What to know about the NLCS Padres-Phillies game, schedule

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A year ago, if the Philadelphia Phillies had won 87 games, they would have just missed the playoffs and already begun a months-long sulk toward spring training. The San Diego Padres, winners of 89 games, would have secured the second of two wildcard spots, needing to take a playoff game to advance and face the best team in the National League. Their paths to the World Series would have been precarious or non-existent, which can sometimes feel like the same thing.

Now, however, in the first year of Major League Baseball’s expanded playoff field, the Phillies and Padres will face off in the National League Championship Series. Each team is four World Series wins away. The Phillies, sixth of the NL’s six seeds, beat the St. Louis Cardinals (93 wins) in three games before beating the Atlanta Braves (101 wins) in five games. The fifth-seeded Padres edged the New York Mets with 101 wins before stunning the Los Angeles Dodgers with 111 wins.

Once again, October baseball shows that no team can hide from parity, which is exhilarating for some and downright heartbreaking for others. Dominant regular seasons don’t guarantee playoff success (hello, Dodgers). Finishing 78-34 either to edge out the Mets in Newfoundland East and earn a first-round bye (hello, Braves). And nothing but winning games when it matters most. The Phillies and the Padres did.

Here’s what to know about their NLCS game:

Manny Machado and Bryce Harper live up to their mega-chords (and more). Remember the painfully slow winter of 2018-19 when Machado and Harper were the two biggest names in a class of free agents left out in the cold? Machado eventually signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres in mid-February. At the end of that month, with spring training in full swing, Harper landed with the Phillies for 13 years and $330 million. Now they’re the top-scoring hitters on their respective underdogs, showing two cities what stars are worth. This is what clubs consider when making long-term commitments to top players.

So far this postseason, Machado, a National League MVP candidate, has eight hits, two doubles, two home runs and four walks. Harper, the reigning NL MVP, has 10 hits, three doubles, three homers and two walks. It’s an outstanding production in seven games for Machado and six for Harper. And with the NLCS with a handful of front row starters – Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler for Philadelphia; Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove for San Diego – one or two big hits could go a long way.

Svrluga: MLB playoffs broken? No, the MLB playoffs are great.

Harper’s numbers against the Padres in 2022 (including being hit in the thumb by Snell in late June, a throw that led to two months on the disabled list): 1 for 9 in 10 plate appearances with three strikeouts.

Machado vs. Phillies: 4 for 13 with no walks or extra hits.

Speaking of Machado and Harper, it was pretty tough for the players selected in the 2010 draft. The Washington Nationals chose Bryce Harper first. The Baltimore Orioles selected Machado third. Jameson Taillon, selected second by the Pittsburgh Pirates, was scheduled to start Game 5 for the New York Yankees before it was rescheduled for Tuesday. The fourth choice? Shortstop Christian Colón, taken by the Kansas City Royals and not in the playoffs. Neither are the six other future stars who made it into that first round: Drew Pomeranz, Matt Harvey, Yasmani Grandal, Chris Sale, Mike Foltynewicz and Christian Yelich.

And speaking of Nationals, this week will be a pseudo reunion for a handful of former players and coaches. The Phillies have Harper, outfielder Kyle Schwarber, reliever Brad Hand and batting coach Kevin Long, who was on Washington’s 2019 World Series-winning staff. The Padres have Juan Soto and Josh Bell — after acquired in a blockbuster trade in early August – plus reliever Craig Stammen and third baseman coach Matt Williams, who was the Nationals manager in 2014 and 2015.

Janes: The Dodgers are proof that in the playoffs, nothing is guaranteed

The Padres were very good at catching and throwing the ball during the regular season. The Phillies really weren’t. Of course it makes sense, whenever Alec Bohm sprawls for a grounder or Nick Castellanos defies all defensive metrics, for Philly fans to remind Keith Hernandez for saying he doesn’t want call the Mets-Phillies games because”fundamentally and defensively, the Phillies still haven’t been up to snuff.” The Phillies are alive. The Mets, after a first-round outing, are watching the playoffs from the comfort of their homes. October is for many things, including exhibiting old catches.

But the Phillies are in a much different defensive category than the Padres, who ranked among the best in various advanced on-court stats heading into the playoffs. The addition of center fielder Brandon Marsh and infielder Edmundo Sosa – and starting rookie shortstop Bryson Stott after releasing Didi Gregorius – has improved Philadelphia’s defense in the middle, where it is undoubtedly the more important. JT Realmuto, one of the best defensive receivers in the sport, also helps. But if there’s a noticeable advantage in this series, it may be here, with the Phillies more likely to make a critical error behind the pitcher’s mound.

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