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Ask Phillies Nation: Who should start a Wild Card Game if Zack Wheeler is unavailable?

A wild card berth is still in play for the Philadelphia Phillies.

A division title is still the Phillies’ most likely path to the playoffs, but it’s too early to say they have no chance of claiming the second wild card spot. They are two games behind the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds, who are tied for the second wild card spot. San Diego has the hardest remaining schedule while Cincinnati and Philadelphia have the two easiest remaining schedules in baseball. The Phillies are 2.5 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East.

Aaron Nola has a 4.57 ERA in 2021. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)

If the Phillies were to make the postseason as a wild card team for the first time in franchise history, they would have to go on the road and face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Francisco Giants in a one-game playoff for the right to face the NL West division winner in the division series (either the Giants or the Dodgers).

With the way the current rotation sets up, ace Zack Wheeler is set to pitch in game 162 against Miami. Assuming the Phillies make the playoffs and need all 162 games to get there, Wheeler won’t be available to pitch the National League Wild Card Game, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 6. If the Phillies do win the division on the final day, Wheeler would be available to pitch Game 1 of the National League Division Series, which is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 8.

Aaron Nola has a 5.21 ERA on the road since 2019. His ERA in September is slightly higher (5.38), but maybe things would be different in October? It’s hard to tell considering that Nola just hasn’t been the same guy all year.

Kyle Gibson has one career start in the postseason with the Minnesota Twins. He lasted one inning and gave up three earned runs in a 10-4 loss against the Yankees in the 2019 American League Division Series. Gibson had a poor outing last time out against Miami, but has been one of the team’s more consistent starters since he was acquired in a trade with the Texas Rangers.

Ranger Suárez pitched well in a start against the Dodgers on Aug. 12. He has a 1.71 ERA since moving to the rotation, but the Phillies lefty is dealing with some arm tiredness. He’s scheduled to make his next start Thursday against Colorado, but the Phillies are going to have to be cautious moving forward. Perhaps Suárez gives the Phillies the best chance to win. He can can keep the Phillies in it for five or six innings and give way to the bullpen.

Speaking of the bullpen, maybe the Phillies should just do a bullpen game. It’s unlikely to happen, but if it continues to work as well as it did Sunday in Miami, maybe it’s worth exploring.

Maybe Matt Moore will make a start or two in September, but it seems like he has fallen out of favor as an option. The Phillies would rather rely on the bullpen to be the team’s No. 5 starter as opposed to Moore.

When asked about Zach Eflin, Dave Dombrowski told Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer that it’s “…very difficult for him to come back and pitch.” He’s certainly not an option to pitch in a one-game playoff.

Who should start a Wild Card game if Zack Wheeler is unavailable?

  • Ranger Suárez (54%, 135 Votes)
  • Kyle Gibson (30%, 74 Votes)
  • Aaron Nola (15%, 38 Votes)
  • Bullpen (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Matt Moore (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 249

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Here’s the results from last week’s poll:

If given the opportunity to re-sign one of these three pitchers to a one-year guaranteed contract for 2022, which would you choose?

  • Héctor Neris (48%, 691 Votes)
  • Archie Bradley (28%, 396 Votes)
  • Ian Kennedy (24%, 345 Votes)


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