If this was a preview of playoff baseball, I’m not sure the fanbase is quite ready for it. It had it all - pitchers pitching well, hitters coming up clutch, disappointing momentum killers and a final that leaves more questions than answers.
Tonight was Zack Wheeler’s return from the injured list, but we didn’t know how long he was going to go. When Rob Thomson was asked if there was a number of pitches or innings they had in mind, he answered in the affirmative with a wink and a smile. So when Wheeler went four innings, only needing 58 pitches, and looking fine and dandy, there was a collective sigh of relief - both for Wheeler’s health and for what it means for the organization moving forward. The plan called for Noah Syndergaard to follow and he got away with some pitches, but generally looked fine himself. It was six innings of shutout ball that the team needed to bridge the gap to their better relievers.
The issue for the Phillies during these innings was that Toronto’s starter, Kevin Gausman, was more dominant that the Phillies’ duo. Gausman struck out five of the first six hitters he saw and just used a fastball/splitter combination to make the offense look silly. He started to falter a bit in the fifth inning when he loaded the bases with two outs to face Bryce Harper, but as Harper has done a little too much of late, he could not come through for the team and they continued the game, scoreless.
The next threat the Phillies had was in the seventh when Dalton Guthrie, pinch hitting for Nick Maton, walked to start the inning, then went to second when Matt Vierling bunted a ball into no man’s land to get two men on and nobody out for the top three hitters. Now, these three hitters - Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper - have carried this team to this point. Along with J.T. Realmuto, they’re the reasons why the offense has been among league leaders in most things, but of late, they’ve come up quite small. Here, it happened again. Schwarber grounded into a force out, then was followed by back to back strikeouts by Hoskins and Harper. It sent the game to the eighth inning where Seranthony Dominguez was given the ball.
He allowed a single to Whit Merrifield to start the inning, but got a ground ball to Bryson Stott. Stott then did this:
Why is this happening just why?! pic.twitter.com/1OZ7PQ0LpP— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) September 22, 2022
As so often happens, when a mental error is made, a big play follows and the next hitter up, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. made them pay.
Things looked bleak for the Phillies, but in the eighth, things got a little better. It started with a leadoff solo home run by Realmuto that got the Phillies on the board.
J.T. Realmuto finally gets the Phils on the board! pic.twitter.com/tcaKjjTgS7— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) September 22, 2022
Jean Segura would reach second on a single and an error after this, then scored when Guthrie drove him home to make the score 3-2. Vierling hit another single, his fourth hit of the night and suddenly there was a bit of life in the team. Schwarber followed, needing to get off the schnied a bit and came through for the team, ripping a single into right that scored Guthrie and tied the game at three.
Schwarber comes through in the clutch: pic.twitter.com/pcpmEK5NcH— Phillies Nation (@PhilliesNation) September 22, 2022
It went to the tenth tied at three where the Phillies had to send Andrew Bellatti to the mound as there was no one left! Bellatti would load the bases with little command of his signature slider, but with one out, he got Teoscar Hernandez to line out right to Segura, who dove to second and secured a double play that sent the game to the bottom of the tenth.
In that bottom of the tenth, Stott bunted over the Manfred Man to third, Segura was hit by a pitch and Guthrie walked to load the bases for Vierling. Adam Cimber, the Blue Jays reliever, was struggling to throw strikes threw one to Vierling, who capped off a spectacular night for him by chopping his fifth hit of the night for the game winner.
Matt Vierling went 5 for 5, won the game, and is the first Phillies player I can remember to be walking around CBP shirtless. pic.twitter.com/2VVW5Raf0H— Absolutely Hammered (@AH_Pod) September 22, 2022
It’s not hyperbolic to say this may have saved their season. We’ll have to see how it goes, but the way it has been going lately, they needed this win badly to make sure they can get a little bit of momentum headed into this series against Atlanta.