking out just one batter in six innings. In his previous start against the Phils in August 2021, he went nine for six and allowed one run, which is closer to how steady and reliable Musgrove usually looks.