After a weekend of anticipation, the National League Championship Series finally gets underway tonight. The higher-seeded Philadelphia Phillies welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks to Citizens Bank Park for Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.
Even though this series doesn't have the intense rivalry of the inter-division battle the Phillies just went through in eliminating the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, or the panache of a series with the storied Los Angeles Dodgers franchise, it's the NLCS and the Diamondbacks more than earned their chance to fight to go to the World Series.
What are the big storylines heading into Game 1? What are we looking for as these two teams square off for the first time in the postseason?
RELATED: Get all the up-to-date information about the NLCS, including dates, times and broadcast details.
Who will win the battle of the aces?
Both teams will send their unquestioned aces to the mound tonight in an attempt to jump out to a quick one-game lead. In a battle of the Zac(k)s, the Phillies will start Zack Wheeler, while Arizona will counter with Zac Gallen.
In a top-notch pitching matchup like this, it's all about who blinks first. Will both aces have their A stuff, or will one succumb to the pressure and put their team in a hole?
Zack Wheeler has led the way for the Phillies this postseason like you'd expect an ace to do and certainly understands the significance of his role as the Game 1 starter.
"I take pride in taking the ball Game 1," Wheeler said ahead of his Game 1 start. "It's definitely an honor."
The 33-year-old right-hander has pitched into the seventh inning in both starts this October. He went 6 2/3 against the Miami Marlins in the Wild Card Series, giving up only one run and striking out eight. He then went 6 1/3 of mostly dominant baseball against the Braves, including no-hitting the best offense for 5 2/3. The Braves got to him eventually, but he struck out 10 along the way.
Zac Gallen has come as advertised for the Diamondbacks in his first taste of the postseason. He has won both of his starts, going six innings against the Milwaukee Brewers and 5 1/3 against the Dodgers. He surrendered two runs and struck out four in each outing. With five walks surrendered for a 3.97 BB/9, he has looked a little less in control than he did during the regular season when he posted a 2.01 BB/9.
The 28-year-old New Jersey native who grew up 20 minutes from the ballpark is ready for the challenge of taking the ball in the Citizens Bank Park atmosphere and isn't worried about the hoopla.
"It's interesting for sure to, you know, start Game 1 at the field, the stadium you grew up coming to as a kid," Gallen said about what he expects for his first playoff start in Philadelphia. "But this is about the NLCS, really. That's where my emotions are."
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