The Philadelphia Phillies retook the series lead in the NLCS against the San Diego Padres, winning 4-2 Friday night in the first NLCS game at Citizens Bank Park since Oct. 23, 2010. Much to the delight of the 45,279 fans packed into Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies prevailed in an entertaining game from start to finish.
The Phillies, who got a six-out save from closer Serantony Domínguez, now have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Let’s run it down.
Schwarber led off with a bomb
It didn’t take long for the Phillies to get on the board. Leadoff man Kyle Schwarber took care of that.
Schwarber had a brutal first two rounds of the playoffs, but he hit a monster shot — 488 feet — in Game 1 and now this one put the Phillies up 1-0 early. Schwarber became just the second Phillies player ever with a leadoff homer in the playoffs after (who else?) Jimmy Rollins, who did it three times (via ESPN Stats and Info). He had seven leadoff homers in the regular season and this was his 11th career playoff homer in his 137th at-bat.
Jean Segura rode a Game 3 rollercoaster
Some extreme good and bad for Phillies second baseman Jean Segura, who was the active player with the most career regular-season games played and no playoff appearances just a few weeks ago.
Much has been made about the Phillies being the worst defensive team left in the playoffs — and that goes back two rounds — and it bit them in the top of the fourth. The Padres had runners at first and third after a squibbed one-out grounder from Brandon Drury went through the wide-open right side. The Phillies had a 1-0 lead at the time, so they had the corners in, ready to throw home on a grounder. The middle was back, playing for the double play. Phillies starter Ranger Suárez did his job and got a grounder to Bryson Stott at short. They had a chance at a double play and it was a good feed, but Segura just dropped the ball at second. We can’t be sure the double play would have been turned, but we never got a chance to find out.
In the bottom half of the inning, Segura came up with runners on second and third in a 1-1 tie. With two strikes, he fought off a Joe Musgrove breaking ball, punching it into right-center to drive home two runs. It was an impressive piece of hitting to make contact and float it to the outfield to score two runs.
The bad, again
He was then picked off to end the inning. Thanks to Segura getting nailed at first and Nick Castellanos hitting into a double play after a Bryce Harper single, the Phillies went 4 for 5 in the bottom of the fourth and scored two runs. That’s definitely not a bad inning, but it seems like they should have kept going after 4 for 5, right?
The good, again
Segura then made a great defensive play to end the top of the seventh inning with a Padres runner on base, his second diving stop of the night. It was quite an up-and-down night for the veteran who is a playoff rookie.
Perhaps this best sums up Segura’s night.
Suárez was slightly better than Musgrove
With no days off remaining in the series, the last thing either manager needed to deal with was a starting pitcher that couldn’t get his team out of the early innings.
Ranger Suárez was up to the task for the Phillies. He started the game on fire, getting Ha-seong Kim and Juan Soto with looking strikeouts. He would end up lasting five innings and only needed 68 pitchers to do so. As such, he’d be more fresh if there’s a Game 7. He only allowed two runs on two hits, but only one run was earned as his defense was shoddy behind him, committing two errors.
Musgrove was a bit more of a mixed bag.
He started off in opposite fashion to Suárez, giving up the leadoff bomb to Schwarber and then walking two straight before getting Bryce Harper to hit into a double play. He settled in after that, getting stronger as the game went along. He did have trouble in the fourth and can’t blame it on defense. He just got hit. Credit Segura on the two-out knock we discussed above, too.
Musgrove then struck out the side in the fifth. He got two groundouts to start the sixth, too, but then Nick Castellanos and Alec Bohm hit back-to-back doubles and give the Phillies a 4-2 lead. Juan Soto misplayed Bohm’s hit into a double, but that didn’t ultimately matter, as Bohm wouldn’t score.
Musgrove’s final line: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
You have to give both starters credit for throwing well enough to prevent the bullpens from being taxed. Suárez was definitely the better of the two, though.
The Phillies bullpen was stellar
Even with Suárez throwing well, the Phillies needed some big work from their oft-maligned bullpen. Zach Eflin worked a scoreless sixth and even though he gave up two hits, manager Rob Thomson correctly pointed out on the broadcast that all he did was his job in getting groundballs. Two just happened to be hits.
From there, Thomson handed it off to his two best relievers. José Alvarado struck out two in his inning of work and went back out for the eighth, but he gave up a leadoff single to Juan Soto. It should be noted that the ball wasn’t well struck, but also let’s give credit to Soto for fighting off a two-strike pitch for a shift-beating single to left. Thomson then turned to Seranthony Domínguez with six outs to go.
The only Phillies pitcher to record a six-out playoff save, previously, was Tug McGraw. He did it once in the 1980 NLCS and then two times in the World Series, most recently Game 6, which was exactly 42 years ago.
Domínguez struck Manny Machado out to set the tone. He got out of the eighth unscathed. Josh Bell singled to lead off the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate, but a strikeout (on a check-swing call that Jurickson Profar didn’t care for), pop out and strikeout ended the threat.
Heavy lifting from Domínguez there, and he might be unavailable for Game 4. Alvarado threw 27 pitches, too, but the bottom line is the Phillies had to hold this lead and they did. Well-managed game by Thomson and good work by the Phillies big relief guns to bring it home.
The Padres bullpen is rested
Something to file away for Game 4, however, is that Padres relievers Tim Hill and Pierce Johnson finished the game without allowing anymore Phillies runs. This kept their team in the game but, more importantly moving forward, allowed manager Bob Melvin to avoid using the likes of Nick Martinez, Luis García and, most importantly, Robert Suarez and closer Josh Hader (who is back to being his old self).
We’ll do it again Saturday night for Game 4. It’ll be 7:45 p.m. ET this time and surely those extra eight minutes of rest will loom large for the two combatants after Friday’s 7:37 start time.
Seriously, though, it goes without saying that we’re in major territory here in the series. A Phillies win means a 3-1 series lead and only a sniff away from the World Series while a Padres win means we’d be heading to Game 5 with the series knotted at two and a very real chance at an epic seven-gamer.
The Padres are going to start Mike Clevinger. He’s a clear step back from the top two Padres’ right-handers in Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, but he’s capable and can be dominant. This was not the case in Game 1 of the NLDS, when he allowed five runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Dodgers. The one time he faced the Phillies this season he worked five scoreless innings on May 17.
On the Phillies’ end, it will be left-hander Bailey Falter, who has not pitched since the regular season. Noah Syndergaard, who started Game 4 of the NLDS, could be used behind Falter.