Major League Baseball
Phillies-Padres: Verlander's five key players in the NLCS
Major League Baseball

Phillies-Padres: Verlander's five key players in the NLCS

Updated Oct. 18, 2022 3:12 p.m. ET

The NLCS is upon us, and two teams that no one expected just a matter of weeks ago are battling it out for the pennant. 

The fifth-seeded San Diego Padres and the sixth-seeded Philadelphia Phillies begin the best-of-seven series at Petco Park on Tuesday (with all seven games airing on FOX or FS1). The Padres upset the New York Mets in the wild-card round in three games before defeating the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers in four games in the NLDS. 

Meanwhile, the Phillies knocked off the St. Louis Cardinals in two games before upsetting the defending World Series Champion Atlanta Braves in four games in the NLDS.

As the two Cinderella squads prepare to face off, Flippin' Bats' Ben Verlander and Alex Curry picked five key players for determining who wins the series.  


San Diego Padres' Juan Soto headlines the Top 5 key players in the NLCS

Ben Verlander and Alex Curry breakdown their key players to watch in the NLCS.

Padres CF Trent Grisham

Regular season stats: .184 batting average, .626 OPS, 17 home runs, 53 RBIs.

Postseason stats: .381 batting average, 1.328 OPS, three home runs, five RBIs.

Postseason moment: Grisham hit the game-deciding home run in Game 3 of the NLDS before giving an exciting postgame interview. 

Ben's thoughts: "My key last series, against the Dodgers, was that Trent Grisham needs to continue to be the greatest player of all time. I was sort of joking, but half-serious because of what he means to the depth of the lineup.

"You say key players of this series, my immediate thought goes to, well, if Trent Grisham is hitting in the eighth, ninth spot in the lineup and can continue to hit, that makes this Padres lineup go from dangerous to really dangerous."

Alex's thoughts: "When you have guys at the bottom end of the lineup that can hit just as strong as the top and the middle of the order, you're unstoppable at that point."

Phillies SP Ranger Suárez

Regular season stats: 10-7, 3.65 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2.2 K/B, 155 ⅓ innings pitched. 

Postseason stats: 1-0, 2.70 ERA, 2.40 WHIP, five strikeouts, five walks, 3 ⅓ innings pitched.

Postseason moment: Suárez held the Braves' lineup in check in Game 1 of the NLDS, allowing just one run in two times against Atlanta's starting lineup. 

Ben's thoughts: "Ranger Suárez is their No. 3 starter and he's so valuable to this team because you know the starters you're getting. You know you've got your No. 1 guy and you've got your No. 2 guy, but if you can get some innings — and Ranger Suárez was underrated all year long and was good last year, he was good this year and we've seen him be good in the playoffs. He's the real deal. 

"But for me, we know you've got your No. 1 and No. 2. If he can come out and be a legitimate No. 3 and be as good as he's shown he can be, that'd be huge for this Phillies team. You need more than a No. 1 and No. 2, and Ranger Suárez is really good."

Padres 3B Manny Machado

Regular season stats: .298 batting average, .898 OPS, 32 home runs, 102 RBIs.

Postseason stats: .296 batting average, .980 OPS, two home runs, five RBIs.

Postseason moment: Machado got the Padres' bats going in Game 2 of the NLDS when he hit a solo home run in the first inning against Clayton Kershaw, in what ended up being a 5-3 win for San Diego.

Alex's thoughts: "He's really stepped up as the leader on that team. Not just, I guess, who he is and the player he is, but by leading by example. He's making the big plays. He's getting the big hits. Listening to him talk today, just saying how this team is coming together and clicking on all cylinders, it's really dangerous when that happens. 

"Also, [Padres manager] Bob Melvin mentioned that as well, just the fact that they were fighting to get to this point of the season, every last game felt like a playoff game. So, they've been playing playoff baseball for the last, like, three weeks, or month?"

Manny Machado speaks to the FOX crew following the Padres' NLDS win.

Manny Machado told David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez that the Padres are the best team in baseball.

Phillies CF Brandon Marsh

Regular season stats: .288 batting average, .773 OPS, three home runs, 15 RBIs (in 41 games with the Phillies).

Postseason stats: .308 batting average, 1.092 OPS, one home run, four RBIs.

Postseason moment: Marsh opened up Game 4 of the NLDS with a bang, hitting a three-run home run in the second inning that put the Phillies up 3-0 in an eventual 8-3 win to finish off the Braves.

Alex's thoughts: "He just had a moment that, as a young player, when you experience something like that, it can really spark something in you. We had a chance to talk to him on the field today and the way he said this team is so locked in together — every single player on this team is locked into each and every other player's at-bat, every pitch, they want you to succeed. From the rookies to the veterans. Everybody is so locked in. 

"When everyone is like that, it motivates you to be better and to want to be better. I just think we're going to see something special and see him break out this postseason."

Ben's thoughts: "I agree. And to a degree, we've already seen him break out this postseason. It was cool, like you said, hearing him say that you dream of those moments. It was so cool playing in that atmosphere and playing in that moment. He made a moment. He made a moment himself. How cool is that?"

Padres RF Juan Soto

Regular season stats: .242 batting average, .853 OPS, 27 home runs, 62 RBIs (time split between the Nationals and Padres). 

Postseason stats: .250 batting average, .586 OPS, zero home runs, three RBIs.

Postseason moment: Soto continued the Padres' seventh-inning rally in Game 4 of the NLDS when he hit the game-tying RBI single as part of a five-run inning. 

Ben's thoughts: "Juan Soto, in the regular season we saw his numbers not be accustomed to what we have seen in the past. But he by far led the league in walks and, guess what, walks in the postseason are big. You're just getting on base a lot. We all know the kind of hitter he is, but I think his ballgame, the way he plays baseball, is more valuable in the postseason when he's either getting a hit or getting on-base. We saw him drive the ball a lot against the Dodgers, too."


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