Kyle Schwarber started the party early for the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Monday night by drilling the first pitch he saw into the seats in right field, and the rest of the team took it from there, staking themselves to a series lead behind a 5-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Since the start of the 2022 MLB playoffs, the Phillies are 7-0 in Game 1s, never failing to capitalize on momentum early in every series.
Behind three home runs — from Schwarber, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos — and dominant pitching from the staff, the team never looked back once it got an early 5-0 lead. Let's take a look at three players who played an important role in cementing the ever-important Game 1 win in front of the home fans at Citizens Bank Park.
It was ace vs. ace on the mound, as the Phillies countered the Diamondbacks' Zac Gallen with Zack Wheeler.
The Phillies jumped on Gallen early, knocking him out after five innings and five earned runs. Wheeler, on the other hand, was dominant through the early part of the game.
The Phillies staked Wheeler to an early lead, and it only took the right-hander four innings to rack up seven of his strikeouts, putting on a lights-out display for the home crowd.
After Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll led the game off with a single, Wheeler retired 15 straight batters.
In the sixth inning, third baseman Evan Longoria led off with a single, and two pitches later shortstop Geraldo Perdomo smashed a two-run home run that just cleared the wall in right field. It was one of the very few mistakes Wheeler had on the night. After the home run, the 33-year-old settled right back in, setting down the next three batters in order and keeping the lead at three.
Wheeler finished the game with eight strikeouts and one walk and gave up only three hits and two earned runs through six strong innings. He was efficient throughout the night, finishing with 81 total pitches, 56 of which were strikes. Sixteen of the 21 batters he faced saw a first-pitch strike.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo spoke with reporters after the game about Wheeler's performance: "He was power stuff. Just like get up and go, here it comes. Whether it was two or four seam, it was just really, really impressive stuff."
After this start, Wheeler's 0.70 WHIP is the lowest of any pitcher in postseason history (minimum five starts), according to Paul Casella of MLB.com. Depending on how the next few games go, the Diamondbacks could face the righty once more in this series.
NEXT: The birthday boy has his cake and eats it too, or at least blows out the candles.