We all knew - or at least should have known - that this was a possibility. All season long, the Phillies had issues with runners in scoring position. Home runs are fun, and it’s a good thing when a team hits a lot of them, but there was always a concern about the Phillies being able to consistently score runs when the ball isn’t flying over the fence.
Ultimately, that proved to be the undoing of the 2023 Phillies. In the pivotal game seven of the National League Championship Series, the Phillies went 1-10 with RISP (and the one hit didn’t even score a run) and largely because of those failings, they fell 4-2 to the Diamondbacks, dashing their hopes of a second straight National League pennant.
The game started off ominously. Ranger Suarez gave up two singles in the first, and one of them came around to score on a fielder's choice. The Phillies couldn’t answer against Diamondbacks rookie Brandon Pfaadt. Much like he did in game three, Pfaadt breezed through the top of the Phillies’ lineup.
But in the second, the good old solo home run made a re-appearance when Alec Bohm got a hold of a ball for the first time all series.
Suarez settled down over the next three innings, and in the fifth, the Phillies actually got a hit with a runner on base to take a 2-1 lead.
J.T. Realmuto followed with a single, but third base coach Dusty Wathan held Stott at third. That lack of aggressiveness proved costly when Nick Castellanos’ dreadful slump continued with a strikeout. Pfaadt wisely pitched around Brandon Marsh to get to Johan Rojas.
Some are claiming that Rob Thomson should have pinch hit for Rojas there, but I disagree. If you bring in Jake Cave, the D’Backs counter with a left-hander and that might be an even worse matchup for the Phillies. But hey, every move that doesn’t work out looks bad, and Rojas’ inning ending strikeout gave the Thomson haters some ammunition.
The inability to tack on runs quickly proved costly. In the fifth, with a runner on second and two outs, Suarez was left in to face Corbin Carroll. The rookie had a slow start to the series, but unlike some of the Phillies’ hitters, he snapped out of it.
CORBIN CARROLL’S THREE HITS TONIGHT TIES THE RECORD FOR MOST HITS BY A ROOKIE IN A WINNER-TAKE-ALL POSTSEASON GAME!!!!— PHNX Diamondbacks (@PHNX_Dbacks) October 25, 2023
Jeff Hoffman relieved Suarez, and despite getting ahead of Gabriel Moreno 0-2, he couldn’t finish the job.
The D-backs are D-backs-ing.— Alex Weiner (@alexjweiner) October 25, 2023
Corbin Carroll's steal sets up Gabriel Moreno for an RBI single to right field to take the lead. pic.twitter.com/9l05Ce0y3n
It looked as if the Phillies were going to answer back when Kyle Schwarber led off with a double. But Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, and Bohm couldn’t get Schwarber home (they couldn’t even advance him to third), and the Phillies’ run total remained at two.
Despite those offensive struggles, it felt like the Phillies would still have a chance if they could hold the lead at one. They couldn’t do it. In the seventh, a couple of hits and a sacrifice fly by Carroll extended the Diamondbacks’ lead to two.
Things looked bleak, but there was a sign of life in the bottom of the inning. In a rare poor showing by a Diamondback reliever, Andrew Saalfrank walked two batters, which meant that Turner and Harper would come up with two runners on base.
There were times this season - and not that long ago - when two men on for Trea Turner and Bryce Harper would have ended well for the Phillies. But against reliever Kevin Ginkel - who should have gotten serious consideration for series MVP - they didn’t stand a chance. Both Turner and Harper hit weak fly balls and the Phillies’ last, best chance of the season was over.
Those pitches got you two outs. That's the series. pic.twitter.com/McDBnHogyx— Pissed off Zoidberg (@YoshkeZoidberg) October 25, 2023
Ginkel remained in the game to strike out the side in the eighth, and Paul Sewald got the first two in the ninth, bringing pinch hitter Jake Cave to the plate. Because of course the entire season was going to come down to a Jake Cave at bat. Surprisingly, he didn’t strike out, but his lazy fly to right field ended the game regardless.
There will be plenty of post-mortems written about the Phillies in the days to come. There will be plenty of arguing about who is most to blame, but ultimately, this was a team failure. There were managerial mistakes, there were poor pitching performances, and when it counted the most, this lineup full of big names couldn’t get the job done when they had the chance.
I know you’re feeling disappointed right now, and that feeling will likely remain for a while. But just remember, there’s always next year, and pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training before you know it. Go Phillies!