In Monday’s Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, the Philadelphia Phillies secured a 5-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Phillies, who are the reigning NL champions, showcased their power with early home runs from Kyle Schwarber, Bryce Harper, and Nick Castellanos. Notably, it was the first time in his career that D-backs ace Zac Gallen allowed three homers in the first two innings of a start.
On the Phillies’ side, starting pitcher Zack Wheeler delivered another strong postseason performance, and their bullpen, managed by Rob Thomson, managed to protect the lead, although at times, it was a bit precarious.
With a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Phillies are just three wins away from making a return to the World Series for the second consecutive year. Prior to this loss in Game 1, the Diamondbacks had maintained a perfect 5-0 record in this postseason.
Here are some key takeaways from the 2023 NLCS opener:
- Schwarber’s historic leadoff home run:
Kyle Schwarber, the Phillies’ leadoff hitter, wasted no time making an impact in Game 1 by hitting a first-pitch fastball from Zac Gallen over the fence. This home run left the bat at a blazing 117.1 mph and traveled 420 feet, giving the Phillies an early 1-0 lead.
This marked Schwarber’s fourth career leadoff home run in the postseason, setting an all-time record. In total, Schwarber has 16 career playoff home runs in 59 games.
- Castellanos continues his hot streak:
Nick Castellanos, who had already hit two home runs in each of the last two NLDS games against the Braves, extended his hot streak by hitting another home run in the second inning of Game 1.
Castellanos hit five home runs in eight at-bats, matching Reggie Jackson’s three-game postseason record.Additionally, the 2023 Phillies set a playoff record with 12 home runs in those three games.
- Stellar performance by Zack Wheeler:
Zack Wheeler delivered a strong performance for the Phillies, pitching six dominant innings in Game 1. He allowed only three hits, struck out eight batters, and didn’t issue any walks.
Wheeler relied on his mid-90s fastball, which, combined with good extension, made it play even faster. He generated 17 swinging strikes and retired 15 consecutive batters.
The two runs he conceded came from a sixth-inning homer by Geraldo Perdomo, although it was a relatively unlucky outcome as indicated by the low expected batting average.
Wheeler’s postseason track record remains impressive, with a career ERA of 2.59 in eight playoff starts and a total of 51 strikeouts against eight walks.
- The Diamondbacks face a challenging situation:
With a 0-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series, the Diamondbacks find themselves in a tough spot. Historically, in all best-of-seven MLB postseason series, the team that loses Game 1 on the road ends up losing the series 68.5% of the time.
These teams also lose Game 2 55.6% of the time. Winning Game 2 is crucial for the Diamondbacks as it would turn the series into a best-of-five scenario and give them home-field advantage.
Looking ahead, Game 2 is set to feature right-hander Merrill Kelly of the Diamondbacks against Phillies co-ace Aaron Nola. Kelly is coming off a strong start in the NLDS against the Dodgers, while Nola has posted a 1.42 ERA in two postseason starts, striking out 12 in 12 2/3 innings.
The Phillies’ Game 1 victory maintains their strong playoff record at Citizens Bank Park, where they are 27-11 in playoff games and 5-0 at home this postseason. The stakes will be high in Game 2 as the Diamondbacks aim to even the series.