Phils for a major test in Games 3 and 4 at Citizens Bank Park

Phillies for major test in Games 3 & 4 despite home advantage originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

While the Phillies struggled against the Padres in splitting the first two NLCS games in San Diego, these next two at Citizens Bank Park will be a big challenge.

The Phils get the ball back in Game 3 to Ranger Suarez, who went just 3⅓ innings and walked five in a wild start last week against the Braves in NLDS Game 1. Suarez minimized the damage as he has repeatedly over the past two seasons, allowing just one of his eight baserunners to score.

“The start against Atlanta wasn’t Ranger-esque,” manager Rob Thomson said, “but I think it was a bit amplified because of the playoff game. I think he’ll be better tomorrow, especially up front. our own fans . . . I think the crowd and just the adrenaline of the situation will get him through right now.”

In Game 4, the Phillies will piece things back together with their bullpen after a departure from Noah Syndergaard, Bailey Falter or Kyle Gibson, who pitched 1⅓ innings of relief on Wednesday. Syndergaard started in the same spot in the NLDS, going through the Braves roster once and pitching three innings.

There’s “zero chance” Zack Wheeler will start Game 4 with a short rest, Thomson said Thursday.

The Phils have mounted Wheeler and Aaron Nola hard so far and their duo at the top of the rotation have been more impactful than any in the playoffs, despite Nola’s Game 2 stumbles. Wheeler and Nola have pitched 36⅔ of the Phillies’ 70 playoff innings — more than half. No one else on the team threw more than six. They are in line to begin normal rest in games 5 and 6, respectively.

Few Padres have been able to face Suarez. Collectively, the active Padres went 8 for 47, hitting .170/.235/.277 with two doubles and a home run owned by Josh Bell.

Suarez made his longest start to the season the last time he faced the Friars, allowing two runs in 7⅓ innings at San Diego on June 23, but the Phillies will be watching him closely in Game 3. If his control is erratic , they won’t hesitate to retire him early like they did in the divisional round. Everyone will be on deck for the Phils after Thursday’s bye, the only day in the series.

“I really want to attack the hitters early in the count,” Suarez said. “I don’t want to go too far with the counts. I think it will really help my game tomorrow.”

San Diego has a clear starting pitching advantage in Game 3 with Bulldog right-hander Joe Musgrove. He has a 3.06 ERA in 61 starts since 2021 and has dazzled in the playoffs, allowing two runs in 13 innings for the Mets and Dodgers. The Padres won both games.

Musgrove started for San Diego the night Suarez shut them down in June and was hit hard, delivering six runs in six innings for the Phillies. Both Kyle Schwarber and JT Realmuto pushed him deep, and Musgrove uncharacteristically hit a single batter.

In his previous three starts against the Phillies from 2019-21, Musgrove had three quality starts:

• August 2021: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K

• August 2019: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

• July 2019: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 B, 8 K

“Musgrove – look, the Padres have a good rotation,” Thomson said. “Musgrove has some good stuff. Good secondary throws. We’ve had a bit of success against him this year, but he can still be tough. He throws the ball pretty well.”

The Phillies are home for three straight. Games start at 7:37 p.m. Friday, 7:45 p.m. Saturday and 2:37 p.m. Sunday, with the series returning to San Diego for Games 6 and 7 Monday and Tuesday, if necessary.

“I think for the most part we did our job in San Diego,” Thomson said. “Now we feel pretty good to be at home here for the next three games in front of our own fans, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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