The National League Championship Series is expected to be a pitcher dominated series. Both team can go at least three deep in their rotation, so the offenses for both sides were put on notice: better be ready.
Tonight, Yu Darvish and Zack Wheeler were great, but Wheeler was a bit better, which turned out to be the difference.
The Phillies did have a chance to start the game off well by stealing a run off Darvish in the first inning. Kyle Schwarber started the game with a walk, then went to second on a wild pitch as Rhys Hoskins was at the plate. J.T. Realmuto grounded out to allow Schwarber to reach third, bringing Bryce Harper to the plate with two outs. As well as Harper has been hitting, you felt good about the Phillies scoring and while he did hit the ball hard, Jake Cronenworth made an outstanding play to end the inning with Schwarber stranded on third.
Jake Cronenworth robs Bryce of an RBI hit pic.twitter.com/P20qP03LSE— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) October 19, 2022
When Wheeler came out in the first inning, he walked Juan Soto with one out, but escaped it unscathed himself. He threw a lot of pitches, but that ended up not mattering.
The next two innings were uneventful, the Phillies confused by pitches down the middle of the plate with two strikes, the Padres unable to solve the puzzle of what Wheeler was dealing. In the fourth, still scoreless, Harper came up with one out and delivered a solo shot, high and deep to left that eluded Jurickson Profar’s glove and gave the Phillies a lead.
Bryce Harper homers in his 1st game back at the scene of the crime in June— Nick Piccone (@_piccone) October 19, 2022
Scott Franzke on the call pic.twitter.com/a8jE5x9Gz4
Wheeler made it hold up, keeping San Diego off balance all game, but it still felt like the Phillies somehow needed more, that feeling of inevitability starting to creep up the spine of fans watching the game. In the sixth, Schwarber helped out with that.
488 feet! 120 mph! Kyle Schwarber, oh my goodness. pic.twitter.com/Mh4VGR4E2B— MLB (@MLB) October 19, 2022
In case you needed another angle to see how far Kyle Schwarber’s home run went… pic.twitter.com/p5tf6wAC5X— Phillies Nation (@PhilliesNation) October 19, 2022
I mean, usually, police are called when someone does that kind of damage.
It was enough for Wheeler, who kept cruising through the seventh inning, ending that frame with only 83 pitches, but that was when the second guessing began.
Seranthony Dominguez came out to start the eighth inning, some out there wondering if it was the correct move. After all, Wheeler hadn’t thrown much and was still looking good, but the fact that his velocity was dropping meant the team felt he couldn’t continue.
This is Wheeler, tonight. This is what teams are looking at more than just results. Because while he's been great -- GREAT -- every pitcher is a different guy down 3-4 ticks. https://t.co/lCvrH21iE7— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 19, 2022
Turns out, Rob Thomson knows a thing or two.
Dominguez looked absolutely and completely dominant in his inning, causing some to wonder yet again if maybe Thomson was wrong in deciding to bring in Jose Alvarado in the ninth.
The voices on that decision got louder once the ninth unfolded. Alvarado got Austin Nola to fly out for the first out, but walked Profar to push people a little closer to the edge of their seat. Soto was next and swung at the first pitch and grounded to Alec Bohm at third. Bohm made a poor throw to second that pulled the shifted Bryson Stott off the base, clanging off his glove and letting everyone reach base safely with one out, bringing Manny Machado to the plate. Alvarado would settle down, getting Machado to fly out and striking out Josh Bell with a nasty, filthy, disgusting slider that ended the game and gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the series.
There was plenty to talk about in this one, but the most important thing is that the win was secured and the co-ace is going the next game. We should feel good right now.