I’m still buzzing with excitement.
Down to their last strike in the bottom of the tenth inning, the Phillies pulled off an incredible victory. But to understand just how incredible this victory was, we have to go all the way back to the beginning.
Zach Eflin was firing on all cylinders this afternoon. He struck out 12 batters — a career high — and allowed just four hits. Two of those hits were home runs, but they were solo home runs, so Eflin finished the day with a very respectable line of 7 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 12 K.
It was the best outing of the year for Eflin, who lowered his ERA to 3.65.
Only one other pitcher this season has gone at least 7 innings while striking out 12+ and allowing 2 or fewer runs: Clayton Kershaw, in his 7 perfect innings on April 13.
Unfortunately for Eflin, the offense wasn’t giving him any support. Through the first seven innings, the Phillies managed just four hits, two of which were erased with double plays. They scored one on a Garrett Stubbs home run (the first of his career!) in the bottom of the seventh, but when Eflin left the game he was still in line for the loss.
Seranthony Domínguez and José Alvarado kept things close with clean innings in the eighth and ninth, giving the Phillies the opportunity to walk things off in their final at-bats. Yet even with the top of the lineup coming up, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in expecting a loss.
Alec Bohm and Bryce Harper both got out to start the ninth, putting the Phillies in a bad hole. Luckily, Nick Castellanos, who had been slumping as of late, came up huge with a first-pitch double to left field. Then, the Dodgers intentionally walked Kyle Schwarber to face Jean Segura.
Segura came into the game with the tenth-highest batting average in the NL, while Schwarber came in with the fifth-highest strikeout rate in the league, so I’m really not sure what the Dodgers were thinking, but thank goodness for that intentional base on balls. With a single to left field, Segura tied the game up at two apiece.
After that, J.T. Realmuto, who came in to pitch hit in the eighth and replaced Rhys Hoskins at first base, struck out and the inning was over. But the Phillies had tied things up, and with Corey Knebel coming in to pitch the tenth, it seemed like Phils had a real chance to win.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be so easy. Knebel walked Mookie Betts to start the inning, and while Garrett Stubbs made a great play to throw out the zombie runner at third base, Knebel allowed a base hit to Trea Turner on the next at-bat and Betts scored the go-ahead run.
Great heads up play by Garrett Stubbs! pic.twitter.com/jIjA1xJRJ1— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) May 22, 2022
Knebel finished the top of the tenth without allowing any more runs to cross the plate, but the damage was done. The Phillies already came back to tie the game in the ninth, and how often does this team have two comebacks in them?
While I can’t imagine many of us expected the Phillies to win at this point, things did look promising to start the inning, when Garrett Stubbs singled and zombie runner J.T. Realmuto reached third. Unfortunately, that good feeling went away almost immediately as Realmuto tried to take off for home, only to realize that third baseman Justin Turner was still holding the ball and could easily tag him out.
Yes, Turner did a good job of acting like the throw from first had gone into the outfield, but Realmuto needs to know better than that. He’s a veteran, and he’s usually one of the best baserunners in the league. There’s really no excuse for messing up that badly.
All of a sudden, the Phillies went from runners on first and third with no outs to just one runner at first with one out. I didn’t check the win expectancy chart for this one, but I can imagine the Phillies’ chances of winning plummeted.
Things looked even worse after Johan Camargo went down on strikes, and Roman Quinn stepped up to bat. I mean no disrespect to Roman Quinn, who I’ve always enjoyed watching, but he’s certainly not the guy you want coming up to bat in this situation.
It would turn out he was exactly who the Phillies needed to come up in that situation. Quinn singled, Stubbs reached third, and Quinn advanced to second on the throw.
Just like that, the Phillies had the tying and the winning runs in scoring position and Alec Bohm was walking to the plate. While he hasn’t been as “clutch” this year, Bohm came up big in many tough spots during his rookie season, and he has one of the highest batting averages on the team. He’s one of the better options the Phillies have when all the team needs is a base hit.
With two strikes, Bohm swung at a slider from Dodgers reliever Evan Phillips. He didn’t hit it very hard, and it looked like all was lost as Bohm sprinted towards first base in hopes of beating second baseman Max Muncy’s throw.
But the throw never came.
The softly hit ground ball went through Muncy’s legs, and Stubbs scored easily from third. The game was tied. As Muncy turned around to grab the ball that had stopped right behind him, Roman Quinn was already rounding third. Muncy made a good throw to the plate, but Quinn slid underneath the tag from catcher Austin Barnes.
Roman Quinn was safe, and the Phillies won the ballgame. The Phillies won the ballgame!
How many other players in baseball could score from second base on a bumbled infield ground ball like that? Maybe five? Ten at the most. It’s safe to say, if anyone else had been the runner at second base, the Phillies might not have won this game.
The offense was once again very frustrating for most of the day, but they got the job done when it mattered most. Nick Castellanos and Jean Segura came up big in the bottom of the ninth, while Garrett Stubbs and Roman Quinn won the game in the bottom of the tenth.
Had Muncy not made an error on that final play, the Phillies would have lost the game, but so what? Winning a baseball game is all about outplaying your opponent. Today, the Phillies outplayed the Dodgers, plain and simple.
Moreover, not only did they outplay the Dodgers today, but the Phillies have now officially won the season series against the best team in the National League. Taking 4 of 7 from the Dodgers is a real accomplishment. And while the Phillies’ schedule doesn’t get much easier over the next couple weeks, the hardest challenge is now out of the way.
Zach Eflin was fun to watch over the first seven innings, and the offense made it exciting at the very end. At times, this game may have been hard to watch, but I think most of us will end up looking back on today as one of the most important victories of the season.