Early series win vs. Braves sets Phillies' rotation up nicely again for NLCS


Three series in a row, the Phillies have positioned themselves well for the games ahead by taking care of business early.

In Houston, they won their series opener to clinch a playoff spot in Game 160, which allowed them to save Zack Wheeler for Game 1 of the wild-card series against the Cardinals.

In St. Louis, the Phils won two in a row in a best-of-three series, which gave their bullpen two full days off before the NLDS.

And by beating the Braves 3-1 in their best-of-five, the Phillies avoided having to go to Atlanta Sunday, which likely would have been a start on short rest for Wheeler.

Instead, Wheeler can start Game 1 of the NLCS in San Diego on five days' rest. He would then be able to start Game 5 of the NLCS on normal rest. 

Why is this all so important? Had the Phillies needed Wheeler Sunday in Atlanta, he'd have been unable to start until Game 3 of the NLCS, which would have been the only game of the series he could pitch on normal rest.

The Phils are guaranteed two Wheeler starts as opposed to one, so long as they aren't swept in the next round. 

Aaron Nola can also make two starts on normal rest. He'd be in line to start Game 2.

Here is the NLCS schedule with potential Phillies starting pitchers:

Game 1: Tuesday, October 18 (Wheeler)

Game 2: Wednesday, October 19 (Nola)

Game 3: Friday, October 21 

Game 4: Saturday, October 22

Game 5: Sunday, October 23 (Wheeler)

Game 6: Monday, October 24 (Nola)

Game 7: Tuesday, October 25

This could change, obviously, depending on how the NLCS plays out. If the Phillies find themselves down 3-0 in the series, they could turn to Wheeler in Game 4 on short rest.

There is only one off day during the series, between Games 2 and 3 when the series shifts from San Diego to Philadelphia.

Ranger Suarez and Noah Syndergaard would seem to be the most logical candidates to start the other games of the series. Syndergaard allowed a run over three innings Saturday in his first start in two weeks. Suarez walked five in 3⅓ innings in his start in Game 1 of the NLDS but stranded seven of the eight Braves who reached base.

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