Mandatory Credit: Photo by Derrick Tuskan/AP/Shutterstock (13000770s) Philadelphia Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber steals second as San Diego Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth dives for the throw during the fifth inning of a baseball game, in San Diego Phillies Padres Baseball, San Diego, United States – 25 Jun 2022
National League Championship Series: Philadelphia Phillies (87-75) at San Diego Padres (89-73)
Game 1: Tuesday, 7:03pm CT at San Diego
Game 2: Wednesday, 3:35pm CT at San Diego
Game 3: Friday, 6:37pm CT at Philadelphia
Game 4: Saturday, 6:45pm CT at Philadelphia
Game 5 (if necessary): Sunday, 1:37pm CT at Philadelphia
Game 6 (if necessary): Monday, 7:03pm CT at San Diego
Game 7 (if necessary): Tuesday, 7:03pm CT at San Diego
Both the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies won their respective Division Series as large underdogs over their respective division champions. For San Diego, the NLCS trip is their first since 1998, while Philadelphia makes it this far for the first time since 2010. Each team is proof that just making the Postseason opens up a world of opportunity, regardless of the seeding of an opponent.
For Philadelphia, it’s been a combination of clutch offense and excellent starting pitching that’s allowed them to push past both the Cardinals and Braves as underdogs. The St. Louis series win was accomplished on the backs of their two top starters, as Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola combined to throw 13 scoreless innings. They put together timely situational offense to create a huge ninth-inning comeback in Game 1 and completely stifled the Cardinals’ offense in a shutout win in Game 2. They headed to Atlanta theoretically at a starting pitching disadvantage but dispatched Braves’ ace Max Fried in short order in Game 1 to flip the script. Zack Wheeler’s strong Game 2 start wasn’t enough against Kyle Wright, but a 1-1 series tie in the NLDS before returning to Philadelphia was all they’d need. The Phillies averaged eight runs per game in their three wins over Atlanta, including four home runs over the last two games that each sent the Citizens Bank Park crowd through the roof. Aaron Nola was again dominant in Game 3, pitching six innings of one-run ball while his offense provided plenty of run support. Philadelphia heads back on the road to San Diego with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola ready to start Games 1-2, a duo they’re hoping gives them the advantage against a red-hot Padres team.
San Diego’s Wild Card Series win over the Mets felt like an announcement of their arrival, while their NLDS win over the Dodgers felt like an exorcism. The Padres were massive underdogs in New York, especially with the knowledge that they’d need to topple at least one of the two Mets’ aces, Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, in order to advance. They’d immediately put New York and the rest of Major League Baseball on notice with their dismantling of Max Scherzer (4.2 innings, 7 earned runs) in Game 1 and rode a dominant seven scoreless innings from Joe Musgrove to a series win in Game 3. Mike Clevinger’s Game 1 start in the NLDS was a bit of a disaster, but San Diego’s bullpen shut down a Los Angeles offense that led baseball in runs scored during the regular season, and the Padres’ bats did enough in clutch situations to eliminate their nemesis up north. San Diego had lost all six of their regular season series to the Dodgers, but none of it mattered as they celebrated a series victory in the rain Saturday night at Petco Park.
These two teams met seven times during the regular season, with Philadelphia emerging victorious four times. Interestingly, each team won the series they played on the road – but it is difficult to know how much we can truly take from two series that occurred before the end of June. San Diego’s roster, in particular, has changed quite a bit, but two of their additions – Josh Bell and Juan Soto – are foes Philadelphia is very familiar with from their time in the National League East. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler each dominated San Diego for seven innings during the regular season, but Yu Darvish hurled seven scoreless on the road against Philadelphia in May as well. The biggest storyline from their last series was a Blake Snell fastball that hit Bryce Harper in the thumb, sidelining him for a significant period and leading to a shouting match on the field. Both players have said that moment is now water under the bridge, but one would imagine Harper is looking for some sort of revenge as the NLCS gets underway.
It goes without saying that teams that have made it this far are hot, as they wouldn’t be here otherwise. But given the low expectations for each of these squads entering the Postseason, both have to feel at least a little bit like a team of destiny to their fans. The pitching matchups in Games 1 and 2 will be excellent, as Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola go up against Yu Darvish and Blake Snell in (hopefully) sunny San Diego. Joe Musgrove will likely oppose Ranger Suarez in Game 3, and what happens from there remains to be seen. We know that both stadiums will be at a fever pitch for the NLCS, and the series winner will advance to their first World Series in more than a decade.