Diamondbacks’ game two starter Merrill Kelly grew up as a Phillies fan and even lived in Philly during a part of his childhood. He attended the All-Star game at the Vet in 1996. But he clearly has not been back to Philly in a while: “I haven’t obviously heard this place on the field, but I’d be very surprised if it trumped that Venezuela game down in Miami.”
At this point, there’s no reason to debate. Home-field advantage matters. The fans matter. And taking the first two games of the NLCS? That matters, too.
Here is the Phillies’ starting lineup for game two:
- DH Kyle Schwarber
- SS Trea Turner
- 1B Bryce Harper
- 3B Alec Bohm
- 2B Bryson Stott
- C J.T. Realmuto
- RF Nick Castellanos
- LF Brandon Marsh
- CF Johan Rojas
Kelly, 35, had a strong season for Arizona, but not strong enough to justify his comment. In 30 regular-season starts, Kelly posted a 3.29 ERA while striking out 187 batters over 177.2 innings of work. Against the Dodgers in the NLDS, Kelly threw 6.1 shutout innings, helping the D-Backs to a sweep of the NL West Champions.
In June, Kelly threw six innings of three-run ball against the Phillies, even though he gave up just three hits. This season, walks have been Kelly’s biggest challenge, as he allowed 2.3 walks per start during the regular season. On September 9, Kelly walked five Cubs hitters, yet he allowed just one earned run in 5.2 innings.
Here is the Diamondbacks’ starting lineup for game two:
- RF Corbin Carroll
- 2B Ketel Marte
- DH Tommy Pham
- 1B Christian Walker
- C Gabriel Moreno
- LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
- CF Alek Thomas
- 3B Evan Longoria
- SS Geraldo Perdomo
The Diamondbacks will get the privilege of facing Aaron Nola, who—along with Zack Wheeler—has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the 2023 playoffs. Nola has allowed just two runs in 12.2 innings of postseason baseball.
Luckily for Nola, the Diamondbacks and their young team are relatively inexperienced against Nola. No Diamondbacks starter has more than nine plate appearances against Nola, and D-Backs’ hitters have an expected slugging percentage of just .295 off him.
Aaron Nola has acknowledged that each start could end up being his last in a Phillies’ uniform, but he recently made it clear that he’d love to return to Philly if given the opportunity. However, initial reports indicated that Nola and the Phillies were far from a deal in the offseason, and as he continues to pitch well throughout the playoffs, his value will continue to skyrocket.