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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: Previewing the NLCS

Two surprise finalists duke it out for the National League pennant.

Philadelphia Phillies v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Unlike me, you know what happened to the Yankees last night. It is 2:07 pm Pacific time on Monday, and I am writing about the National League Championship Series, which will kick off Tuesday night from southern California, as two Wild Card entries face off with a World Series berth on the line.

Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Diego Padres

Game 1: Zack Wheeler (PHI) vs. Yu Darvish (SD)
Petco Park (San Diego, CA)
First pitch: Tuesday Oct. 18, 8:03pm ET (FS1)

Game 2: Aaron Nola (PHI) vs. Blake Snell (SD)
Petco Park (San Diego, CA)
First pitch: Wednesday Oct. 19, 7:35pm ET (Fox)

Game 3: Ranger Suarez (PHI) vs. Joe Musgrove? (SD)
Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia, PA)
First pitch: Friday Oct. 21, 7:37pm ET (FS1)

Game 4: Bullpen (PHI) vs. Mike Clevinger? (SD)
Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia, PA)
First pitch: Saturday Oct. 22, 7:45pm ET (Fox)

Game 5 (if necessary): Sunday Oct. 23 in Philadelphia, 2:37pm ET (FS1)

Game 6 (if necessary): Monday Oct. 24 in San Diego, 8:03pm ET (FS1)

Game 7 (if necessary): Tuesday Oct. 25 in San Diego, 8:03pm ET (FS1)

Complicated scheduling may end up being the biggest factor in this series, as a single offday on Thursday and no offday to travel back across the country to San Diego for a potential Game 6 create challenges when lining up a pitching rotation. Neither team features four high-quality starters, with the Phillies looking to maximize output from their two top arms, Wheeler and Nola, and hoping for the best with the rest.

For the Padres, the biggest question regarding their rotation was what to do with Joe Musgrove. He threw on Saturday, meaning that manager Bob Melvin could have sent him out on Wednesday on three days’ rest. With the offday Thursday, that would have opened the door for a possible Game 7 on regular rest. Instead, he’ll wait until Friday to pitch on extra rest and would have to take Game 7 on short rest. Given those two options, I would have been tempted to have him go in Game 2, to attempt to build a lead in the series, but San Diego will play it safe.

The Phillies have a slight edge in their offense, four points better by wRC+ than the Padres in the regular season and have outscored the Dads 32-31 while playing six games this postseason against seven. Kyle Schwarber may be invisible so far, but Bryce Harper has 10 hits and the rest of the lineup has had key ABs at one moment or another.

For the Padres, we saw some encouraging signs from Juan Soto, who despite still being among the 10 best hitters in baseball this year, just seemed a little off all season. He had the hardest or second-hardest hit ball in three of the four NLDS games against the Dodgers, and behind him, Manny Machado has continued his MVP-level performance. Jake Cronenworth also delivered more than his share of decisive blows in the upset victory over LA.

After one of the most surprising divisional rounds the NL has seen in some time, the NLCS is a glorious breath of fresh air for fans tired of seeing the same two-to-three teams dominate the Senior Circuit. Neither team has been to the Fall Classic in over a decade — 13 years for the Phillies (2009 vs. the Yankees) and 24 years for the Padres (1998, again vs. the Yankees) I’m happy with either team coming out ahead, although Soto, Musgrove, and Machado will always have special places in my baseball heart. It should be a fantastic series.

Now will someone tell me what the Yankees did?*

*Editor’s note: Bad news, Past Josh. It rained.