Plenty of parallels between Padres and Phillies in NLCS

In this unique National League Championship Series, there are plenty of parallels between the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies.

The NLCS features two ballparks that opened up in the same season (2004) hoping that it would spark of future rich of postseason appearances. The Padres got to taste the playoffs first in 2005 and 2006. The Phillies followed that by ended a long postseason drought with a World Series championship in 2008. After a string of success, a new drought began after the 2011 season.

Another parallel between the two teams is how they addressed ending their respective drought. After the 2018 season, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado entered the free agent market hoping to cash big on a franchise desperate to return to promise land. Picking between Machado and Harper was like picking your starting Pokemon back in the days when half the kids you knew in middle school had a Game Boy in their pocket.

Both stars have lived up their over $300M billing. Harper hasn’t always been healthy but when he is, he is capable of winning the NL MVP, which is did last season. Machado, hit at least 28 home runs in three of his four seasons in San Diego. The one year he didn’t hit as much was during the 60-game 2020 season, but his 16 home runs, 47 RBI and .304 batting average was good enough to be third in the MVP voting.

Both teams signed these guys expecting this to be the eventual outcome. It almost seems like destiny that after a full season spent fighting for the second and third wild card spots, reaching the postseason for the first time in over a decade, that their victories in this series would be marked by their stars. Harper homered in Game 1, and Machado hit rebuttal bomb in Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

Now the series shifts to Philadelphia, where the Phillies now have the opportunity to win the series with three straight home games.

“You go into their place, which is probably going to be as spirited as ours is, down 2-0 and that’s an uphill battle,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin.

Sibling Showdown

The most unique parallel in this series is the battle between Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola and Padres catcher Austin Nola. There have been five other matchups between sets of siblings before, Sandy Jr. going up against Robert Alomar in the 1996 ALDS and the ’97 ALCS, is the probably the most famous example. But the battle of the Nolas is the first time in postseason history where one is on the mound and the other is at the plate.

Aaron grew up wanting to be as good as his older brother. He ended up surpassing him as a big leaguer. The two were drafted two years apart. Austin was the Marlins’ fifth round draft pick in 2012 and Aaron was the Phillies first round pick in 2014. When Aaron made his MLB debut in 2015, Austin was a middle infielder in Triple-A New Orleans. When Austin finally reached the big leagues as a catcher for the Seattle Mariners in 2019, Aaron was a well established ace with back-to-back seasons of 200+ innings pitched.

The two brothers faced off twice before Wednesday. Aaron won the first meeting with a strikeout on August 21, 2021 and gifted Austin the ball for Christmas. Austin got revenge on June 24 by becoming the first player in MLB history (in the Modern Era, since 1900) to log a game-winning hit off his brother that was the sole RBI of the game.

“It’s a typical plate appearance vs. my brother. I’m 0-2,” Austin Nola said. “I might as well just walk up there and tell him to put two strikes on me because that’s what it feels like. I just battle. I know the kind of pitcher he is. He’s not going to give in. I’m just trying to hit something hard through the middle and good things happen.”

Aaron entered the game with a 0.00 ERA in his first two career postseason appearances. Austin was only able to get one hit off him in four at-bats but it led to the continuation of a 5-run barrage in the fifth inning that swung the momentum San Diego’s way.

Where the Phun begins

With the next three games of the NLCS in Philadelphia, the Phillies have a chance to end it on their home turf.

This has happened before. The Phillies split the 2008 World Series in Tampa Bay before winning three straight in Citizen’s Bank Field. The same thing happened in the 2009 NLCS. The Phillies and Dodgers split the first two game of the series going into Philadelphia and it was all she wrote. The Yankees broke that streak in the World Series that same year and since then, the Phillies were the ones with the traditional home-field advantage, although it did not serve them.

This time around, it seems like the Phillies found their mojo and are in position to have history repeat itself.

“We went into Atlanta, won the first one, lost the second one. Disappointing game. We had a day off and came back home in front of 46,000 raucous people and played really well. I expect to do the same thing,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said.

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