PHILADELPHIA — The script is lined up perfectly for the Philadelphia Phillies.
No. 1 starter Zack Wheeler is slated to start, and standout relievers Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez will be rested and ready.
With a win over the San Diego Padres in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday, the Phillies will advance to the World Series for the first time since 2009.
The Phillies went ahead 3-1 in the NLCS following a stirring 10-6 victory Saturday.
Wheeler (12-7, 2.82 ERA regular season; 1-1, 1.40 ERA postseason) will pitch at home for the first time in four starts since the playoffs began.
“Very excited. Obviously been pitching on the road, but I’m very excited to pitch here in front of these fans,” Wheeler said. “They’re happy, they’re hungry, and they’re excited. So it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
For a team that wasn’t a lock to earn a spot in the postseason, it’s pretty surreal that the Phillies could be popping champagne bottles with one more win.
Rhys Hoskins anchored the victory in Game 4 with two home runs and four RBIs.
More impressive was that the Phillies overcame an early 4-0 deficit.
“Like I said, resilient group, no doubt,” Hoskins said. “But I think to do it on the stage we’re in right now should give us all the confidence in the world that no matter the lead, no matter when it is in the game, we feel like we have a chance. As an offense, that’s an outstanding thing to have.”
Bryce Harper’s two doubles helped to extend his postseason hitting streak to nine in a row.
The Padres can take solace that a victory Sunday would send the series back to San Diego for Game 6 on Monday.
“The focus for us is to win one and get home,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said.
Yu Darvish (16-8, 3.10 ERA regular season; 2-1, 2.84 ERA postseason) is scheduled to start for the Padres.
While there will likely be immense pressure on Darvish to produce, he’s not treating the start any differently.
“What I think is important is just go as you usually do, prepare for the game and go into the game,” Darvish said through a translator. “Sometimes winning a game and losing a game, there’s some luck involved in that, so that kind of comes into play. The best we can do is just really prepare ourselves for the big game and go into it and try to perform.”
If Darvish struggles for any reason, the entire bullpen must be ready. Any scenario is possible.
“Look, we’re going to have to get it done,” Melvin said. “We have some guys at the back end that could potentially pitch more than one inning. This time of year, guys are just going to have to go out and perform.”
Manny Machado and Juan Soto each homered in Game 4, but the Padres still came up short. At this stage, there’s no way they’re quitting. Not now.
“Just go out there and go perform,” Machado said. “It’s 27 outs. We’re going to go out and compete and leave it all out on the field.”
–Andy Jasner, Field Level Media