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Break out the brooms: Phillies 2, Blue Jays 1

It was only two games, but still.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Gausman (2 hits, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts) and Zack Wheeler (1 hit, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts) each cruised through 4 scoreless innings on this beautiful Wednesday afternoon. Each returned to dominant form after struggling in his previous start. Their collective stuff was downright electric, and things didn’t figure to get any easier for hitters as the late-afternoon shadows began to creep in.

The Phillies threatened early after 2-out singles by Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos, but Kyle Schwarber took a nasty splitter for strike 3 to end the first inning.

Brandon Belt broke the scoreless tie in the top of the fifth with a homer to right field. Wheeler, though, who’s struggled to keep things from spiraling out of control in the middle innings at times this season, struck out the next three Blue Jays. Apart from that one mistake, everything was working for him today.

Gausman kept his foot on the gas as well, matching Wheeler’s three strikeouts in the fifth without conceding a baserunner. He came in averaging 93.5 mph on his four-seamer but ramped it up today, topping out at 99 and sitting comfortably at 95.

Matt Chapman came close to making it a 2-0 game with a drive to the out-of-town scoreboard in right field, but our soon-to-be Gold Glover snared it before it could bang off the wall.

After another quick two outs in the sixth, Trea Turner roped a 108.7 mph double to left field. With Gausman at 98 pitches and Harper striding to the plate, Toronto’s pitching coach Pete Walker used a mound visit, presumably to make sure nothing caught too much of the plate. Sure enough, Harper bounced a first-pitch splitter to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first.

Surprisingly—or maybe not, given José Alvarado’s unavailability—Wheeler took the mound in the seventh with 90 pitches. He rewarded Rob Thomson with a 1-2-3 inning, finishing 7 very strong innings with a final line of 1 run, 3 hits, 1 walk, and 7 strikeouts.

Yimi García took over for Gausman and worked around a Schwarber single by inducing a Castellanos grounder, a J.T. Realmuto fly ball, and a strikeout of Bohm, who’s looked lost at the plate for several weeks now after a tremendous start to the year.

The Phillies’ eighth inning was nearly a work of art in the eyes of small ball lovers anywhere. Brandon Marsh led off against Erik Swanson with a walk. Edmundo Sosa squared to bunt three times, the first two resulting in a foul ball and a whiff before he narrowly kept his third sacrifice attempt fair with two strikes. With Bryson Stott (.287 OBP, .328 SLG in his last 30 games) on deck, sacrificing an out for an extra base was a risky decision. Stott moved Marsh to third with a lazy fly to center field, leaving the inning in Turner’s hands. He’s struggled to handle fastballs all year and Swanson took advantage, benefiting from a rather unsavory strike call before coaxing Turner to chase out of the zone.

Seranthony Domínguez followed up Gregory Soto’s scoreless frame with one of his own. Then, the fun started.

Harper scorched a 112.8 mph base hit off closer Jordan Romano to begin the ninth. Castellanos worked an excellent 9-pitch plate appearance and floated an infield hit over the pitcher’s mound. Schwarber saw five straight sliders and whiffed on three, but J.T. Realmuto picked him up in a big way:

All Bohm needed was a ball into the outfield. Instead, he chopped one to first and Guerrero Jr. cut down Castellanos at the plate. Marsh was intentionally walked to load the bases. Unlike last night, however, Sosa couldn’t turn the disrespect into an RBI hit, grounding out to third to send the game to extra innings.

We seem to have panicked about Craig Kimbrel prematurely, everyone. After his save last night, he was thoroughly unafraid to challenge the Blue Jays with the ghost runner on second, picking up two strikeouts and a groundout in a 1-2-3 tenth.

Stott couldn’t get a bunt down and struck out, but Turner laid off some tough pitches and worked a walk, setting the stage for Bryce Harper’s...heroics.

In very non-2023 Phillies fashion, the pitching (and a timely defensive implosion by the visitors) gave the offense a chance to win today. They move to 18-19, and they’ll take victories any way they can get ’em. Next up are the Rockies this weekend at Coors.