Phillies to face Cardinals in playoffs after getting blanked, 10-0, by Astros
HOUSTON — There are plenty of reasons why, when presented with the choice of facing the New York Mets or the St. Louis Cardinals, the Phillies would choose the Cardinals. The Mets were just swept in three games in Atlanta, but have won 14 of 19 games played against the Phillies this season. The Phillies have faced the Cardinals fewer times — only seven games this season — but have gone 4-3 over that span.
Luckily for the Phillies, with a Padres win on Tuesday night, they officially will face the Cardinals in a three-game NL wild card series beginning on Friday night in St. Louis.
The Cardinals have two NL MVP candidates on their roster, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, but both are righties. As a whole, the Cardinals have had less success against right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching, posting a .728 OPS against righties and a .810 mark against lefties. With right-handed pitchers Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola taking Game 1 and Game 2, respectively, those matchups should play to the Phillies’ advantage.
All three games will be played on the road. If the Phillies had finished their season with the same record as the Padres, they would have become the No. 5 seed and faced the Mets, who are the No. 4 seed because the Phillies won a tiebreaker over San Diego. But because the Phillies lost to the Astros, 10-0, and the Padres won, 6-2, the Phillies are headed to St. Louis.
There also is, of course, the revenge factor. The last playoff game the Phillies played was on Oct. 7, 2011, against the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. Chris Carpenter pitched a complete game and allowed three hits. Roy Halladay also threw a gem, giving the Phillies eight innings and allowing six hits, one run, and one walk, but wasn’t as a dominant as Carpenter.
As every fan knows, it took the Phillies 11 years to return to the postseason. So it would feel somewhat fitting for them to face the Cardinals, in St. Louis, 11 years to the day after their last playoff appearance.
Twenty-four hours after a postseason-clinching game in which the Phillies played some of their best baseball of the season, Ranger Suárez gave up six runs to the Houston Astros in his first two innings of work, but no one seemed terribly concerned.
At this point, the games don’t really matter. The Phillies are playing for seeding, if they’re playing for anything. So Thomson sat his regulars, with the exception of Bryce Harper, Bryson Stott, and Alec Bohm. Suárez went into outing with the goal of reaching 65 pitches.
And he did that (and then some), even if it was a bumpy road to get there. Suárez threw too many pitches to the middle of the plate, and the vaunted Astros’ lineup feasted on them. He finished his outing at three innings, allowing seven hits, six runs (including three home runs), and two walks with two strikeouts. He was at 67 pitches when he walked off the mound.
“I’m glad we won last night,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who joined the Phillies TV broadcast early in the game, said jokingly.
What was more important was keeping Suárez’s arm sharp for a potential Game 3 of the NL wild-card series, which the left-handed pitcher is slated to start, should the best-of-three series go to the full three games.
After the game, interim manager Rob Thomson said he wasn’t too concerned.
“He just wasn’t getting ahead of hitters,” Thomson said of Suárez. “He made a lot of pitches out over the plate. And when you face a team like that, they’re going to make you pay.
“The game doesn’t mean anything. That’s what I chalk it up to. I think he’ll be a completely different guy the next time he starts.”
» READ MORE: A brilliant Aaron Nola clinched the playoffs. He and Zack Wheeler are why the Phillies can win it.
Facing Justin Verlander, who is having a career season at age 39, never was going to be easy for the Phillies’ regulars, let alone a lineup full of back-ups. Verlander could very well win the AL Cy Young Award this year, for the third time in his career. He entered the game with a career-low 1.80 ERA through 27 starts.
Verlander no-hit the Phillies through five innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts. The Phillies didn’t fare better against the Astros’ bullpen. They were held hitless until the ninth inning, when the Phillies hit three singles off of Astros reliever Will Smith. Ironically, it was former Astros backup catcher, and current Phillie, Garrett Stubbs, who broke up the combined no-hitter.
Before you start to panic, remember that the Mets were no-hit by then-Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer on Oct. 3, 2015. The Mets went on to win the pennant.