The Arizona Diamondbacks will take on the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS in the 2023 MLB postseason. For the second straight year, Philly has gone from Wild Card to the final four, knocking off the MLB-best Atlanta Braves in a war of an NLDS this week. Unlike last October, though, the Phillies aren’t the Cinderella story: That honor goes to the sixth-seeded D-backs, who weren’t even supposed to make the postseason but have gone 5-0 so far against the Brewers and Dodgers. Let’s take a look at the projected starting pitchers for the series.
Diamondbacks vs. Phillies starting pitchers
Game 1: Zac Gallen (17-9, 3.47 ERA)
Game 2: Merrill Kelly (12-8, 3.29)
Game 3: Brandon Pfaadt (3-9, 5.72)
Game 4: TBD (possibly Ryne Nelson — 8-8, 5.31)
Game 5: Gallen
Game 6: Kelly
Game 7: Pfaadt
A sweep in the NLDS gives Arizona plenty of time to line its rotation up. The first three games are easy: The D-backs will go with the order that’s gotten them here so far, with Cy Young candidates Gallen and Kelly leading off for the first two games in Philly followed by the rookie Pfaadt — who had a very bumpy start to his MLB career but was excellent in the team’s Game 3 win over L.A. — following. From there, though, things are up in the air: Unless the team wants to pitch Gallen on three days’ rest, Nelson would be the only other obvious candidate to start Game 4, but he’s yet to pitch in the postseason so far and has been inconsistent all year.
Gallen and Kelly are as reliable as they come. The former put up quality starts against both Milwaukee and the Dodgers, while Kelly delivered six shutout innings at Dodger Stadium in NLDS Game 1. Pfaadt is the wild card: If he looks like he did in the NLDS, Arizona can make this a very competitive series; if he pitches like he did in Game 1 of the Wild Card series, where he lasted just 2.2 innings, the Snakes could be in trouble.
Game 1: Zack Wheeler (13-6, 3.61 ERA)
Game 2: Aaron Nola (12-9, 4.46)
Game 3: Ranger Suarez (4-6, 4.18)
Game 4: TBD (likely Cristopher Sanchez — 3-5, 3.44; or Taijuan Walker — 15-6, 4.38)
Game 5: Wheeler
Game 6: Nola
Game 7: Suarez
Wheeler and Nola have shoved in each of their four postseason starts thus far, and the Phillies have to feel good about having them rested and ready for Games 1 and 2 at Citizens Bank Park. Suarez has earned the right to pitch Game 3 given his two very impressive efforts against the fearsome Braves in the NLDS. From there, Philly’s pitching depth gives Rob Thomson multiple options: He could go with the veteran Walker, who had a 4.83 ERA in the second half, or the rookie Sanchez, who was a revelation this year but has never pitched in October and is already past his career innings high. He could also piggyback the two, knowing that Wheeler, Nola and Suarez are trustworthy in Games 5, 6 and 7 should they be necessary.