PHILADELPHIA -- Last winter, a coach from another team called Phillies manager Rob Thomson to relive his postseason experience at Citizens Bank Park.
He called baseball in Philadelphia “four hours of hell.”
Thomson expects to return to that inhospitable place, beginning Tuesday with Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series against the Marlins. Miami won the season series against the Phillies, 7-6, but the Phillies are talented and battle tested.
They will be the favorites in the best-of-three series.
“I’m really excited for it,” Thomson said. “I’m excited for the guys that have been through it, and particularly for the guys who haven’t been through it. I’m expecting another four hours of hell for the other team. Well, now it’s probably going to be three to 3 1/2 hours of hell.”
Here are some questions fans might have about the NL Wild Card Series:
When are the games?
Game 1 is at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Game 2 is Wednesday. If necessary, Game 3 will be Thursday.
Game times for Games 2 and 3 have not been announced.
What might the NL Wild Card Series roster look like?
C: J.T Realmuto, Garrett Stubbs
1B: Bryce Harper
2B: Bryson Stott
3B: Alec Bohm
SS: Trea Turner
OF: Nick Castellanos, Brandon Marsh, Johan Rojas, Cristian Pache
INF/OF: Edmundo Sosa, Weston Wilson
DH: Kyle Schwarber
Rotation: Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez
Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, José Alvarado, Jeff Hoffman, Matt Strahm, Seranthony Domínguez, Gregory Soto, Michael Lorenzen, Taijuan Walker, Cristopher Sánchez, Orion Kerkering
Thomson said before Sunday’s regular-season finale that the Phillies could carry five bench players, which would reduce the pitching staff to 12. If it happens, both Wilson and Jake Cave could make the team. Somebody like Lorenzen could be the odd man out in the bullpen.
How does the rotation set up?
Wheeler (13-6, 3.61 ERA) will start Game 1. Nola (12-9, 4.46 ERA) will start Game 2.
Game 3 is TBD.
Suárez (4-6, 4.18 ERA) is the favorite to start Game 3, but Thomson could use him in relief in Games 1 or 2. Thomson used Suárez as a reliever in the 2022 postseason, earning the save in Game 5 of the NLCS and picking up a couple of big outs in Game 1 of the World Series. If Suárez pitches in relief, Thomson must decide between Walker (15-6, 4.38 ERA) and Sánchez (3-5, 3.44 ERA).
Walker would be pitching on regular rest on Thursday.
The Marlins could start left-hander Jesús Luzardo (10-9, 3.63 ERA) in Game 1, left-hander Braxton Garrett (9-7, 3.66 ERA) in Game 2 and right-hander Edward Cabrera (7-7, 4.24 ERA) in Game 3.
Will Orion Kerkering really make the postseason bullpen?
Kerkering allowed one unearned run in three innings in his first three MLB appearances, striking out six and allowing two hits and two walks. Thomson has repeatedly raved about Kerkering’s stuff and poise. He said he believes Kerkering can handle the pressure of pitching in a big spot.
Kerkering has not pitched back-to-back days this season, but Thomson said Kerkering could do it, if needed.
Why Wilson over Cave and others for the fourth bench job?
Stubbs, Pache and Sosa are locks to be on the Phillies’ four-player bench.
Wilson could get the nod for the final job because the Marlins will start two left-handers in the series. They also have four lefties in the bullpen (A.J. Puk, Tanner Scott, Steven Okert and Andrew Nardi). Wilson, who hits right-handed, would allow Thomson to better combat the Marlins’ left-handers. Wilson has played well in limited opportunities with the Phillies. He batted .322 with a .989 OPS in 149 at-bats against lefties in Triple-A.
Cave, who hits left-handed, batted .138 with a .391 OPS in 33 plate appearances against lefties in the Majors.
Thomson indicated that Pache could start in left field in Games 1 and 2, instead of Marsh, who hasn’t started against a lefty this month. Pache has batted .314 with a .924 OPS in 57 plate appearances against lefties, although he is just 1-for-14 with a .387 OPS against them this month.
“I’ve liked his swings,” Thomson said. “He’s moving around in the outfield great. If you end up playing Miami, you get those left-handed starters. Those starters are pretty good, too. So you want to eliminate giving up runs as much as you can. So he may become the factor. That’s something that I’m thinking about.”
Is anybody injured?
Everybody is healthy except first baseman Rhys Hoskins and right-hander Dylan Covey, who the Phillies placed on the 15-day IL because of a back issue. Understandably, there has been plenty of interest in Hoskins’ recovery from left ACL surgery in March. Thomson said if Hoskins plays in the postseason, it would happen in the World Series. But if it happens, he could only DH or pinch-hit, which essentially would be a two-player move because he cannot play in the field.
“I think there’s a chance,” Thomson said. “I really do. He’s progressed so well. There haven’t been any setbacks. We’re knocking on wood, but pretty soon here, he maybe has a chance to see live pitching. But there’s still some testing to do. So he’s not a guarantee. He’s not a lock for that. But I’m optimistic.”
If Hoskins gets close to a return, Thomson said he would join the team’s stay-ready camp in Clearwater, Fla. The group will include Rafael Castro, catcher Rafael Marchán; first baseman Darick Hall; infielder/outfielder Kody Clemens; right-handers Andrew Bellatti, Connor Brogdon, Yunior Marte, McKinley Moore, Nick Nelson and Luis Ortiz; and left-hander Michael Plassmeyer.
What’s the lineup?
Here is a projected lineup against Luzardo for Game 1:
1. Kyle Schwarber, DH
2. Trea Turner, SS
3. Alec Bohm, 3B
4. Bryce Harper, 1B
5. J.T. Realmuto, C
6. Bryson Stott, 2B
7. Nick Castellanos, RF
8. Cristian Pache, LF
9. Johan Rojas, CF
Harper is expected to play first base every day in the postseason as long as he feels healthy. Harper’s presence at first will allow Schwarber to DH, which will give the Phillies their best defensive outfield with Marsh/Pache in left and Rojas in center.
Who’s the closer?
Thomson said he will use his late-inning relievers interchangeably, meaning left-hander Alvarado and right-hander Kimbrel could pitch the eighth or ninth inning, depending on the situation.