Let’s not get too crazy, the Philadelphia Phillies are sitting in an advantageous position with the World Series tied at one heading to South Philly on Monday. They are undefeated, 5-0, at The Bank and they’ve stolen home field from the Houston Astros.
That should not be understated.
But they’ve done it with both ace’s pitching well below expectations. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler allowed 5-runs each in less than 10-total innings pitched in Game 1 and Game 2. This forced Phillies manager Rob Thomson to get creative with the bullpen, and by extension, the starting rotation.
This isn’t sustainable if the Phillies want a parade down Broad St in the next week or so. And now, thanks to the lackluster performances by Nola and Wheeler, the Fightin’s will be forced to go deeper into their pitching staff as the World Series hurdles towards critical mass.
There is no margin for error heading into Game 3 and Game 4 with Noah Syndergaard and Ranger Suarez on the mound.
Syndergaard is no stranger to this type of situation. Thor has a World Series win on his resume —6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, and 6 K in 2015 World Series Game 3 with the New York Mets— but that guy isn’t the same guy pitching on Monday night. Syndergaard is expected to pitch three or four innings before Thomson leans on the bullpen.
Despite the bullpen’s recent success, 8.2 scoreless innings in the World Series, the thought of a bullpen game is frightening. Especially in a pivotal Game 3 where the momentum can swing either way with a win or a loss.
Game 4 is equally as scary. Not because it’s Suarez on the mound, but because Suarez has been used so much over the past 10-days — one start and two relief appearances. Suarez has been a steadying hand for the Phillies but the lefty hasn’t reached 6-innings pitched in a single outing since September 29 and he hasn’t reached 7-innings pitched since early August.
Back-to-back bullpen games could be a recipe for disaster. But what if it’s back-to-back-to-back bullpen games?
Nola is the likely starter for Game 5, and despite his pitching excellence down the stretch and in the early postseason, that is now a cause for concern. He hasn’t made it out of the 5th inning in his last two starts and has given up 11-earned runs and four homers.
The Phillies simply don’t have the horses if that scenario plays out.
Luckily for the Fightin’s their offense can pick them up, especially at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies are slashing .296/.378/.597 with 12 homers and average of 7-runs per game at home this postseason. In fact, this might be the way the Phillies will have to win over the next three games.