Wheeler Has Been A Big Part Of Phillies “Magic”
Game five of the NLCS opens with a strange tribute to disco, I think. Philadelphia soul was big in the ’70s, FS1. Phillies “magic” may be how some believe they have gotten within one win of the World Series, but this team has a ton of talent. They needed to put it all together, and they have so far.
Game five proves this point with Zach Wheeler starting. Wheeler fights through the first in 22 pitches, but still retires the Padres in order. San Diego’s Yu Darvish struggles with his control a bit, but Rhys Hoskins hits into a 5-4-3 double play on a 2-1 sinker. Darvish then catches J.T. Realmuto looking at a 95 MPH fastball.
Wheeler looks fired up, channeling his adrenaline into a nine-pitch, two-strikeout second. This already feels as if the slugfest of yesterday is a distant memory. If the Phillies win today Bryce Harper likely win the MVP. The Padres erase his single with a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Nick Castellanos. Darvish hits Alec Bohm, but on the next pitch Bryson Stott flies out on an 87 MPH cutter.
Will San Diego’s Offensive Strategy Work?
The Padres, known to be a patient offensive team, want to attack Wheeler early. He only throws 20 pitches to get through the second and third. Wheeler’s 30 strikes suggest there may be no good way to attack him right now. Pitching at this level the Padres may be forced to wait for a single mistake from him. The pressure falls on Darvish to match Wheeler.
Darvish walks Kyle Schwarber for the second time, who then steals second. Strange that the Phillies needed to challenge the call at second when Schwarber beat a bad throw easily. Hoskins makes Darvish pay for his lack of fastball command with a two-run shot on a 3-0 cutter right down the middle. More loud contact as Realmuto singles and Harper lines out to Jake Cronenworth, right into the shift.
The Padres now find themselves up against a loud crowd and a pitcher on fire. Juan Soto answers with a home run in his second consecutive game. Soto knew it right away. Wheeler and Manny Machado battle in the rain. Machado sees 15 pitches in his first two at-bats, but Wheeler retires him both times. Wheeler then hits Cronenworth on the shin with a 95 MPH slider. Josh Bell then pinballs a 94 MPH slider off Wheeler right to Realmuto for the final out in the top of the fourth.
Darvish continues to fight for command of his fastball, hitting Castellanos. Two loud lineouts to Soto and a strike out of Jean Segura get him through the fourth. Ponchos are now a necessary fashion accessory amongst the crowd.
Lower Part Of Padres Order Needs To Finds Their Swings
7-8-9 for San Diego need to find their swing quickly. Brandon Drury stays stuck at first Ha-Seong Kim, Trent Grisham, and Austin Nola all can do nothing against Wheeler. Brandon Marsh is the one Phillies hitter yet to find it at the plate. Soto continues to see a ton of work as Schwarber line out to him. Hoskins receives a free pass on five pitches. After Realmuto swings and misses on a first-pitch slider, the organist plays “Feel Good Inc.” The Phillies organist clearly has good taste. A high fastball gets Realmuto to swing and miss, sending the game to the sixth.
Top Of The Sixth Padres’ Best Chance For Offense To Respond
Jurickson Profar, Soto, and Machado face Wheeler at the top of the sixth. The Padres’ chances for all three to come up after this are running out. Profar pops out in front of Soto. Soto strikes out a nasty curve ball in the dirt. Machado watches Wheeler dot the low middle of the strike zone with a perfect slider.
Darvish gets Harper to swing at 68 and 67 MPH curveballs for the first out. Castellanos pops out and Bohm flies out as Darvish fights to dig the dirt out of his spikes. For all his struggles with his fastball command, he makes it through six in 85 pitches.
A Cronenworth single ends Wheelers’ day. His line: 87 pitches, 60 strikes, one run, three hits, 8 Ks, and no BBs. Seranthony Dominguez replaces him, facing Josh Bell. Bell’s double down the right-field line ties the game. Jose Azocar pinch runs for Bell. Dominguez fights his control and gets Brandon Drury out on a 97 MPH high fastball. He quickly sets down Kim on a 98 MPH fastball. The second wild pitch by Dominguez allows Azocar to make it to third. Dominguez’s third wild pitch of the inning allows Azocar to score. Padres take the lead 3-2. More fitting music plays. The Counting Crows “Rain King.” Good job, FS1 production crew.
Phillies Bats Must Pick Up Bullpen To Advance To World Series
The pressure now flips to Philadelphia’s bats and whether they can respond after a rare bad outing by their bullpen this postseason. Only two other pitchers according to the broadcast, besides Dominguez, threw three wild pitches in an inning in the postseason. Bryson Stott, a good breaking ball hitter, ends Darvish’s day on a double over Soto’s head.
San Diego now asks Robert Suarez to get out of the jam. He intentionally walks Schwarber, but the red-hot Hoskins flies out to Soto, his seventh putout. Jean Segura also flies out to him and Brandon Marsh strikes out again, sending the game to the eighth.
Can Padres Send Series Back To San Diego?
Jose Alvarado works his way into one out of trouble at the top of the eighth. Profar singled and Soto walked after Nola fans on a 100 MPH sinker. Macahdo tries to golf a low cutter but flies out to Stott in the shallow left. Cronenworth then grounds out, Segura to Hoskins, to end the inning.
Shout out to the grounds crew, who deserve bonus pay for today’s game, and all the Phillies fans, including my good friend Ron, for braving the rain. Suarez, back out for the eighth, gives up a lead-off single to Realmuto. Suarez faces Harper with the game on the line, with Josh Hader warming up. Harper wins the battle and perhaps sends Philadelphia to the World Series on a middle-away 92 MPH sinker. 4-3 Phillies on his opposite-field home run. Suarez gets the next three hitters, but is it too late?
Drama In The Ninth With Phillies First Pennant In 13 Years On Line
David Robertson strikes out Wil Myers, but then walks Brandon Drury and Kim. Ranger Suarez, usually a starter, is asked to get the final two outs. Grisham tries a drag bunt on the first pitch, but he bunts straight back to Suarez for the second out. Austin Nola then flies to Castellanos to send Philadelphia to their first World Series in 13 years.
Phillies “magic,” strong starting pitching, and home runs, carried them to the Worlds Series, which starts Friday. Harper, with the home run of his life to date, is the NLCS MVP. They likely face their toughest test to date in the Houston Astros, unless the New York Yankees make a comeback for the ages. Keep your eyes on Philidelphia, because beating them will be no easy task.
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