Zack Wheeler, sluggers power Phillies to NLCS Game 1 win

Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Phillies pitching staff allowed no runs and just one hit in their Game 1 win.

Philadelphia Phillies ace Zack Wheeler’s magical postseason run continued in Tuesday night’s National League Championship Series opener against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. The right-hander hurled seven shutout innings — walking one and punching out eight while throwing only 83 pitches.

Philadelphia only managed three hits themselves, but home runs from Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber proved to be enough for them to come out victorious. The Phillies are now 11-1 in Game 1s of their 12 postseason series since 2008.

No words can describe how phenomenal Wheeler has been in his three postseason starts. Combined, he and Aaron Nola have pitched to an 0.84 ERA in 32 innings, and that number could have been zero if Rhys Hoskins fielded the ground ball in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. Nola is tabbed as Wednesday afternoon’s NLCS Game 2 start.

Wheeler baffled San Diego hitters all night, but his efficiency was most impressive. The right-hander threw 18 of 23 first-pitch strikes, and although he fanned eight batters, he managed to average less than 12 pitches per inning. It was an absolute pitching clinic from the Georgia native.

Seranthony Domínguez pitched a clean eighth inning, and José Alvarado closed it out in the ninth — not without some trouble. After a one-out walk issued to Jurickson Profar, Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm made a throwing error to allow two runners on with one out. Ultimately, Alvarado bounced back and struck out Josh Bell to end the contest.

Padres starting pitcher Yu Darvish pitched a very impressive game as well — only allowing three hits and striking out seven, while matching Wheeler’s seven innings. It was not enough to outlast Wheeler in a classic pitcher’s duel, as Darvish allowed two solo shots.

Schwarber had only one hit entering this series — a rather quiet stat line for the National League home runs leader. However, he hit his first home run of the 2022 postseason off Darvish to extend the Phillies’ lead to 2-0 in the sixth inning — and it was an absolute moonshot.

Schwarber’s 488-foot home run was the longest home run hit during the Statcast era in Petco Park. It also registered as the second-longest home run in postseason history. Only Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras — who hit a 491-foot homer in 2017 — bested Schwarber’s feat. If there was ever a time that Phillies fans could point out a “Schwar-Bomb”, this would be it.

Harper’s home run in the fourth inning opened the scoring. It was his fourth of the postseason and third in as many games. After a disappointing end to the regular season, Harper has reconstructed himself back to the MVP player that he was last year.

The game was close throughout its entirety, but there never seemed to be a chance for San Diego to break it open. It will be important for the Phillies to get on the board early again in Game 2 — as fellow ace Nola will try to repeat Wheeler’s performance.

It is almost impossible to fathom the idea — and I do not want to jinx it in any sort of way — but the Phillies could be less than a week away from punching a ticket to their first World Series appearance in 13 years. The thought of it alone is mind-boggling.

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