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MLB Playoff Roundup: Joe Musgrove looks to push Padres in front

The NLCS shifts to Philadelphia as the Padres turn to Joe Musgrove to deliver another postseason gem.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

After a topsy-turvy Game 2, the NLCS heads back east as the Phillies and Padres shift to Philadelphia. The Phillies had a chance to take a commanding lead in this series, firing aces Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola right off the top, winning Game 1 behind brilliance from Wheeler and staking Nola to a 4-0 lead in Game 2. Yet here we are, all tied up after San Diego found a way to strike down Nola.

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Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Diego Padres

Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia

Game 3: Joe Musgrove vs. Ranger Suárez

First pitch: 7:45pm ET (FOX)

Now, the Padres have a chance to press a pitching advantage. Joe Musgrove has had a brilliant October thus far, dominating the Mets in an elimination game back in the Wild Card round, and then going six strong in the deciding Game 4 against the Dodgers. For the playoffs, Musgrove has totaled 13 innings with two runs allowed, 13 strikeouts against four walks.

Musgrove would appear to be feeling the October adrenaline. His fastball velocity is up about a tick over his regular season average, and his spin rates have increased across the board.

It’ll be interesting to see, though, if Musgrove alters his approach from his first two playoff successes. Musgrove has a deep repertoire, possessing six distinct pitches to attack hitters with. During the season, he used every part of that arsenal, usually opting not to emphasize his four-seamer; he used the pitch about a quarter of the time. But Musgrove has gotten aggressive with his fastball, using it heavily in two postseason starts, with his 44 four-seamers against the Dodgers eight more than he threw in any single start in 2022. The Phillies have a number of hitters (Kyle Schwarber, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins come to mind) who can punish fastballs. It could behoove Musgrove to go back to featuring his slider and curve, breaking balls which he can command very well.

Suárez offers a foil for Musgrove on the other end. Both have middling fastball velo’s, but Suárez’s doesn’t come with the high spin that Musgrove can create. Instead, Suárez mainly uses a sinker and an effective changeup that he can keep down and away from right-handed batters.

The lefty had a breakout 2021 but came back down to earth a bit in 2022, managing 155.1 innings with a 111 ERA+ with fairly ugly peripherals, including worse than average strikeout and walk rates. Despite the series moving to the Phillies’ home turf, the Padres will likely feel like this one is theirs to win with an advantage in starting pitching.