PHILADELPHIA — Despite a choppy performance in Game 2, the Philadelphia Phillies still got exactly what they needed in San Diego.
The Phillies return home hoping to take advantage of a raucous sellout crowd when they host the Padres in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night.
In the National League Division Series, the Phillies earned a split and came home to earn two straight victories and a series win over the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies haven’t hosted an NLCS game since 2010 against the San Francisco Giants.
“I think for the most part, we did our job in San Diego,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “Now we feel pretty good being home here for the next three games in front of our own fans. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Ranger Suarez (10-7, 3.65 ERA regular season; 0-0, 2.70 ERA postseason) is scheduled to start for the Phillies.
Suarez received one postseason start against the Braves and gave up one run on three hits with five walks and five strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.
The Phillies need a strong performance from Suarez since Thomson sternly said that ace Zack Wheeler will not start Game 4 on Saturday.
“No chance,” Thomson said.
For now, it’s up to Suarez to propel the Phillies.
“The start against Atlanta was not Ranger-esque,” Thomson said. “But I think he was a little bit amped up because of the playoff game. I think he’ll be better tomorrow, especially in front of our own fans. I think the crowd and just the adrenaline of the situation will get him through right now.”
“I really want to attack the hitters early in the count,” Suarez added. “I don’t want to go deep in counts.”
After falling behind 4-0, the Padres received home runs from Manny Machado, Brandon Drury and Josh Bell to fuel a much-needed victory in Game 2.
A win in Game 3 would be massive for a San Diego franchise attempting to reach the World Series for the first time since 1998.
Whether the production comes from high-priced stars such as Machado or Juan Soto or other key players such as Drury, Bell or Jake Cronenworth, the Padres don’t have a preference.
Winning is everything.
“Whatever we can do to help the team win, that’s all that matters at the end of the day,” Drury said. “So if we can all kind of get going here at the same time, it could be pretty special.”
The Padres will hand the ball to red-hot Joe Musgrove (10-7, 2.93 ERA regular season; 1-0, 1.38 ERA postseason).
Musgrove has allowed seven hits and two runs with 13 strikeouts in 13 postseason innings against the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I almost like pitching on the road a little more than I do pitching at home,” Musgrove said. “Something about kind of having your back up against the wall and having everyone weighing down on you. Something about that allows me to tap into a different level.”
If the Padres can retain a late lead and get closer Josh Hader in the game, it’s nearly a surefire victory. Hader has recorded eight consecutive strikeouts in the playoffs.
After struggling initially with the Padres, Hader’s turnaround was vital in helping the team reach this stage of the postseason.
“The toughest role on any baseball team is the closer,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “It doesn’t surprise any of us that he’s pitching the way he is right now.”
–Andy Jasner, Field Level Media