After dominating the St. Louis Cardinals during the regular season, Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler wants to capitalize on his postseason opportunity against them.
Wheeler (12-7, 2.82 ERA) will draw his first career playoff assignment in Game 1 of the National League Wild Card Series Friday in St. Louis.
"That's where it all counts, right?" Wheeler said. "That's where you want to get to. That's what you battle for the whole season, to get to that point. I want to go out there and do the best I can."
The Phillies will make their first postseason appearance since 2011.
"We have to bring it," second baseman Jean Segura told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "You cannot let the opportunity go by thinking we have nothing to lose. We've got a lot to lose. This is a whole year, a whole effort, starting from spring training and now get to this point to think we've got nothing to lose? No."
Wheeler defeated the Cardinals twice this season while throwing 14 scoreless innings. He struck out 10 batters, walked two and allowed nine hits in those games on July 3 and July 8.
Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols did not face Wheeler in those games. Since the All-Star break Pujols has hit .323 with 18 homers, 48 RBIs and a 1.103 OPS.
Wheeler is 3-2, 2.65 in six career starts against the Cardinals. He has enjoyed success against Tommy Edman (1-for-9, four strikeouts), Brendan Donovan (1-for-6) and Paul Goldschmidt (5-for-23, no RBIs).
After missing nearly a month with a sore elbow, Wheeler rebuilt strength in three late-season starts. He won his last start while blanking the Washington Nationals for five innings.
Jose Quintana (6-7, 2.93 ERA) will draw the Game 1 start for the Cardinals. He and Game 2 starters Miles Mikolas each pitched three innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Oct. 3 in their final tune-up.
"You need a lot of things to win during the playoffs," Quintana told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Go with the best you have. We play a long year to get this opportunity. Why not do really good things out there?"
Quintana threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Phillies this season and he is 0-1 with a 2.90 ERA in seven career starts against them.
After coming to the Cardinals from the Pittsburgh Pirates before the trade deadline, Quintana went 3-2 with a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts. He has had some success against Phillies sluggers Bryce Harper (0-for-6) and Kyle Schwarber (1-for-6).
Quintana, Mikolas and potential third starter Jordan Montgomery could all be on a short leash as manager Oliver Marmol plays the matchup game. Starting pitchers Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright will be manning the bullpen along with Steven Matz, who came back from his midseason knee injury as a reliever.
"We're now going into a situation where it's all hands on deck," Marmol told the Post-Dispatch. "You may start. You may not. But you're still going to bring a lot of value. Understand it's about the team, yeah. And they have the right mindset for it. Thankfully."
Jordan Hicks could be another bullpen option after recovering from a tired arm. He could join Giovanny Gallegos as a late-inning option along with Ryan Helsley, who is recovering from a jammed middle finger.
Meanwhile the Phillies hope to get reliever Brad Hand back from his sore elbow for this series.
--Field Level Media