Phillies blow 3-run lead in game 4 of the NLCS: What went wrong?

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper is congratulated after hitting a three run home run during the third inning of Game 3 of a baseball NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

After a stagnant offense appeared in game 2 of the NLCS, the Phillies entered game 4 with the risk of the Diamondbacks evening up the series at 2 games a piece. Cristopher Sánchez got the nod from Rob Thomson after 25 days of rest since his last start.

A strong start for the Phillies

The first inning showed no rust on the young lefty. It took just 9 pitches to get through the DBacks’ top 3 of the order. His command looked as sharp as all season.

A sloppy 2nd inning killed that momentum. Alec Bohm started the inning with his first error of the postseason. Sánchez got a ground ball that he could’ve gone to 2nd on, but instead, he turned to 1st and tossed over to Harper. It looked like he forgot about the error and confused the outs. With 2 out, JT Realmuto allowed a passed ball, putting a runner on 3rd. After an Evan Longoria walk, Emmanuel Rivera slashed a ball up the middle to put the DBacks up 1-0. Sánchez induced a pop up to end the inning.

The southpaw only lasted 1 out into the 3rd inning. An infield single with a passed ball essentially ended the day for Sánchez. He had decent control of his fastball but had zero feel for his best pitch, the changeup. Jeff Hoffman entered the game with a runner on 3rd and 1 out.

Gabriel Moreno lined a single past Bryce Harper down the line to put the snakes up 2-0. A strikeout and a grounder to 3rd ended the inning.

The Phillies strike fast

When the Phillies needed offense the most, Kyle Schwarber hit a leadoff homer in the 4th inning. It was the Phillies’ 1st RBI in 13 innings. Trea Turner hit a fly ball that would’ve been a homer in 16 ballparks. Chase Field is not one of them.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber celebrates after a home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning in Game 2 of the baseball NL Championship Series in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Hoffman came back out for the bottom of the inning. It looked like had some minor injury (cut possibly) on his throwing thumb. Hoffman induced a weak fly ball for the 1st out. He’d strikeout Longoria and Rivera to end the inning.

In the 5th, JT Realmuto got a single to drop into left field with 1 out. With 2 outs, DBacks’ manager Torey Lovullo brought in lefty Andrew Saalfrank to face Brandon Marsh. Marsh showed everyone he wasn’t just a platoon player and lined a RBI double to the wall, tying the game.

Matt Strahm relieved Jeff Hoffman. Nick Castellanos made another fantastic glove-side catch to make the 1st out of the inning. Strahm induced a couple of weak outs on his way to a clean bottom of the 5th.

Andrew Saalfrank stayed in to start the 6th inning and Kyle Schwarber walked on 5 pitches. In a weird piece of the MLB rulebook, Schwarber advanced to 2nd because a bounced pitch got caught in Moreno’s chest protector. Trea Turner walked on the next pitch. Saalfrank stayed in the game for Bryce Harper, lefty on lefty. He’d also walk to load the bases with a goose egg in the out column.

That was the end of Saalfrank’s day. Ryan Thompson was the next reliever out of the pen for the rattlers. Alec Bohm, the struggling clean-up hitter, brought home 2 runs on a fielder’s choice when the DBacks couldn’t get the out at home. He was thrown out trying to get to 2nd.

An unintentional intentional 4-pitch walk put Bryson Stott on first and brought JT Realmuto to the plate against the righty Thompson. Stott stole 2nd without a throw. Realmuto chased an outside slider for the 2nd out. Castellanos grounded out to end the inning.

The Phillies Bullpen steps in

Seranthony Dominguez was the man for the bottom of the 6th. He walked the first batter on a full count. He got the dangerous Christian Walker to strike out for the 1st out. Pavin Smith singled just out of reach of Bryson Stott to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Seranthony got Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to strike out looking for the 2nd out. A broken bat pop fly slammed the door on a potential rally.

Thompson also attempted a wrap-around inning. After recording the first out, Phlillies’ Miguel Rojas lined a ball down the 1st base line for a triple. An intentional walk to Schwarber brought Trea Turner to the plate. He got a sac fly to push the score to 5-2.

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Nick Castellanos reacts after hitting a home run during the sixth inning of Game 4 of a baseball NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, in Philadelphia.(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Seranthony stayed in the game to start the 7th. A 1st pitch pop up helped the cause but Thomson went to Gregory Soto after the 1st out. Geraldo Perdomo lined a single on a full count. Another full count and another man on base, this time on a walk. Turner made a nice play to get the 2nd out at 2nd base.

Rookie Orion Kerkering entered the game looking for 1 out to end the inning. He walked Moreno to load the bases. He walked in Walker to force in a run. He got Smith to easily ground out to Harper to end the inning still up by 2.

despite an Alec Bohm leadoff single in the 8th, the Phillies’ offense was quiet for the first time in 5 innings.

Craig Kimbrel came out for the bottom of the inning despite throwing 24 pitches in game 3. He started with a leadoff double to Gurriel Jr. to the LF wall. The next at bat ended with a ball to left but Marsh was able to bring it in and somehow Gurriel didn’t advance to 3rd.

Didn’t matter as pinch hitter Alek Thomas tied the game with a 2-run home run. Kimbrel missed his spot with a fastball and paid for it. Castellanos could only watch as it landed in the pool.

Kimbrel got a strikeout against Perdomo for out #2. Marte fisted a single through the 3rd base hole for another DBack baserunner. He hit Corbin Carroll on the first pitch of the at bat on the knee, moving Marte to 2nd with 2 outs.

Philadelphia Phillies starter Cristopher Sanchez pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Thursday, July 6, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

In came Jose Alvarado.

He started 3-0 to the first batter he saw. A single dropped to give the Diamondbacks the lead. A flyball to right ended the inning.

Las chance saloon

Now, the Phillies needed heroics.

Brandon Marsh was first up. He had a 2-1 count and had an inside pitch called for a strike. Another call was called for a strike to end the at bat. Marsh was upset and so was the rest of the greater Philadelphia area.

A hero was still needed.

Jake Cave entered as a pinch hitter for Johan Rojas. He struckout.

Could Kyle Schwarber play the hero the Phillies needed again? He got a 2-out double. All the pressure was now on Trea Turner’s shoulders. Edmundo Sosa pinch ran.

Paul Seawald got the count to 2-2, putting the Phillies down to their last strike. A foul ball prolonged the ab. A swing over a middle-of-the-plate fastball ended the game.

The series is tied.

Momentum fading.

Will the Phillies recover?