The Philadelphia Phillies will play their first postseason game since 2011 on Friday. Philadelphia will travel to St. Louis to face the Cardinals for a best of three Wild Card series, the same team that ended the Phillies 102-win season in that last postseason matchup. It will mark eleven years to the day that the Phillies championship window slammed shut on Ryan Howard’s Achilles in Game 5.
Schedule and Projected Pitching Matchups
Game 1- Friday, October 7th, 2:07 PM, ESPN
Zack Wheeler (12-7, 2.82 ERA) vs. Miles Mikolas (12-13, 3.29 ERA)
Game 2- Saturday, October 8th, 8:37 PM, ESPN2
Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25 ERA) vs. Jordan Montgomery (9-6, 3.48 ERA)
Game 3 (If Necessary)- Sunday, October 9th, 8:37 PM, ESPN
Ranger Suárez (10-7, 3.65 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (11-12, 3.71 ERA)
Philadelphia (87-75) won the season series against the Cardinals (93-59) this year 4-3. That includes back-to-back shutouts from the Phillies pitching staff in St. Louis on July 8th-9th.
Zack Wheeler started the first of those two games as he will when he takes the mound Friday. In three starts against the Cardinals since the start of 2021, Wheeler has allowed one earned run in 22 innings pitched with 19 strikeouts. Aaron Nola will pitch Game 2 after pitching the Phillies to the playoffs on Monday night in Houston. Ranger Suarez will look to shake off a rough outing on Tuesday in which he allowed 6 earned runs in 3 IP. Suarez had posted a 2.33 ERA in 13 starts dating back to July before the hiccup in Houston.
Kyle Schwarber is one of a few Phillies hitters with extensive postseason experience. He’s only missed the playoffs once in his career in 2019. In 35 postseason games, Schwarber owns a batting line of .255/.359/.518 with 9 HRs. Coming into the series, it appears that Schwarber has recaptured some of his June magic, as he has 4 home runs in his last five games.
The Phillies will need Bryce Harper to right the ship if they want to do some real damage in the postseason. Harper is hitting .227 with a .667 OPS in 35 games since returning from a broken thumb. He’s played in 19 postseason games in his career, the most recent being 2017. Harper owns a .211/.315/.487 line with 5 home runs in those games.
X-Factor- Zach Eflin
Eflin notched the first save of his career in the Phillies clinching win against the Astros. He’s been moved to a bullpen role after suffering more problems with his knees early in the season. Eflin returned on September 12th and has a 1.17 ERA with four hits allowed and 9 Ks in seven appearances out of the bullpen. The typical starter could play a major role out of the Phillies bullpen as a multi-inning relief ace in the playoffs. Philadelphia’s bullpen has sprung some leaks of late, excluding the dominant Jose Alvarado. Eflin will most likely be called upon for high leverage outs, possibly late in games or as the closer.
Miles Mikolas will most likely take the ball in game one for St. Louis. In two games against the Phillies this year, Mikolas allowed 2 earned runs and 12 hits across 12.2 IP with six strikeouts. Overall, it’s been a tale of two halves for Mikolas. He had a 2.54 ERA in 19 games before the All-Star break. Mikolas owns a 4.29 ERA in 14 starts after the break. The right hander is a bit prone to the long ball, as he’s allowed 25 home runs in 32 starts, good for a tie for 9th most in the Majors.
Jordan Montgomery was acquired by St. Louis at the trade deadline and was a shot in the arm for their rotation. The left hander made 11 starts with the Cardinals this season with a 6-3 record and a 3.11 ERA. He started his career in St. Louis with two consecutive shutout appearances against his former team the Yankees and the Milwaukee Brewers. Montgomery is particularly effective against left handers, with a .198/.213/.264 batting line.
Adam Wainwright turned in another strong season at the age of 40. The veteran made 32 starts and posted a 3.71 ERA across 191.2 IP. He’s not what he once was, but Wainwright does have an extensive postseason resume. He’s appeared in 29 postseason games and started 16 of them. Wainwright has a career 2.83 postseason ERA in 114.1 IP.
The Cardinals offense is led by MVP candidates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Goldschmidt leads the National League in slugging (.578) and OPS (.982) and is second in OBP (.404) and third in average (.317 entering the last day of play). Arenado has the third highest fWAR (7.2) in baseball. The ageless wonder Albert Pujols has a 1.103 OPS and 18 home runs in 56 games in the second half.
Overall, the Cardinals offense has the 4th highest scoring offense with the 5th highest OPS in the Majors. They have ten hitters that posted a 100 wRC+ or better this season.
X-Factor- Ryan Helsley
Helsley has arguably been the best reliever in baseball this season with a 1.25 ERA and 19 saves and an eye popping 39.3 K% in 54 games this season. However, he appeared to injure his finger in his appearance Tuesday night. Helsley and the Cardinals are calling it a “jammed finger” that didn’t require x-rays, but his availability for the Wild Card series is in question. If Helsley either can’t pitch or loses some of his effectiveness, it would be a big loss to a Cardinal bullpen that is 11th in ERA and 20th in xFIP across MLB this season.