Phillies late offensive push claims game one versus Cardinals

Philadelphia Phillies’ Matt Vierling singles during the third inning in Game 1 of a National League wild card baseball playoff series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The Philadelphia Phillies are winning a playoff series. Did you read that correctly? For the first time since Game 3 of the 2011 National League Division Series, the Philadelphia Phillies are winning a playoff series. And a late-game surge from the Phillies’ bats is to thank for that.

David Robertson earned the win as the Phillies defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3 on Friday afternoon. Zack Wheeler and Jose Quintana both threw strong outings as their respective team’s starting pitcher, throwing 6.1 and 5.1 respective innings while allowing two hits apiece.

But that is to be expected. This is the postseason. There are no bad teams. Each team had to endure a 162-game season in order to get here, with only the top six teams from each League making it into the Show. Every team has strong starting pitching.

Every team has the ability to turn a game around out of nowhere. The only thing that matters is how your team does on any given day. Today, what set the Phillies apart from the Cardinals was their bats, so let’s dive in.

Slow Starts for the Phillies and Cardinals

The Cardinals’ leadoff hitter, Lars Nootbaar, recorded the first hit of the day, a single to kick off the bottom of the first. Wheeler, however, quickly made work of Albert Pujols, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado to escape the inning with Nootbaar stranded at first.

For the Phillies, their first chance with runners on base came in the top of the third. Daycare mates Bryson Stott and Matt Vierling reached on a respective walk and single with one out to give the Phillies two runners on base. Unfortunately, they too would be left stranded as Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins recorded the second and third outs of the inning.

A similar tale would then transpire in the top of the fifth as Alec Bohm smacked a leadoff double to begin the inning. Jean Segura, after attempting a bunt during the next at bat, completed his task of moving Bohm to third on a ground-out.

Stott then sought to score Bohm with a hard-hit ball on the right side. Unfortunately, second baseman Brendan Donovan was shaded to just the right spot to field the ball quickly, ending the chance for Bohm to score on the play.

Sidenote: this specific play is a perfect example as to why I am happy the shift has been banned going into 2023. Slotted in a typical second base position on that play, Donavan may make the play, but also has no shot of getting Bohm out at home if he runs.

Anyway, Vierling then flew out to former Phillie Corey Dickerson to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Cards notched their second hit of the day as Tommy Edman hit a leadoff single. After Nootbaar walked to put two runners on, it seemed as if Wheeler may have been slowing down. Fortunately, his third baseman, also known as Alec Bohm (@ESPN) picked him up. First, Bohm converted a 5-4-3 double play off Albert Pujols before taking a grounder from Goldschmidt to end the inning.

Overall, both teams had two opportunities with runners on base through the first six frames and neither team was able to convert.

Was it Just Not in the Cards for the Phillies?

Wheeler was then taken out of the contest one out into the bottom of the seventh. With three straight left-handed bats due up, interim manager Rob Thomson went to Jose Alvarado out of the bullpen to complete the inning. Despite what happened next, was this the right call? Yes. Wheeler is a few starts out of his injury, and the Phillies may elect to pitch him in game one of the NLDS should they make it.

Regardless, Alvarado recorded the second out of the inning before losing a full count battle to Dylan Carlson, resulting in a walk. Juan Yepez then entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Dickerson. Keep in mind, at this point, Alvarado has to pitch to Yepez due to the three-hitter rule. Yepez took advantage of a first-pitch cutter down the pipe, ripping it off the left field foul pole to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

Given the first seven frames for the Phillies, a 2-0 lead seemed sufficient, especially as the Phillies only managed one baserunner in the form of a walk from Stott in the top of the eighth inning. Keep in mind too, that the Cleveland Guardians took down the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 in the noon game earlier in the day.

But then…

Backs Against the Wall, the Phillies Claim Victory

With one out in the top of the ninth inning, the Best Catcher in Baseball, J.T. Realmuto, lined a single into left field to put a runner on. Ryan Helsley, closer for the Cardinals, owned a 100+ MPH fastball on the night. What he did not own, however, was command as he walked both Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos to load the bases for the Phillies. Then, on a pitch framed for the low outside corner, Helsley hit 6’5″ Bohm in the elbow, scoring Realmuto to put the Phillies on the board.

After a sham of an injury check-in to buy time for their bullpen to warm-up, the Cardinals went to the ‘pen, calling in Andre Pallante. With a 2-2 count, Segura slipped a single into right field, scoring two to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead.

Stott then hit a hard ground ball to Goldschmidt at first, who elected to attempt to get the runner at home rather than the sure out at first, but was too late as Castellanos beat the throw. A single from Brandon Marsh and a sacrifice fly from Kyle Schwarber scored the final two runs for the Phillies as they claimed a 6-2 lead.

The Cardinals would attempt a rally in the bottom of the ninth, but only scored one run off freshly christened reliever Zach Eflin.

A Look at the Numbers

Overall, the Phillies only managed five hits on the day, as did the Cardinals. Despite that, however, almost every player in the Phillies’ lineup managed to contribute in some way to the Phillies claiming victory. Bryson Stott is a perfect example. Though he may have went 0-for-2, he scored one run, picked up an RBI, and walked twice on the night.

Despite combining to go 1-for-10 on the night, Realmuto, Harper, and Castellanos each scored one run for the Phillies. Marsh, meanwhile, came off the bench for Vierling, going 1-for-2 with an RBI.

The only player who, frankly, has nothing positive to take away offensively on the game for the Phillies is Rhys Hoskins, who went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts on the game.

Is there room for the Phillies to improve? Absolutely! As a team, they batted .156 on the night.

But the Cardinals were terrible offensively as well. And while the Cards’ two runs came off of a home run, the Phillies, who have been home run reliant at several points over the year, managed to put together a six-run rally in the top of the ninth with no home runs, nary an extra base hit.

Kyle Schwarber needs to find a hot streak, Bryce Harper needs to get out of his slump. Rhys Hoskins is the heart and soul of the Phillies’ offense out of the two-hole and yet was quiet on the day.

And yet, the Phillies won. That’s what counts.

While the Phillies should look to improve every game, it doesn’t matter which team had a higher batting average, OPS+, or wOBACON in the postseason. The only statistics that truly matter now are runs scored and runs against. Today, those stats favored the Phillies, and now the momentum does as well.

It’s another strong pitching matchup on Saturday night as Aaron Nola faces Miles Mikolas. Buckle up, Phillies fans, we’re just getting started.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson