You forgot, didn’t you? You forgot what playoff baseball felt like: Living and dying on every pitch, every botched strike call by the umpire looming large, and every failure to get a baserunner home feeling like it could be the thing that costs your team the game.
But you also forgot how awesome it is when heroes emerge: That feeling when the starting pitcher throws one of the finest games of his career, or the much-maligned third baseman makes one great defensive play after another. Or when the ace reliever who you didn’t really have faith in comes into the game and retires two MVP candidates.
The Cardinals had the legends, but the Phillies had the heroes. And thanks to those heroes, they won 2-0 and advanced to the NLDS.
Since his return from the injured list, Bryce Harper hasn’t provided much in the way of heroics. But he got the Phillies off to a good start by murdering a pitch in the first inning.
That early home run was sadly not a precursor of things to come. In the fifth, Alec Bohm hit a leadoff double and eventually scored on a Kyle Schwarber sacrifice fly, but that was it in terms of runs for the Phillies. They wasted another leadoff double in the seventh, and Bryce Harper’s questionable baserunning - and even more questionable judgement by the replay official - cost them a chance in the sixth.
But who needs offense when you’ve got Aaron Nola on the mound? After pitching a great game to get the Phillies into the playoffs, he delivered an arguably even greater performance to send them to the next round.
Aaron Nola's last two starts:— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) October 9, 2022
Monday, NL Wild Card clincher: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K.
Tonight, Game 2 NLWCS: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K.
Remember how people said the Phillies would have a chance in the playoffs due to their top two starting pitchers? Based on the past two nights, the Phillies definitely have a chance due to their top two starting pitchers.
Nola received help from Alec Bohm behind him. Bohm’s defense might never be his calling card, but he’s made tough play after tough play at third base over the past two days.
Offense, defense, starring as Vecna in Stranger Things: Is there anything Alec Bohm can’t do???— Smarty Jones - Playoff Edition (@TheSmartyJones) October 9, 2022
Nola’s night was done when he allowed a two-out single in the seventh, but Jose Alvarado retired Yadier Molina to end the inning.
Alvarado continued into the eighth, but thanks in part to an inconsistent strike zone, walked a batter, bringing Seranthony Dominguez into the game. Earlier this season, that would have been a soothing sight, but considering Dominguez’s shakiness since returning from the injured list, tensions were high.
Tensions got higher when Albert Pujols greeted him with a single (much to the delight of Alex Rodriguez). Now, all Dominguez had to do was retire Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. But remember how I said Dominguez had been shaky down the stretch? Goldschmidt and Arenado might have been even worse in the final month of the season, and that continued in this series. Dominguez struck them both out, leaving them a combined 1-15 in this series.
For the second straight night, Zach Eflin was called upon to finish off the game, and for the second straight night, it wasn’t a clean inning. With two outs, he allowed singles to Corey Dickerson and Yadi Molina (Giving the announcers one final chance to verbally slobber all over him). But he finally got Tommy Edman to foul out, sending Pujols and Molina into retirement, and the Phillies into the next round.
I hope everyone has gotten their “sea legs” under them in terms of watching playoff baseball, because the Phillies are off to Atlanta to face their division rivals who happen to be the defending champions. It sounds like a difficult assignment, and it assuredly will be. But remember: The more difficult the assignment, the more opportunities there are for new legends to emerge.