The energy in Citizens Bank Park could be felt through the TV yesterday as the Phillies moved one game closer to winning a wild card series for the second straight year. With Nick Castellanos flashing his teammates his ring finger, it was easy to see Philadelphia means business again this season, and we’ll preview game two of their series tonight before going over why I’ll be backing them to clinch their ticket to the next round.
A common phrase you’ll hear in the sports world is, “You have to really lock it in for the postseason,” and the Phillies embodied that saying last night on both sides of the ball. Every member of Philadelphia’s starting lineup recorded at least one hit in the game, and Alec Bohm, Nick Castellanos, Bryson Stott, and Christian Pache all drove in runs. On the mound, Zack Wheeler worked 6.2 innings and allowed just one earned run while striking out eight.
After last night’s all-around team effort, the Phillies will turn to Aaron Nola tonight to guide them into the next round of the postseason. Nola did not have the regular season he would’ve hoped for, pitching to a 4.46 ERA with 202 strikeouts in 193.7 innings. While the full-season numbers aren’t ideal, Nola did round out his regular season by allowing just three earned runs and striking out 16 over his last 12.2 innings.
Nola started game two of the wild card series last season and guided his team to a 2-0 victory by throwing 6.2 shutout innings. As he looks to repeat that performance tonight, he’ll face a Marlins team that had seven hits last night and left ten runners on base. Trade deadline acquisition Josh Bell did the most damage to the Phillies' pitching staff by going 3-4 with two doubles and four hard-hit balls.
At the risk of being sent home tonight, the Marlins will turn to another young lefty to toe the slab, in Braxton Garrett. The left-hander threw a career-high 159.7 innings this season, and in that span, he pitched to a 3.66 ERA with 156 punchouts. In two starts against Philadelphia this season, Garrett threw ten innings and allowed six earned runs on 12 hits.
Philadelphia is currently listed at (-160) on the moneyline, and for the second straight night, I’ll be backing them for my play. This is a Phillies team that proved again yesterday that they can hit lefties well and, on top of that, will have a starter on the mound who already has five postseason starts under his belt, and in four of those starts, he pitched to a 3.74 FIP or lower.
Aside from his postseason numbers last year, Nola rounded out the regular season on a high note, pitching to a 3.26 xFIP in the second half of the season. The right-hander is also far more comfortable in his home ballpark, which is evident when you see he’s pitched to a 3.40 FIP and 3.21 xFIP in 87.2 home innings. When he’s done for the night, Nola will then hand the ball to a Phillies bullpen that has a 2.71 ERA over the last 30 days.
Offensively, over the last 30 days, the Phillies rank 10th in wRC+, 9th in OPS, and 5th in pull percentage against left-handed pitching. Braxton Garrett not only struggled against them in the regular season but enters this meeting in the 13th percentile in expected batting average and 9th percentile in hard-hit percentage.
Philadelphia Phillies (-160)