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Phillies vs. Padres Game 1 prediction: Wheeler, Darvish should dominate on mound

NLCS opener sets up as a low-scoring affair at pitcher friendly Petco Park

San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado (left) and Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins (right) talk during a game at Citizens Bank Park. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado (left) and Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins (right) talk during a game at Citizens Bank Park. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)Read moreTim Nwachukwu / Getty Images

Even in today’s world when advanced analytics control virtually every aspect of professional sports, one old-school truism still applies to Major League Baseball’s postseason: It all starts with starting pitching.

Sure enough, the 2022 National League Championship Series pits two teams that are loaded with top-flight starters. And because the two improbable combatants — the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres — each needed just four games to pull off their Division Series upsets, those starting pitchers are rested and ready to roll.

A pair of bona fide aces — Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler and San Diego’s Yu Darvish — get the nod in Tuesday’s opener at Petco Park in San Diego. And those two quality arms inform our best bet for Game 1 of the NLCS, which starts at 8:03 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

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Phillies vs. Padres Prediction

• Under 7 runs (at FanDuel)

Phillies vs Braves Game 1 Prediction: Analysis

Interesting storylines abound leading into the 2022 National League Championship Series. You’ve got:

  1. Two red-hot surprise teams that each sprung upsets in the first two rounds of the postseason

  2. One of this year’s top NL MVP candidates (Padres third baseman Manny Machado) facing the reigning NL MVP (Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper)

  3. Harper also opposing his former Washington Nationals teammate, Padres star right fielder Juan Soto

  4. And two brothers — Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola and Padres catcher Austin Nola — in opposite dugouts.

Finally, you’ve got two stud right-handers on the mound in Tuesday’s series opener. Both Wheeler and Darvish possess filthy stuff, the kind that often has hitters muttering expletives as they shuffle back to the dugout. It’s why Wheeler (9.4) and Darvish (9.1) ranked 14th and tied for 17th, respectively, in strikeouts per nine innings this season.

Both pitchers were lights out in the regular season (Wheeler went 12-7 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.04 WHIP; Darvish was 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA and 0.95 WHIP). And both have continued to shine in October.

In four combined postseason starts, the veteran flame-throwers have given up just seven runs, 19 hits and five walks while striking out 20 in 24 1/3 innings. That pencils out to a combined 2.59 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.

» READ MORE: Complete Phillies playoff coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

Wheeler faced the Padres once this season and thoroughly dominated, scattering four hits (no walks) while striking out nine in seven innings of a 3-0 home win. Meanwhile, in his two starts against the Phillies, Darvish yielded a total of three runs and 13 hits with 14 strikeouts in 13 innings, earning a 2-0 road win and a no-decision in an 8-5 home loss.

Also noteworthy: Darvish’s ERA was nearly a full run better at home (2.60) than on the road (3.50). The same is true for Wheeler (1.85 ERA home; 3.84 ERA road). However, the 32-year-old has thrived in three career starts at Petco, giving up just four runs while recording 28 strikeouts in 17 innings.

As we noted in our NLCS odds preview, the Padres have the better bullpen — one that was nearly untouchable in the NLDS against the Dodgers. But if Wheeler can hold the fort for at least six innings, I trust Philly’s better relief arms to cover the back end of this game just fine.

Add it up, and this has all the makings of a 3-2 or 2-1 final. Play it Under the total at FanDuel.

Phillies vs. Padres Game 1 Odds (via FanDuel):

  1. Moneyline: Phillies (+102) @ Padres (-120)

  2. Run line: Phillies +1.5 runs (-210) @ Padres -1.5 runs (+172)

  3. Total: 7 runs (Over +100/Under -122)

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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