The Phillies are leaning toward starting Aaron Nola in Game 1 of the World Series Friday night in Houston, manager Rob Thomson told Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie on the 94WIP Midday Show Tuesday.
That start could have gone to Zack Wheeler on regular rest, but it sounds like the Phils are opting to give Wheeler an extra day and roll with Nola to start the series.
"We'll announce official tomorrow, but I think the common sense way to go about it is to have Nola go Game 1 and give Wheeler the extra day rest and have him go Game 2," Thomson said. "But I'll talk to those guys a little bit tomorrow and we'll come up with it."
We went through the logic of starting Nola over Wheeler in Game 1 on Monday's Phillies Talk podcast.
Nola beat the Astros on October 3 in the last game they lost. He carried a perfect game into the seventh inning that night as the Phillies clinched their first playoff berth in 11 years. Houston had little to play for as the top seed in the American League was already locked up, but the Astros did start their regulars: Jose Altuve, Jeremy Peña, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker and the rest.
Nola last started in Game 2 of the NLCS on October 19. He'll be pitching on nine days' rest when he takes the mound at Minute Maid Park.
Wheeler started Sunday, the day the Phillies became National League champions. He allowed two runs over six innings and threw 87 pitches. His start in Game 2 would come on an extra day of rest. Wheeler has been considerably better when given at least one extra day of rest this season and postseason, posting a 2.02 ERA in 18 starts compared to a 3.66 ERA in 12 starts on normal rest.
The Phillies made a point to give Wheeler and Nola an extra day of rest throughout the season. Nola started 19 times on at least one extra day. They’ve been workhorses for an extended period of time — over the last five seasons, Nola leads the majors in innings and Wheeler is fourth, behind Gerrit Cole and Jose Berrios.
While the Astros just saw Nola three weeks ago, most of their hitters have never seen Wheeler. Only Trey Mancini and Houston's catchers, Martin Maldonado and Christian Vazquez, have faced him, going 1 for 10 with a single.
The Astros are likely to start Justin Verlander in Game 1 and left-handed sinkerballer extraordinaire Framber Valdez in Game 2.
Ranger Suarez is lined up to start for the Phils in Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park on Halloween night.
It’s unclear what would happen from there. Nola could theoretically start Games 4 and 7 on one fewer day of rest each time if needed.
Or it could be a bullpen game for Game 4, Nola in Game 5 on normal rest and Wheeler in Game 6 on an extra day of rest again.
Game 7 would be all-hands-on-deck.