Wild Card Series Preview: Phillies begin World Series aspirations in St. Louis

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Phillies Zack Wheeler
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler throws the ball to a Washington Nationals player during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

A total of 11 seasons after the St. Louis Cardinals knocked the Philadelphia Phillies out of the 2011 National League Divisional Series, the Phillies have a chance to seek revenge.

This would be the last time the Phillies made the postseason and the fateful night where Ryan Howard would tear his Achilles, thus ending the best run in franchise history.

It has been a long and painful journey for the Phillies to get back to the playoffs. They have finally ended their drought and are no longer a laughing stock of Major League Baseball. While the Phillies might have just made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, they should not be overlooked.

A lineup full of former All-Stars and the reigning National League MVP can strike fear in the hearts of any pitcher. A starting rotation topped by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola can and will be enough to shut down opposing offenses. While the Cardinals may have finished with a better overall record than Philadelphia, the Fightins won the season series 4 games to 3.

This upcoming series against the Cardinals will not be an easy task, but the Phillies are capable of going into St. Louis and playing spoiler to the Albert Pujols retirement tour.

An Outlook on the Cardinals

Phillies are facing a 3-Headed Attack

The St. Louis Cardinals have the National League MVP on their roster. Between Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, the Cards will be bringing home the trophy after two incredible seasons by their All-Stars.

While Albert Pujols is not in contention for the Most Valuable Player award, his play in the second half of the season has been very MVP-like. The future Hall of Famer has been slashing .323/ .388/ .715/ 1.103 with 18 homeruns and 48 runs batted in.

These three hitters have been the Cardinals’ offense this season and are powerful enough to get the job done themselves.

One Last Run

The Cardinals’ season has partially been dedicated to the final seasons of Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and potentially Adam Wainwright. These three legends in the game of baseball are looking to embark on one final playoff run.

The Phillies are their first and hopefully final roadblock as these three suit up for what could be their final series in St. Louis. The Phils are not only looking to upset the Cardinals but have to play the spoiler role in this series.

Not allowing the Cardinals and these future Hall of Famers to move on almost makes them the bad guys, but Philly is more than capable of playing this role well. With this being said, these three guys are still playing good baseball this late into their careers. The Phightins can not afford to underestimate these legends, who combined decades worth of playoff experience.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Zack Wheeler (12-7, 2.82 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (6-7, 2.93 ERA)

The Phillies will send their ace to the mound for Game 1 of the Wild Card series. Zack Wheeler was dominant in the regular season against the St. Louis Cardinals, going 2-0 in 14 shutout innings. Wheeler last pitched on Sunday against the Washington Nationals, giving him full rest heading into his start against the Cardinals. There is not much to discuss on Wheeler other than the Phillies are handing the ball to their best option. Zack has to deliver in what will be the biggest moment of his Phillies career.

Ironically enough, the man starting for the Cardinals could have been starting for the Phillies in this playoff series.

Jose Quintana will be the ball for the Cards in Game 1, and the lefty was one of the many names the Phillies considered at the trade deadline. Quintana is a crafty lefty that pitched well against the Phillies in this one start against the club this season.

Knowing that Schwarber and Harper are the two best hitters on the Phils, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol most likely felt that, by starting the veteran lefty, it would give them the best possible advantage against the two Phillies All-Stars.

Game 2: Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25 ERA) vs Miles Mikolas (12-13, 3.29 ERA)

After taking the ball to send the Phillies to the playoffs on Monday, Aaron Nola will get a chance to win his first playoff start come Saturday. Nola has been tasked with Game 2 of the Wild Card series, and several scenarios can come with that.

Nola could be stepping into this game with a chance to send the Phillies to the Divisional series, or he could be trying to get the Phillies to a Game 3, depending on how Friday turns out. If Nola can even come close to how dominant he was against the Astros on Monday night, there is no doubt that the Phillies should be able to win the game.

The Phillies’ bats will be opposed by Miles Mikolas in game two. While this is always subject to change, this could be huge for the Phillies. Mikolas is a good pitcher, but by no means strikes fear in his opponents. He does not walk many batters, but he doesn’t strike out a ton of guys as well.

By being aggressive, the Phillies sluggers should be able to tee off. A Kyle Schwarber or Bryce Harper homerun would not stun me in the slightest, and if the Phillies can win Game one, I like their chances of winning the series in this one.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez