The Philadelphia Phillies have advanced to the National League Division Series. The club received contributions from all parts of the roster in its two-game sweep of the Miami Marlins. The starting rotation was a major factor in finalizing the Phillies' postseason advancement.
Zack Wheeler led the team to a win in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series. He went 6 2/3 innings and allowed just one earned run while striking out eight Marlins hitters. Aaron Nola pitched seven innings of shutout baseball. His solid start should inspire confidence in him moving forward, despite his up-and-down year.
Rob Thomson will have some decisions to make as he constructs the starting rotation prior to the start of the NLDS in Atlanta on Saturday. With both Wheeler and Nola pitching gems on Tuesday and Wednesday, it's unlikely that either will be ready to take the hill in the first game of the series this coming weekend. Who should the manager look to give the Phillies the best chance to win a tough series? The schedule of the series provides for some flexibility for Thomson.
Phillies-Braves NLDS schedule
Game 1: Saturday, Oct. 7
Game 2: Monday, Oct. 9
Game 3: Wednesday, Oct. 11
Game 4: Thursday, Oct. 12 (if necessary)
Game 5: Saturday, Oct. 14 (if necessary)
RELATED: Get all the up-to-date NLDS schedule information, including game times and broadcast details.
Game 1: Ranger Suárez
Suárez would be an ideal Game 1 starter. He has postseason experience and is a calm, reliable starter. He faced the potent Atlanta offense once in the regular season — on June 20. The left-hander pitched fairly well in that contest as he picked up a quality start pitching six innings, allowing one earned run and striking out seven Braves' hitters. Thomson has faith in Suárez, and it would not be surprising to see him get the ball for Game 1.
Game 2: Zack Wheeler
Wheeler would be pitching on some extra rest, seeing as Game 2 of the NLDS is on Monday. The Phillies will not want to mess with their ace's timing, so barring some unforeseen circumstance, it would appear that Wheeler is almost a lock to start the second game in Atlanta. The outcome of one of the first two games going in the Phillies' favor will be crucial to the team's chances of winning this series.
Game 3: Aaron Nola
The soon-to-be-free agent solidified his spot in the playoff rotation with a stellar performance in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series. If Nola starts Game 3 on Wednesday it would be exactly one week since his last appearance on the mound. Nola typically performs better when given extra rest, so it seems like a no-brainer that he should start Game 3 at home in the NLDS.
Game 4 (if necessary): Ranger Suárez
Given the number of off days built into the postseason schedule, the Phillies will likely only need three starters in this series. Depending on how Suárez performs in Game 1 (assuming he starts then) it would be safe to think that he would get the ball again in the second home game for the Phillies in the NLDS as he would be on regular rest.
Game 5 (if necessary): Zack Wheeler
If the series continues to Game 5, who better to trot back to the mound than Wheeler to maximize his usage in this pivotal series? He would be on regular rest — something the ace prefers — in perhaps the series-defining game. If the NLDS gets to the fifth game, it would be wise for the Phillies to trust their ace with the ball.