One pennant-deciding Game 7 wasn't enough. Let's play two.
A day after the Rangers and Astros clashed in Game 7 to decide the American League Championship Series, the Phillies and D-backs are going to Game 7 in the National League Championship Series.
It will be the first Game 7 in the Phillies' 140-year franchise history. It will be the D-backs' first Game 7 since their legendary World Series victory over the Yankees in 2001.
First pitch at Citizens Bank Park is set for 8:07 p.m. ET on Tuesday. A World Series berth is on the line. MLB.com is taking a shot at predicting the answers to five key questions entering Game 7.
1. What will be higher: Arizona’s stolen base total or Philly’s home run total?
David Adler: Philly's home run total. Game 6 was quiet … too quiet. The Phillies will get their raucous home crowd going in Game 7. Bryce Harper is homering. Trea Turner is homering. Nick Castellanos is homering. OK, maybe not everyone is homering, but the point is: I think the Phillies' offense blows up in Game 7. Brandon Pfaadt pitched the game of his life against them in Game 3. He doesn't have another one of those in him. The Philadelphia fans, and bats, are going to be loud.
Anthony Castrovince: D-backs stolen bases. I’m just going to go all-in on Arizona in this exercise because they’ve flipped the script on this series and arguably put all the pressure on the Phillies. Though he’s been tremendous in October, Brandon Pfaadt has been homer-prone in his rookie season. But the D-backs woke up on the basepaths in Game 6, and, given the opportunity, I would expect them to force the issue again in Game 7. It’s their equalizer.
Brent Maguire: Philly’s home run total. The Phillies have homered multiple times in half of their 12 playoff games -- including three home runs in five of those games. Monday’s Game 6 loss against the D-backs marked just the third time that they haven’t homered in a game this postseason. Pfaadt has been awesome in the playoffs but he was also homer-prone in the regular season with 22 long balls in 96 innings. Add in the home-field advantage in Philly and they’ll be in a good position to ride the long ball to a second straight World Series.
2. In what inning will the winning run score?
Adler: The 3rd. The second time through the order is when the Phillies really light things up. Pfaadt might limit the damage the first time through -- I'm not convinced he will -- but by the Philly lineup's second trip to the plate, the sluggers will have seen way too much of Pfaadt in this series to not figure him out. The bet is that the Phillies knock him out of the game early and get out to too big a lead for the D-backs to make up.
Castrovince: The 10th! A postseason that began with sweeps abound has redeemed itself with two LCS Game 7s. Now it’s due for its first extra-innings tilt. That’s called a flair for the dramatic.
Maguire: The 4th inning. The Phillies will use the long ball -- and the raucous home crowd -- to jump on a rookie starter early in the game. If the Phillies can get to Pfaadt early on, they’ll hold the upper hand with a better and deeper bullpen to hold a lead.
3. Which star will make his mark on the game?
Adler: Bryce Harper. He's been doing it all postseason. He's going to do it again in the first Game 7 in Phillies history. Bold prediction (well, for Bryce, maybe it's not even so bold): Harper will have a multi-homer Game 7. His performance won't be as dramatic as the one that won the Phillies the pennant in 2022, when he hit the go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth in the "Bedlam at the Bank" game in Philly, but it will be every bit as important in sending the Phillies back to the World Series.
Castrovince: Zack Wheeler. The Phillies will have all hands on deck, of course, and Wheeler will be available on what would ordinarily be his between-starts bullpen day. Win or lose, good or bad, the guy with a 2.48 career postseason ERA (14th all-time among those with at least 60 innings) will likely be counted upon in a high-leverage moment at some point, and it would be fascinating to see how he fares coming out of the ‘pen and how long Rob Thomson rides him.
Maguire: Kyle Schwarber. The left-handed slugger is in one of those grooves where he’s homering in bunches. He’s homered five times in the first six games of the series and he’ll once again go yard in the pivotal Game 7. With 20 career postseason home runs, Schwarber has steadily climbed the ranks of the most feared playoff sluggers. With his next playoff home run in Game 7, he’ll have the fourth-most postseason home runs (21) trailing only Manny Ramirez (29), Jose Altuve (27) and Bernie Williams (22).
4. Who will be a surprise hero?
Adler: Jeff Hoffman. In a Game 7, everyone's available, and everyone's on a shorter leash. At some point, a Phillies reliever is going to have to get some big outs in the middle of the game. Hoffman, who's been great in this series with four scoreless appearances and seven strikeouts, can get those outs. Rob Thomson will go to Hoffman for a fifth time in the NLCS and Hoffman will add a signature Game 7 moment to his career turnaround in Philadelphia.
Castrovince: Evan Longoria. What can I say? I like The Narrative of this long-ago Ray (who may or may not qualify for the “star” section above) getting revenge in Philly for the 2008 World Series. Also, although he’s a mere 5-for-34 in this postseason, the expected stats tell us Longo has hit into some bad batted-ball luck in this postseason. He’s due to deliver… and he’ll do it in the 10th!
Maguire: Matt Strahm. All hands will be on deck for Game 7 and the veteran lefty will once again step up with a scoreless outing. He’s gained the trust of Thomson, appearing in innings 5, 6, 8 and 9 at various points in the playoffs. Strahm will provide a scoreless appearance in the middle of the game, providing length to get to the back end of a bullpen that may feature Wheeler at some point.
5. Which pitcher will record the final out of the game?
Adler: Wheeler. The Phillies will go to their normal high-leverage bullpen arms in José Alvarado and Seranthony Domínguez when the moment requires. And those moments might well come before the ninth inning. So who better than their ace Wheeler -- who will be available out of the bullpen for Game 7 -- to wrap things up? We've seen ace starters do this plenty of times before in the postseason, from Chris Sale to Clayton Kershaw to Madison Bumgarner. Let's add Wheeler to the list.
Castrovince: Paul Sewald. It would be the classic Trade Deadline outcome. The D-backs’ acquisition of the former Mariners closer was a deal that made most of us say, “Oh, that’s cute, good for the D-backs [56-50, a game back in the NL Wild Card race and losers of eight of 10 at the time of the trade] for trying.” Then he closes out Game 7 of the NLCS and one of the most unlikely pennant runs in baseball history. Baseball, baby!
Brent Maguire: Wheeler. This feels like the perfect setup to continue Wheeler’s postseason legacy. After dominating in a Game 5 NLCS win in Arizona, Wheeler will come back three days later with a pivotal scoreless outing to close out the Phillies second straight NL pennant. With high-leverage relievers likely making earlier appearances in Game 7, the Phillies will resort to their best pitcher with the World Series on the line.