The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS over the weekend to advance to their first NLCS since 2010. Fueled by an explosive series from Bryce Harper and the rest of the lineup, the Phillies beat the Braves in consecutive games at Citizens Bank Park on Friday and Saturday. The Phillies will face the San Diego Padres in the NLCS, which begins on Tuesday night.

The Phillies have exceeded expectations all postseason and currently have a 5-1 overall record. Harper has led the way, with a .435 batting average and two home runs in the NLDS. Harper is 10-for-23 this postseason with three home runs and six RBIs.

Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola will start the series on the road in San Diego. Wheeler made starts in both the wild card round and NLDS. Through two starts, he has an ERA of 2.19, along with nine strikeouts through 12 innings. In his second outing, Wheeler allowed three earned runs to the Braves in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the NLDS. The Phillies went on to lose that game 3-0 in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Nola will have added motivation in the NLCS, facing his brother and Padres catcher Austin Nola. For Aaron, his first postseason has been dominant. He hasn’t allowed an earned run during either of his victorious outings. He also has a 0.95 WHIP, with 12 strikeouts in as many innings.

After Wheeler and Nola, some combination of Ranger Suarez and Noah Syndergaard will likely take the mound when the series returns to Citizens Bank Park. Suarez took a massive step forward this season as a starting pitcher and started Game 3 against the Braves. Syndergaard looked solid in his first postseason outing since 2016, allowing only a solo home run in three innings of work in Game 4 of the NLDS.

The Phillies’ bullpen had been the main factor in the team’s struggles in years prior. But during this postseason, the revamped group has been strong. Seranthony Dominguez closed out the NLDS and recorded the win in Game 1, posting two shutout innings with three strikeouts.

Zach Eflin had a strong series against the Cardinals before struggling in Game 1 of the NLDS, allowing a three-run home run to Matt Olson in the bottom of the ninth inning during the Phillies’ 7-6 win. Elfin will be called upon in the NLCS and has a crucial role in the bullpen.

The Phillies will face another tough test in the Padres. Considered a contender last season, the Padres quietly flew under the radar this season. Similar to the Phillies, the Padres had several expensive offseasons headlined by the coinciding Manny Machado and Bryce Harper sweepstakes in the winter of 2019.

The Padres had a disappointing end to the shortened 2020 season, getting swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS. They missed the postseason and finished the year below .500 in 2021. The team fired manager Jayce Tingler and hired Bob Melvin from Oakland.

The Padres and Phillies pulled off two upsets during this year’s postseason. San Diego started by beating the Mets at Citi Field in the Wild Card Series before slaying the Dodgers in the NLDS. The Padres are a talented team featuring a lethal big three composed of Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr, and the trade deadline addition of Juan Soto. Tatis will miss the entire postseason due to an 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s PED Policy.

Soto is a familiar foe for the Phillies, beginning his career with the Nationals. Soto was a part of Washington’s 2019 World Series run and has been a catalyst for the Padres’ lineup without Tatis. Soto hasn’t had an abnormally explosive postseason, hitting .250 with three RBIs, but he’ll be the main focus for the Phillies’ pitching staff.

Machado is another familiar name, linked with Harper as the two stars of the 2019 offseason. Machado met with Phillies officials at Citizens Bank Park before signing with the Padres. Machado has performed well for San Diego this season, hitting .298 with 32 home runs and 102 RBI, and is in the running for the NL MVP.

[Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Phillies’ Twitter Account]