PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Phillies will start right-hander Aaron Nola in Game 1 of the World Series against the Houston Astros and last season’s NL Cy Young Award runner-up Zack Wheeler in Game 2.
Game 1 of the World Series is Friday night in Houston. Game 2 is Saturday.
“Any time you’ve got Nola and Wheeler, two top-10 pitchers in the game right now, you feel like you have a chance to win that game,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said.
Nola is 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA and has struck out 18 in three starts this postseason. He took a perfect game into the seventh inning in the Phillies’ 3-0 win over the Astros on Oct. 4 that clinched an NL wild-card spot.
Nola, who went 11-13 with a 3.25 ERA this season, struck out nine and didn’t allow a baserunner until Yordan Alvarez singled with two outs in the seventh.
“You can’t go wrong with who’s going to take the bump out of our starters in that first game,” Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber said. “They’ve been so good for us the whole year.”
The Astros have not lost a game since that date, going 7-0 in the playoffs. Astros manager Dusty Baker has not officially named his starters, though Justin Verlander is widely expected to start Game 1 and Framber Valdez in Game 2.
The 39-year-old Verlander shows no signs of slowing down and went 18-4, with an MLB-best 1.75 ERA, and 185 strikeouts this season.
“Anybody that can do that for that long, it speaks to his work ethic, it speaks to his competitive nature,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “Obviously, he’s always had great stuff.”
Wheeler is 1-1 with a 1.78 ERA and has struck out 25 and walked three in four postseason starts. He had a no-decision in Philadelphia’s NL Championship Series-clinching 4-3 win over San Diego in Game 5.
Wheeler, who experienced soreness after he was smacked by a comebacker on his right leg, gets an extra day of rest.
“Any time we give those guys an extra day, we do it,” Thomson said Wednesday.
Nola made his playoff debut this year and went 2-0 without allowing an earned run in 12 2/3 innings as Philadelphia swept the NL wild-card round against St. Louis and upset defending World Series champion Atlanta in the Division Series.
The 29-year-old Nola gave up six runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings in his Game 2 loss to San Diego in the NLCS. Thomson said the Phillies did not find evidence as they watched video that Nola tipped his pitches in San Diego.
“We didn’t and we looked at it,” Thomson said. “Any time that type of thing happens, we’re always looking at it, we’re always checking and making sure we’ve got everything covered. I think there was some bad execution in there as well as they were hunting fastballs.”
Thomson did not reveal his starters for Games 3 and 4 but said he would stick with a four-man rotation. Left-hander Ranger Suarez could start Game 3. The Phillies used Noah Syndergaard to start a game in the NLDS and Bailey Falter started Game 4 in the NLCS.
Syndergaard allowed one run in three innings against Atlanta. Falter only retired two batters in his start.
Thomson said he wouldn’t announce any roster changes until Friday.
The Astros won 19 more games than the Phillies in the regular season and are the betting favorite to win the World Series, per FanDuel.