Dominant performance from an ace? Check. Home runs from your big sluggers? Check. The Philadelphia Phillies‘ dream October somehow got better on Tuesday as Zack Wheeler flummoxed the San Diego Padres in Game 1 of the NLCS. Wheeler fired seven innings of sparkling one-hit ball, striking out eight to earn a 2-0 win.
Those two runs came on two swings off the Padres starter Yu Darvish. The first sailed high into the air off the bat of Bryce Harper in the fourth, landing just barely in the left field seats. The second was a missile off the mighty bat of the NL home run champion Kyle Schwarber. With an exit velocity of 119.7 mph and an estimated distance of 488 feet, it broke all manner of postseason Statcast records, and possibly Harper’s brain.
Outside of those swings, this was a tried and true pitchers duel. Darvish only allowed one other hit across seven innings of work himself, but the damage was done.
Beyond the win, the Schwarber homer has to be encouraging for the Phillies’ chances at a championship. Their stalwart leadoff hitter was batting .050 so far in the 2022 playoffs coming into the game. No one was worried that he couldn’t handle the postseason stage — he now has 10 postseason homers — but a prolonged slump might have forced the Phillies to alter their lineup plan.
The most intriguing moment of the game may have been when Phillies manager Rob Thomson chose to end Wheeler’s dominant night after just 83 pitches. He got a spotless eighth inning out of Seranthony Dominguez, but Jose Alvarado courted trouble in the ninth inning. The left-hander walked Jurickson Profar with one out, then had to work around a botched fielder’s choice that put two men on. He escaped by getting Manny Machado to pop up and then strike out Josh Bell.
The Phillies are now up 1-0, with a road win in the books. Tomorrow afternoon, they will send Aaron Nola to the mound opposite San Diego’s Blake Snell looking for a 2-0 lead.
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