PHOENIX – A favorite food in England is bangers and mash. That’s exactly what the Philadelphia Phillies are doing through this post-season. They bang and mash, and that’s to use a common phrase in baseball language.
In reality, the bangers and mash is grilled sausage with mashed potatoes. This is found on the menus of most pubs and regarded as the U. K’s main comfort food.
This could be of no comfort to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Championship best-of-seven series. That’s because the Phillies continue to mash and bang the ball around the diamond with frightening regularity. So far in the post-season, the Phillies are batting .279 as a team, lead all post-season teams with 54 hits, tied with the Diamondbacks for most home runs (13 each) and tops, with 31 in RBIs and in stolen bases with nine.
“Executing pitches, that’s the key for us,” said Arizona closer Paul Sewald before Friday’s workout in Chase Field. “I’ve seen every single one of those guys get out before and I’ve seen every single one of those guys hit homers. Executing pitchers will be the key and that’s no different from the regular season to the post-season.”
Just at the most opportunistic time, the Phillies offense is raging.
Outfielder Nick Castellanos became the first player in post-season history to hit two home runs in each of consecutive games. Shortstop Trey Turner, whose bat came alive down the stretch, is hitting .500 with four doubles and two homers while first baseman Bryce Harper is hitting. 368 with three home runs.
Still, nothing seems to bother the Diamondbacks.
“We have a great deal to be excited about,” said set-up reliever Kevin Ginkel. ‘We’re a young team, we’re dangerous, we do many different ways to beat you, and I think that scares some teams.”
While the Diamondbacks have swept their initial two series and have never trailed in any game, they face a torrid Philly attack and rabid fans. Through recent years, the Phillies fed off that energy and clearly recognized the value of “home field advantage.” For teams that have participated in at least 20 post-season games, the Phillies are 26-11 in Citizens Bank Park, or a winning percentage of .703. That is the best for any team with that minimum of 20 games.
Yet, the potential horrors of playing in a den of zealous fans could act as a motivating factor.
“It will be eye-opening, for sure,” said veteran Evan Longoria. “I’ve experienced this and look forward to doing this again. It is one of those places that when you go to this particular time of the year, you can feel it. It’s what the post-season should feel like.”
In the trainer’s room … catcher Gabriel Morano took a foul ball off his right hand in Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers and removed by manager Torey Lovullo. At first, Lovullo told reporters before Friday’s workout in Chase Field, he feared Moreno would return to the bench with a splint on his hand. That would sideline the stellar rookie, who received stunning accolades this post-season, on the injured list.
“We are full steam ahead with him being our starting catcher,” Lovullo said before Friday’s workout. “That is our intent, and he will have some work (Friday, another workout on Saturday) and another workout on Sunday (in Philadelphia). We’ll have a lot of time to see how he is feeling. It’s just soreness and negative as far as x-rays.”
Coming home … First baseman Christian Walker and pitcher Zac Gallen return home. Walker is from suburban Norristown, and also the home of Tommy Lasorda, Mike Piazza, and women’s basketball coaching legend Geno Auriemma.
Gallen, who will start game one for Arizona, grew up across the Delaware River in southern New Jersey and pitched for the University of North Carolina. Walker played for the University of South Carolina and remembers his days in following the Phillies from suburban Philly.
“I grew up going to a handful of Phillies games, but never went to any post-season games,” he said.” Most of my games were like in the 2007, 2008 seasons, around that time. I watched a lot of Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, (Chase) Utley, all those guys.”
Potential match-ups .. in game one, Lovullo will hand the ball to Gallen (17-9, 3.47 for 34 starts) and Phillies are expected to counter with righthander Zack Wheeler, who went 13-6, 3.61 ERA in 32 starts during the regular season. For game two, Merrill Kelly (12-8, 3.29 ERA for 30 starts) gets the Arizona start and will be opposed by right-hander Aaron Nola (12-9, 4.46 ERA for 32 starts).
Games one and two are slated for Citizens Bank Park on Monday and Tuesday nights and then the set shifts to Chase Field for games three and four and, if necessary, game five on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.