Phillies playoff roster notes, bullpen roles and more before playoff series vs. Cardinals

Phillies playoff notes: Rotation plans, bullpen use and more as Phils head to St. Louis originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

HOUSTON -- The Phillies closed out the regular season with a 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

After the game, they flew to St. Louis and a place they haven't been in more than a decade – the postseason.

The Phils and Cardinals will open the first round of the playoffs in a best-of-three wild-card series Friday afternoon at Busch Stadium. First pitch will be at 2:07 p.m. ET.

Game 2 will be played Saturday night at 8:37 p.m. ET. Game 3, if necessary, will be played Sunday night, also at 8:37 p.m. ET.

Game 1 of the series will be played 11 years to the day after the Phillies last played a postseason game on October 7, 2011. That was the day the 102-win Phillies were eliminated from the Division Series by a red-hot Cardinals team that went on to win the World Series.

The Cardinals won that fifth and deciding game against the Phillies, 1-0, leaving a packed house at Citizens Bank Park in shock. Roy Halladay left it all on the mound that night and was never the same. Neither was Ryan Howard, who blew out his Achilles tendon on the last swing of that game.

Phillies' Round 1 rotation

Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola will start Games 1 and 2, respectively, for the Phillies. Lefty Ranger Suarez will go Game 3, if necessary.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson said it was not out of the question that the team could use a right-handed opener in front of Suarez. The Cardinals, with right-handed hitters Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Albert Pujols, have the best OPS in the majors against left-handed pitching. Andrew Bellatti, Nick Nelson or Kyle Gibson could be candidates to be an opener. Zack Eflin is not a candidate. He has proven too valuable out of the bullpen.

Cardinals pitching TBA

The Cardinals have not announced their rotation for the series. They have a cast of possibilities, including right-handers Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and Jack Flaherty, and lefties Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana, both of whom were trade deadline pickups.

Head-to-head

The Phillies beat the Cardinals in four of seven meetings this season, all played in the first 11 days of July.

Wheeler beat the Cards in back-to-back starts, pitching seven shutout innings both times.

Reliever usage

Thomson is leery of using a reliever on three straight days in the regular season. But with the big prize now up for grabs, he said he would loosen that guideline, though he will be careful with Seranthony Dominguez, who has carried a heavy load in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.

Thomson on the Cards

The Cardinals won the NL Central at 93-69.

"They're a good club," Thomson said. "Obviously, they have those two guys (Arenado and Goldschmidt) in the middle who can really hit and really defend. They have good pitching. But we've matched up well against them so far this year. That doesn't matter because this is the playoffs,  but I like where we are."

The playoff roster

The Phillies won't announce their 26-man roster until Friday morning.

The team will carry 13 pitchers.

Lefty reliever Brad Hand may be one of them. He finished the regular season on the injured list with elbow tendinitis but threw a simulated game Wednesday and felt and looked good. He will be evaluated on Thursday and looks like a go.

The 13 pitchers could end up being Wheeler, Nola, Suarez, Eflin, Dominguez, Nelson, Bellatti, Hand, Kyle Gibson, Jose Alvarado, David Robertson, Connor Brogdon and Bailey Falter. Noah Syndergaard remains a possibility, though he could be left off the roster for the first round and be used as the starter in Game 1 of the Division Series if the Phillies get there.

The Phillies' starters around the diamond are set with J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, Kyle Schwarber, Brandon Marsh, Nick Castellanos and Bryce Harper at DH. The Phils will carry a four-man bench consisting of Garrett Stubbs, Matt Vierling and Nick Maton. Dalton Guthrie, Darick Hall and Edmundo Sosa are up for the final spot. Sosa has been on the injured list with a hamstring strain. The injury has improved, but it's not clear if he'll be ready.

Pitching staff rested

Falter got one inning of work in Wednesday's season finale. Michael Plassmeyer was added from Triple A and picked up six innings and allowed three runs as a one-day fill-in. Plassmeyer's work was important because it gave the bullpen a rest. The left-hander will continue to work out in Clearwater to be ready if needed.

Reliever Chris Devenski was optioned to Triple A. He could be eligible for the World Series if the Phillies get there.

Maton vs. Maton

There was a great moment in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game. Nick Maton batted against his brother, Astros' reliever Phil. Nick drove a 2-2 single to right field.

"It was super exciting," he said. "I mean, I kind of just wanted to treat it as another at-bat, you know? Once I got up there, it definitely wasn't like that. It felt like we were in the backyard. Just seeing him out there was pretty fun."

Nick said he would keep the ball.

162 in the books

The Phillies finished the regular season at 87-75.

Next stop: St. Louis.

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