Phillies and Padres both much different teams than when they last met


Three National League teams won 100-plus games this season yet it's the Phillies and Padres, winners of 87 and 89, left as the last two standing.

Both teams got hot at the perfect time to win on the road in the wild-card round and knock off their division winner in the division series, and now they meet in the NLCS, which begins Tuesday night at 8:03 ET at Petco Park.

The Padres are starting their ace, Yu Darvish. The Phillies will start Zack Wheeler, then Aaron Nola in the first two games of the best-of-seven series.

Darvish faced the Phillies twice this season when the teams met in mid-May in Philly and late-June in San Diego. He pitched seven scoreless innings to beat them the first time, then allowed three runs over six with nine strikeouts the next.

The Phillies won that second Darvish start to leave San Diego with a series win the day after Bryce Harper's thumb was broken by a Blake Snell fastball. It looked at the time like Harper's injury might derail the Phils' season, but they went 32-20 in the games he missed.

The teams look much different since their last series ended on June 26. Didi Gregorius was in the cleanup spot and Odubel Herrera hit sixth against Darvish that day. A third of the Padres' at-bats went to players no longer on their roster.

The Padres were the most active team in the league leading into the trade deadline, acquiring Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Nationals, Josh Hader from the Brewers and Brandon Drury from the Reds. They have a deep lineup with hitters capable of hurting you from all spots.

They faced three left-handed starters -- Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Anderson -- in the series against the Dodgers, so it's a different look for them to start the NLCS against the Phillies. 

This could be San Diego's Game 1 lineup:

1. Jurickson Profar, LF (S)

2. Juan Soto, RF (L)

3. Manny Machado, 3B

4. Josh Bell, DH (S)

5. Jake Cronenworth, 2B (L)

6. Brandon Drury, 1B

7. Ha-Seong Kim, SS

8. Trent Grisham, CF (L)

9. Austin Nola, C

Grisham, who hit just .184 in the regular season, has been the Padres' hottest hitter in the playoffs. He's 8 for 21 (.389) with three homers and has reached base in 14 of 27 plate appearances. Nola has also done damage from the bottom of the order, going 8 for 21 with a pair of doubles.

Bell, Drury, Kim and Wil Myers are a combined 11 for 83 (.133) with 34 strikeouts.

Hader has been money in the playoffs with four scoreless appearances. He's put just two of 15 batters on base and struck out seven. One of the Phillies' many improbable late-inning comebacks was against Hader on June 7 when he was still with the Brewers. Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling both took him deep for his first two earned runs of the season.

That began a stretch of nearly three months in which Hader allowed 28 runs and eight homers in 21 innings for a 12.00 ERA. His opponents hit .362 over that span. He was traded to the Padres in the midst of it but didn't rebound until the final few weeks of the regular season. He's on a roll now, having pitched 13⅔ straight innings without allowing an earned run.

San Diego's most oft-used reliever so far in the postseason has been rookie right-hander Robert Suarez, who had a 2.27 ERA during the regular season. He's pitched six shutout innings in the playoffs. Like Hader, his fastball averages 98 mph. Suarez also has an above-average changeup to beat lefties, who've hit just .181 against him with no home runs. While most teams would use a left-handed reliever to face Kyle Schwarber or Bryce Harper late in games, the Padres might still use Suarez in such a spot in the eighth inning. He faced Freddie Freeman and Cody Bellinger twice apiece in the NLDS and has also faced Max Muncy and Jeff McNeil over the past week.

They have a lefty specialist in Tim Hill, who has faced Schwarber and Harper once apiece, retiring Schwarber and walking Harper. He doesn't miss many bats. 

In the rotation, it's possible the Padres choose to start lefty Sean Manaea over right-handed Mike Clevinger. Manaea had a rough end to the regular season and has not started in these playoffs, while Clevinger struggled against the Dodgers in his one start.

After Darvish, left-hander Blake Snell will start Game 2 with Joe Musgrove on regular rest to pitch Game 3.

The Phillies hit Musgrove hard on June 23. Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto homered off of him and he allowed six runs while striking out just one batter over six innings. In his prior start against the Phils in August 2021, he struck out nine over six and allowed one run, which is closer to how the steady and reliable Musgrove usually looks.

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