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The Philadelphia Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the NLCS on Monday night, using the long ball to take an early lead and never look back in Game 1 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. There is now a little bit of pressure to win Game 2 and tie the series before heading home. Merrill Kelly will try to stifle the Phillies while Aaron Nola will take the mound against Arizona.
The D’Backs were actually one of the better road underdogs in baseball this year, going 27-25. However, the Phillies were 47-24 as a home favorite, which was the second-best record among teams that were home favorites at least 15 times. Arizona also went just 38-40 when coming off a loss while the Phillies went 57-38 this year following a win. Look for the Phils to harness that momentum and take a 2-0 series lead with another win on Tuesday night.
Despite some ups and downs during the regular season, Nola has looked good during the postseason. He tossed seven scoreless innings against the Marlins in the Wild Card round and then held a dynamic Atlanta lineup to just two runs over 5.2 innings while striking out nine during the NLDS. In fact, he’s now allowed two runs or less in four straight starts, and the only start during that span in which he didn’t pitch at least six innings was the game against the Braves. Nola has been sharp when it’s mattered the most and has gotten plenty of rest heading into Tuesday’s game. He also has a good track record against most of Arizona’s hitters, especially the top of the lineup. That should set up Nola for a strong outing, giving the Phillies a chance to take another early lead and hand things over to the bullpen.
To be fair, Kelly has been every bit as good as Nola coming down the stretch. He threw 6.1 scoreless innings against the Dodgers in the NLDS, meaning he’s held opposing teams to one run or less in five of his last seven starts. In fact, he’s allowing just 4.1 hits and 6.4 strikeouts per game during that stretch. However, the likes of Trea Turner and J.T. Realmuto have given him some trouble in the past. The Phillies also have more home run threats than the Arizona lineup. That’s a big deal in a hitter-friendly venue like Citizens Bank Park. Ultimately, it was Philadelphia’s ability to hit home runs that was the difference in Game 1, and that’s likely to be a key factor in Game 2. Both Nola and Kelly are capable of strong performances, but Kelly is a little more vulnerable to giving up home runs, which should be enough to lift the Phillies to a 2-0 series lead.
Bryan Zarpentine is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 2010. During that time, he has contributed to countless sites while covering baseball, soccer, the NFL, college football, and college basketball.More info on Bryan Zarpentine
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