Rightfully so, when we looked at the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies series, in order for the Phillies to have a shot the first thoughts went to the tandem of Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. Wheeler, of course, pitched a gem in Game Two, although it turned into a 3-0 Phillies loss and tied the series at 1-1.
Now Nola will look to give the Phillies a one-game advantage in this best-of-five series this afternoon against either Charlie Morton or Spencer Strider. Again, rightfully so, many are expecting another stellar performance from Nola, who has given us plenty of them this season and postseason. But today, to me, isn’t solely about the performance of Nola. In fact, I don’t think Nola’s outing is the most important ingredient to a win. Yes, the team needs him to be good, but by good I’m thinking a quality start (6 innings pitched, 3 or fewer earned).
But there is something more important that will lend to a Phillies win today and that is the production of the offense. Nola could be spectacular, similar to what Wheeler was on Wednesday night. But the offense cannot even be a slight image of what they were in Game Two. No, there needs to be early hitting, no matter the pitcher. Early hitting that will give Nola a lead to work with. Early hitting that will fill the rest of the order with confidence. Early hitting that will get them close to 40,000 fans, who haven’t seen a home playoff game in 4,025 days, into a frenzy that will carry the team to a better performance.
Hitting is contagious in baseball, I’m convinced of that. So spread it around like a bad cold, Phillies. And it starts with the No. 1 and 2 hitters in Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins. They MUST provide some kind of spark to an offense that has looked stagnant much too often of late.
Offense is the key today. And it should be enough even if it is only a decent start by Aaron Nola.