It was a scene in Philadelphia last night. The Phillies took it to the Miami Marlins in the first game of their best-of-three Wild Card Series on the back of a dominant outing by ace Zack Wheeler and out-hitting their opponents 11 to seven in a convincing 4-1 victory.
Tonight, the Phillies have a chance to eliminate the Marlins and complete the two-game sweep. The Citizens Bank Park crowd will be ready to rock, and it won't take much encouragement for Philly fans to reach a fever pitch in a stadium that is fast becoming the party of the postseason.
With a shot at booking their ticket to the NLDS, the Phillies need to make the most of the opportunity in front of them.
Which Aaron Nola will show up?
Manager Rob Thomson has charged Aaron Nola (12-9) with starting this one for the home team, and the only concern fans will have is which version of Aaron Nola will show up under the brightest of lights. After an ace-like 2022 campaign, this year has been anything but, marred by inconsistency from the 30-year-old.
Almost half of Nola's outings, 15 to be precise, ended up as quality starts. In these games, he looked like the Nola of last year, with a 2.14 ERA while averaging 11.8 K/9. The problem was the other starts he made. He had 15 games in which he surrendered four or more runs and carried a whopping 7.75 ERA, even though he still struck out a respectable 9.9 per nine innings.
Unfortunately, the Marlins hit Nola hard in his three starts against them this season, giving him a 6.75 ERA and an 0-2 record. He gave up four earned runs in each outing, including five home runs, despite striking out six each time out.
Hopefully, Nola can reclaim his 2022 form and reverse this trend. The Phillies will need him to do just that to avoid finding themselves in a Game 3 elimination situation.
Phillies bats to face off against lefty Braxton Garrett
To secure their series sweep, the Phillies bats will have to show up again to support their pitching staff. They'll face off against left-hander Braxton Garrett (9-7, 3.66 ERA), who posted a 1-0 record in two starts against them this season.
Philadelphia scored three runs off six hits in both matchups, knocking him out after five innings in each contest. While Garrett posted some big strikeout games this year, he only struck out eight across his 10 innings against the Phillies.
Facing a pitcher like Garrett, who has a 49.1 percent ground ball rate and who gave up 20 homers in 30 starts, Bryce Harper and company may have to rely on the same type of offense that carried them to victory in Game 1. They'll need contributions from the entire lineup and timely hits without counting on the long ball to score runs, although the Citizens Bank Park crowd would most welcome a home run or two to help secure a Game 2 win.