Padres storm back against Phillies to tie NLCS at one game apiece


SAN DIEGO -- Opening a postseason series with two games on the road is never easy and any team that has been there will tell you, if you can get a split, take it, and run to the airport.

The Phillies are headed home tied at a game apiece with the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series -- certainly not a bad position -- but as they headed to the airport for the flight back to Philadelphia on Wednesday night, they had to be feeling like they could have done so much more.

After winning Game 1 on the strength of their pitching and a couple of home runs from Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper, the Phillies jumped out to an early four-run lead in Game 2 on Wednesday afternoon only to see it slip through Aaron Nola's right hand in an 8-5 loss to the Padres.

Game 3 of the best-of-seven series will be played Friday night at Citizens Bank Park with Games 4 and 5 slated for Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in South Philly.

The Phils find themselves in a position similar to last week when they won Game 1 of the best-of-five NL wild-card series in Atlanta, gave away Game 2, then came home to a sold-out ballpark. Lefty Ranger Suarez will start Game 3 against San Diego right-hander Joe Musgrove.

Petco Park was packed and loud for the first two games of this series, but the Phillies did a pretty good job of hushing the place in Game 1 and again early in Game 2.

The Phils put four runs on the board in the second inning as they strung together five hits against Blake Snell and capitalized on some shoddy defense by the Padres. None of the five hits were hard-hit and the only extra-base hit, a double by Matt Vierling, was a gift bestowed upon the Phils when Padres right fielder Juan Soto lost a routine fly ball in the sun.

Bloopers, bleeders, broken-bat hits -- the Phillies had them in the second inning, but they weren't about to complain. They were off and running against a tough lefty in Snell and Petco Park was quiet.

A shutdown inning from Nola in the bottom of the second would have kept the place quiet, but it didn't happen. The right-hander gave up back-to-back homers with no outs on consecutive fastballs to Brandon Drury and Josh Bell as the Padres cut the Phillies' lead in half.

The Padres came all the way back when they rallied for five runs in the fifth inning, four of which were charged to Nola. Ha-Seong Kim started the frame with a line-drive single to left and scored all the way from first on a one-out base hit to right by Austin Nola, brother of the Phillies' pitcher. Aaron Nola had his brother 0-2 but could not put him away. Kim was off on the pitch and Austin Nola lined the high fastball to right to make it a one-run game and send the crowd into a frenzy. The only people who weren't celebrating were the smattering of Phillies fans and the Nola boys' parents, who wore conflicted looks on their faces.

After the hit by his brother, Aaron Nola allowed a base hit to leadoff man Jurickson Profar and a game-tying RBI double to Soto, again on an 0-2 fastball. Nola struck out Manny Machado for the second out of the inning and handed off to lefty Brad Hand with lefty-hitting Jake Cronenworth due up. Hand faced the requisite three batters and retired none of them. He hit Cronenworth with a pitch then gave up a ringing two-run single to the right-handed hitting Drury and an RBI single to Bell before he was pulled.

Andrew Bellatti got the Phils out of the inning, but the damage was done. The one-bad-inning syndrome that has a way of bringing down Nola now and then got him again. This was the first time it got him since September 28 when he was tagged for four runs in the fifth inning in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. After that start, Nola turned in gems in the three biggest starts of his life, the playoff clincher in Houston, the NL wild-card series clincher in St. Louis and Game 3 of the NLDS Friday at Citizens Bank Park.

Nola will get the chance to redeem himself if this series stretches to six games. He would line up to pitch Game 6, if necessary, Monday night in San Diego.

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