Nola to start World Series Game 1 for Phillies, Wheeler Game 2

Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

PHILADELPHIA — 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.

Verlander struck out 11 and tossed six shutout innings in his lone start against the Yankees in ALCS and Valdez t ossed seven scoreless innings in his only start against New York.

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.

Phillies select active duty Navy aviator in MLB Rule 5 draft

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SAN DIEGO — The Philadelphia Phillies took U.S. Navy aviator Noah Song in the Rule 5 draft Wednesday, hoping the former top pitching prospect can still be effective once he completes his military service.

There is no definitive date on when the 25-year-old Song might be able to join the Phillies.

Song was picked from the Boston Red Sox system in the draft for unprotected minor league players. Philadelphia put him on the military list while he continues his active duty and he won’t count on the 40-man roster, the pool from which major league teams can select players for the 26-man active roster.

Song impressed in his only pro season, making seven starts for Boston’s Class A Lowell affiliate in 2019, with a 1.06 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 17 innings. With a fastball clocked in the upper 90s mph, the right-hander dominated that year as a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy, going 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings.

The Red Sox drafted Song in the fourth round – he likely would’ve gone much higher, but his impending military service caused teams to back off.

In November 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a memo clearing the way for athletes at the nation’s military academies to delay their service commitments and play pro sports after graduation. Song’s request to have those new rules retroactively applied to his case was denied.

Song began school as a flight officer in the summer of 2020 and finished that phase last April. He started additional aviation training in May.

Song was among the 15 players, including three Boston pitchers, taken in the big league phase of the Rule 5 draft, which wasn’t held last year because of the MLB lockout.

Washington took righty Thad Ward from Boston’s Triple-A roster with the first pick. Baltimore took Red Sox minor league pitcher Andrew Politi with the ninth choice and the Phillies chose Song with the 11th selection.

Teams pay $100,000 to take players in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. The players must stay on the big league roster next season or go on waivers and, if unclaimed, be offered back to their original organization for $50,000.