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Jeanie Bo’ Beanie, baby: Phillies 6, Cardinals 3

Phillies lead the series, 1-0

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Was it fun to watch? No.

Exhausting? Yes.

Whatever adjective you want to use to describe that game, it would probably work. Faced with a 2-0 mountain to climb in the ninth inning, the Phillies climbed all the way back with six runs in the final frame to take the first game of the wild card series from St. Louis and head into tomorrow night with a chance to end it and move on to Atlanta.

The first six innings of this game were displays of outstanding pitching from both sides of the coin. For the Cardinals, Jose Quintana used the Phillies’ early aggressiveness against them, cruising through those innings with nary a sweat drop broken. There was a leadoff double to Alec Bohm in the fifth that Quintana allowed, but he worked around that with ground balls right at the infielders that kept Bohm from scoring. For the Phillies, after some first innings jitters, Zack Wheeler settled in nicely and mostly dominated the Cardinals’ lineup himself. The sixth inning was his biggest issue, giving up a leadoff single and walk to begin the frame to bring up Albert Pujols, but Wheeler calmly induced a double play from Pujols, then got Paul Goldschmidt to ground out to Bohm for third out, keeping the game scoreless.

The Cardinals’ half of the seventh, Wheeler got the leadoff batter in Nolan Arenado to flyout before he was removed by Rob Thomson in favor of Jose Alvarado. Wheeler was at 96 pitches and some questioned the move, but Alvarado retired the first batter with ease, making us think he would be fine. A two out walk to Dylan Carlson hurt, bringing up pinch hitter Juan Yepez. Alvarado, who has been so good for this second half of the season, made the biggest mistake of his year, throwing a cutter that didn’t cut down the middle of the plate, a pitch that Yepez wouldn’t miss.

The Phillies were doing very little offensively, so this felt like a death blow to the team, especially once they went down easily in the eighth.

In the ninth? They did not go quietly.

Oliver Marmol, the Cardinals manager, had brought in closer Ryan Helsley in the eighth inning with one out to end that frame, but asked him to get three more outs in the ninth, no easy task considering he was reportedly dealing with a finger issue from this past week. He struck out Rhys Hoskins for the first out of the inning, but allowed a single to J.T. Realmuto to follow that up. Facing Bryce Harper, he walked him with pitches that weren’t particularly close, then walked Nick Castellanos to load the bases, again on pitches that weren’t really close. With Bohm due up, he of the only hard hit ball all day by the Phillies, Marmol stayed with his closer despite the obvious control issues he was having. Helsley than hit Bohm with a 101 miles per hour fastball in the shoulder that brought Realmuto home and cut the lead to one.

Following a “injury” check to his closer, Marmol removed Helsley in favor of Andre Pallante. Pallante threw a 2-2 slider to Jean Segura, who somehow got solid wood on it and drove it to right field, under the glove of Tommy Edman, scoring two and giving the Phillies the lead.

Bryson Stott followed with a “single” to Goldschmidt at first, who came home a bit too late to get Edmundo Sosa, pinch running for Bohm, and giving the Phillies another run.

Runners were still on with one out and Brandon Marsh hit another “single” past Nolan Arenado that scored Segura and made it 5-2 and put runners on the corners for Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber hit a sacrifice fly that made it 6-2 and sealed the deal.

Zach Eflin (newly appointed closer?) came in in the ninth and, though he allowed a run, closed the door on the Cardinals, sending what remained of the fans there home unhappy and giving the Phillies a thrilling victory. It was a big win indeed as they now are a win away from advancing. See you tomorrow night.

Random observations:

  • It’s hard to overstate how good Wheeler was today. His not getting any offensive support at all was concerning, but he did was he is paid to do: pitch like an ace in the biggest of spots.
  • Bringing in Alvarado was the absolute correct move and should be done ten times out of ten. He made a very bad pitch and got bailed out by the late game heroics, but that is still a move Thomson should always make. I’ve been critical of Thomson’s moves lately, but this was the right one.
  • David Robertson and Alvarado were barely used today, 15 and 12 pitches respectively. They should be good to go for tomorrow. It would be a big ask to think Eflin could come back tomorrow, but it is the playoffs. You never know.