SAN DIEGO — The second game of a league championship series is a drama unto itself.
One team needs a win to draw even — in this case the San Diego Padres — before the site shifts in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series. The other team is looking to go up 2-0 — and in the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, looking to head home for Game 3 in a dominant position.
But beyond that, there are a pair of interesting sidelights ahead of the Wednesday afternoon contest.
Right-hander Aaron Nola will start for the Phillies, which means he will be facing his brother Austin, the Padres’ catcher, in the first pitcher-hitter confrontation between brothers in postseason history. It will be just the sixth brotherly rivalry in playoff history.
And Padres starter Blake Snell will oppose Phillies star Bryce Harper for the first time since June 25, when a Snell fastball broke Harper’s left thumb.
But those are just the sidebars to a pivotal moment for the Padres.
“They don’t need a message,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said of his players after they we held to one hit in a 2-0 loss in Game 1 on Tuesday. “They know we need to come out and take at least one of these games at home.
“Wednesday is a big game for us. I know it’s a seven-game series, but when you start out at home, you’d like to try to win that first one. If it doesn’t happen, you certainly feel a little more importance on the second game. We need to come out and swing the bats a little better.
“It doesn’t get much easier. Their guy (Wednesday) is pretty good, too, but we need to be better with our at-bats.”
That “guy tomorrow” would be Aaron Nola, who is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two postseason starts (one unearned run on nine hits and three walks with 12 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings).
He was 0-1 against the Padres this season, taking a 1-0 loss on an opposite-field RBI single by his brother on June 24. Aaron Nola allowed the one run on seven hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts over seven innings in that game.
“Growing up, he never let me win at anything,” Aaron Nola, 29, said of Austin Nola, 32. “I think that’s the answer to that. I didn’t win in many things, no matter what we did or what we played, what sport it was. I didn’t win. It took me awhile. I think that gave me that competitive edge.”
The Padres are 1-1 in Snell’s two postseason starts this season. The left-hander is 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA, having given up three runs on nine hits and eight walks with 11 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings.
Both Snell and Harper maintain the June 25 incident is behind them.
Said Harper, “It is what it is. It’s two players going at it.”
Snell said, “I’m going to pitch to him the same way. There was never had any intent to hit him. I still don’t. It’s pitching. I’m going to pitch how I pitch. If I hit him, I’m sorry. I’m not trying.”
Phillies manager Rob Thomson, meanwhile, echoed Melvin’s thoughts on the importance of a win Wednesday from a different perspective.
“It’s always nice to win the first game, but tomorrow is pretty important, too,” he said. “Wednesday is kind of a swing game.”
–Bill Center, Field Level Media