MLB Playoffs 2022: Phillies' Zack Wheeler silences Padres' bats in Game 1 gem

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MLB Playoffs 2022: Phillies' Zack Wheeler silences Padres' bats in Game 1 gem
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By Rowan Kavner
FOX Sports MLB Writer

SAN DIEGO — There’s a saying that solo homers won’t beat you. 

Whoever coined it wasn’t pitching against Zack Wheeler.

Yu Darvish allowed one solo homer in his first start of the postseason and three in his second. They were the only runs he surrendered in those outings, and the damage was minimal enough for the Padres to pull through with wins against Max Scherzer in the Wild Card Series and Clayton Kershaw in the National League Division Series.

The same could not be said Tuesday, when two solo homers off Darvish gave Wheeler and the Phillies all they needed to strike first. A San Diego offense that tagged Scherzer for seven runs and Kershaw for three mustered nothing against Wheeler in a 2-0 loss at Petco Park in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

“We couldn’t get anything going,” Jurickson Profar said after the Padres registered just one hit off Wheeler. “Just trying to attack him, but we didn’t do anything.”

Zack Wheeler speaks with Ken Rosenthal after his impressive Game 1

In a postgame interview with Ken Rosenthal, Zack Wheeler discusses how he shut down the San Diego Padres in Game 1 of the NLCS.

The Padres’ offense, which ambushed Dodgers starter Julio Urías for three runs in the fifth inning of Game 1 of the NLDS and the Dodgers bullpen for five runs in the seventh inning of the deciding Game 4, failed to offer any resistance to Wheeler’s dominance Tuesday.

Continuing to look more and more healthy after his late-season forearm tendinitis issue, Wheeler’s velocity ticked up at Petco Park, as he pounded the strike zone in the best start of his brief postseason career. He followed 6⅓ scoreless innings in the Wild-Card Series and six innings of three-run ball in the NLDS by shutting the Padres out for seven innings.

He needed only 83 pitches to strike out eight, preventing the Padres from carrying the momentum of Saturday’s stunning, series-ending comeback against the Dodgers into the start of a new series at home. Darvish’s quality start over seven innings was no match.

“We’ve got to go out there and score some runs for him,” Manny Machado said after failing to reach base for the first time this postseason. “You can’t win like that, that’s for sure.”

After a Juan Soto walk in the first inning, the Padres didn’t put another runner on base until Wil Myers singled in the fifth. That was the only Padres hit of the game. Wheeler got a pop-out of Ha-Seong Kim and struck out Trent Grisham to end the threat, if it could be considered one at all.

MLB Playoffs: Padres vs. Phillies NLCS Game 1 recap

Ben Verlander and Alex Curry recap Game 1 of the NLCS, in which Zack Wheeler out-dueled Yu Darvish in a pitchers’ battle.

The crowd at Petco Park, so raucous over the weekend against the Dodgers, was not as boisterous Tuesday evening. Wheeler gave the San Diego fans little to cheer about. The Padres didn’t put a runner in scoring position until after the Phillies starter’s departure.

A comeback appeared to be brewing against the Philadelphia bullpen in the ninth inning, after Alec Bohm offered a gift. With one on and one out, Soto chopped a potential double-play ball to the Phillies third baseman. With the defense in a shift, shortstop Bryson Stott ran to cover second base. The throw from Bohm sailed wide to put the tying run on base.

But the big hit never arrived against reliever José Alvarado. The Padres’ two at-bats all night with a runner in scoring position ended with a Machado flyout and a Josh Bell strikeout. 

“We always feel good when we have a chance to win in the ninth inning,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Didn’t happen. But it leaves kind of a bad taste in your mouth, so you want to get out there as quickly as you can.”

Melvin added that he doesn’t need to deliver any sort of message about the importance of Game 2. He believes his team understands the significance of capturing at least one of the first two home games in this best-of-seven series.

On Wednesday, San Diego will try to turn the page against an opponent catcher Austin Nola knows well: his younger brother, Aaron, who will take the mound for Philadelphia.

“Very familiar,” Austin Nola said. “We’ve got to bring it.”

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for FOX Sports. He previously was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.


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