SAN DIEGO – Here it is. Try to hit it.
Has baseball ever been distilled into anything simpler than that? That swagger is disappearing in the game. The rotation is in progress. Deception dominates. For the first time in recorded history, major league pitchers threw fast balls with less than half of their pitches, 48.6%. Just six years ago it was 56.3%. Over 68,000 fastballs went poof! in the name of advanced metrics, launch labs, and incredibly detailed batter scouting reports.
The Philadelphia don’t play that postmodern, passive-aggressive game. They are increasing the heat and turning the clock back. The Fathers learned that very hard lesson on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
Philadelphia held San Diego on a hit, a single, while throwing 62% fastballs. This started with seven innings from Zack Wheeler, who averaged 97.2 mph on his heater, making him the softest pitcher of the night for the Phillies. Seranthony Dominguez (99.6) and Jose Alvarado (99.8) took care of the last six outs by raising the fire on the grid even more.
“Listen, this is our identity,” says pitching coach Caleb Cotham. “We do it differently than what’s in vogue. Especially at this time of year, we’re not as worried as others about pitching against batters’ weaknesses. Let’s go strength upon strength “.
To beat the Padres, you need to control Juan Soto and Manny Machado. Wheeler tossed Soto cautiously. But what Philadelphia did with Machado tells you everything you need to know about his favorite World Series route: Here it is. Try to hit it.
The Phillies threw 19 pitches to Machado; 16 of them were fast balls clocked between 95 and 100mph. And when we talk about fast balls, we’re not talking about those fancy cut fast balls, which are modified sliders. We’re talking country hardball heaters – four seams and sinkers.
Machado saw a step below 93 mph all night. He went 0 for 4 against that flurry of quick balls. It was only the second time in the whole year that Machado went 0 for 4 where each out was the result of a quick ball.
“Tonight, it worked,” Cotham said. “But this is our strength. This is our identity “.
The Padres went 0 of 6 on the first few shots, five of them on the heaters in the strike zone. Translation: Even when the San Diego hitters sat on the quick balls of the first pitch in the area, they didn’t do any damage with them.
“They have good hitters and you don’t want to be thrown back in the count,” says Cotham. “So we will use our 0-0 chances rather than fall behind. And the way to do that is to attack the zone. If we have to adapt, we adapt. But this is our strength and we will keep it until we have to adapt ”.
The Phillies are the most tacky team still standing. They play chest out and chin up and take on teams with the confidence of an unarmed fighter. This is what happens when you are loaded with powerful pitchers, your attack is based on crushing home runs, and you spend 20 of the last 23 days on the road fighting for your lives in the playoffs.
“Without a doubt we have come together even more as a group,” says Bryce Harper, who punched his fourth post-season homer, a modest hit compared to Kyle Schwarber’s 488-foot rocket club. “Belief. We believe in ourselves”.
The Phillies finished the regular season with a 10-game away game to barely qualify as sixth and bottom-seeded, they’ve won two consecutive games in St. Louis in the wild card series, they’ve won one of two in Atlanta, they’re returned home and closed that LDS with two wins and opened this NLCS with another away win, with Aaron Nola (zero points earned in two post-season starts) taking the ball on Wednesday in Game 2. They are 6 -1 this post-season, including 4-1 away.
“The guy who goes [in Game 2]”says Cotham of Nola,” he may not have the Wheels veil, but he has flawless and out-of-the-box control of his fastball.
During the regular season, the Phillies threw 52% quick balls, the third most in baseball and the highest rate of any playoff team. Among the starters with at least 2,300 pitches, Wheeler was ranked 9th in fastball rate (59.4%), Ranger Suarez was ranked 11th (57.9%) and Nola was ranked 23rd (52.2%) ), all well above the major league average.
Wheeler is pitching stronger than he has all year and has conceded only four runs in his last six starts since the Phillies, against his stubborn wishes, gave him respite by putting him on the IL.
“It was a bit of a gamble considering how we got in,” says Cotham, “but the way Bailey Falter was pitching, we thought we could afford it because we wanted to have Wheels at their best when we needed him most.”
Dominguez, whose veil went up 2 mph in Race 1, and Alvarado, up 0.2 mph, are also throwing better than they have all year.
“Yes,” says Cotham when asked if all three are launching at their peak in October, “and this is a credit to our training and conditioning staff who have tweaked many programs quite a bit, especially with recovery, as well as the buy-in we have received from all the players. Everything we have put in place during the year is paying off. “
Obviously, it wouldn’t be a real Phillies game without a banana-skin defense point. What could have been a late game double play became a tense moment when third baseman Alex Bohm missed a throw to second baseman in ninth. This resulted in Machado as the go-ahead.
The JT Realmuto receiver collected the interns around Alvarado on the mound. How would they get out?
“Trust a hundred [mph]First base Rhys Hoskins said. “It’s easy enough to do. It was also nice to all get together ”.
Alvarado fell behind Machado with a 94 mph cutter. Petco Park fans were in all their glory screaming and waving towels, expecting a sequel to the five-run NLDS rally that killed the Dodgers. Alvarado would quickly reassure them.
Sinker at 99 for a called strike.
Sinker to 100 for a flyball and the second out.
Alvarado then jumped ahead of Josh Bell on 101 mph ballast before finishing him off with a 93 mph cutter. The Phillies pitched 23 of their 109 shots at 99 and harder.
“We got a hundred from the left side after a hundred from the right side,” Hoskins said.
The tenor of the series has been fixed. The Phillies took control of it with a show of strength on the mountain and on the plate. They have Wheeler and Nola lined up to pitch four of their first six games at full rest, which could make comparisons with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling for Arizona in the 2001 postseason.
To stop them, the Padres will need their stable of stars to show up: Blake Snell on the mound in Race 2 and Soto and Machado in the batter’s box. They had better hurry, because seven games in the postseason, the Phillies are getting bolder with every sizzling fastball they throw and every mammoth home run they’ve scored.
More MLB coverage:
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• The NLCS comes to Bryce Harper and Manny Machado
• NLCS Predictions: Expert picks for Padres-Phillies
• The Padres denounce the flaws of the Dodgers in a stunning series
• The Yankees will need a new manager next season