Aaron Nola lifted the Phillies to Tuesday’s series opener win against the Marlins.
The Philadelphia Phillies are back home — on the east coast, where they belong. They don’t have to deal with the high-end skill of the Arizona Diamondbacks or the ghosts of former Phillies in the San Francisco Giants anymore. Instead, they get to have their go at one of the National Leage’s worst teams, the Miami Marlins. Fortunately for the Phillies, things can’t get much worse than the west coast trip they just had.
So far, Tuesday evening’s series opener got off to a good start. The Phillies snuck by with a 3-2 walk-off victory, in large thanks to Aaron Nola — who allowed just one run in 6 2/3 innings while striking out 10 batters. By doing so, he notably achieved his fourth-career 200-strikeout season.
The Phillies are now 74-61 and hold a four-game lead in the loss column over the Milwaukee Brewers for a Wild Card spot.
The Marlins, meanwhile, fell to 55-79 on the season, 29 games behind the division-leading New York Mets and Atlanta Braves. They have been a massive disappointment on many fronts, even with having National League Cy Young favorite Sandy Alcántara — who the Phillies will likely see on Thursday.
Miami made a deal in the offseason to bring in one of the better catchers in the league — Jacob Stallings. The team was in negotiations with outfielder Nick Castellanos before the lockout, signifying their desire to become relevant for the first time since they fielded a lineup that included stars like Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna (at the time), and J.T. Realmuto. Now, it’s hard to name more than five players on Miami’s roster. Pablo López is a nice pitcher at the moment and looks like a solid piece down the line, but that’s really it.
The Phillies need to continue digging deep and find a way to steal this series. If they are truly thinking playoffs or bust, they have to start treating every series from now until October as if it’s a playoff series. It doesn’t feel good that they will have to “steal” this one, but the Marlins always give the Phillies trouble — especially in September. So far, so good after Tuesday.
Between now and then, they have to face Atlanta, Toronto, and Houston. Those teams are all playoff-bound. They play every game like it’s a playoff game. It’s beyond time for the Phillies to start doing that.
Tonight, the Phillies will go to battle behind Bailey Falter — who holds a 4.08 ERA in his 14 starts and has taken care of business against the lowly teams. Falter has also risen to the occasion and given the Phillies quality innings in Seattle and at home against the Mets. He is 3-0 in his last three starts, lasting at least six innings in each and allowing only five runs.
Falter will oppose Trevor Rogers, who looks like a completely different guy than the one who pitched to a 2.64 ERA last year as a 23-year-old rookie. Rogers is more hittable and is going to end up walking more batters this year as opposed to last. Look no further than his .218 batting average against in 2021, compared to his .280 jump this year. Hopefully, he allows the Phillies to tee off on him because if there’s one thing the Phillies are known for, it’s making bad pitching look good.
Thursday evening, the Phillies will turn to Kyle Gibson. “Gibby,” as they call him, is 9-6 this year with an ERA just under 4.50. He will go against Alcántara. This is another reason the Phils need to win the first two games of this series. Alcántara, while at times has been beatable, has mostly looked dominant all year. If he were pitching for a contending club (e.g., Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets), he might have 20 wins already.
Getting the first two in this series is huge because the Phillies will be without Castellanos and perhaps Realmuto on Thursday — depending on how they want to schedule the catcher’s workload going into a potential postseason.
Do the Phils want Realmuto to be a bit fresher and more rested? Do they want him riding a hot bat as he has been for a few months now? Time will tell, but it would bode well for the Phillies to have the “A-team” for the battle in Thursday’s finale.