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Phillies Silenced In Game 4, Shifting Their Focus To The (Near) Future

World Series
Houston Astros pitcher Cristian Javier pitched the first six innings of a historic no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies on November 02, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Phillies Silenced In Game 4, Shifting Their Focus To The Future

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Phillies’ postseason run, outside of the run itself, is how well the team has handled the most important moments. So much of the team lacked World Series, let alone postseason experience before this incredible run. Their roster included the two active players with the most games played and two of the top three starters with the most starts that hadn’t reached the postseason until this year. But whenever the pressure has increased, the Phillies have risen with it.

That could not have changed more starkly on Wednesday night. The usually raucous Citizens Bank Park fell silent as the Astros ambushed two of their most dominant pitchers in a five-run fifth inning. In the moment, it wasn’t as hard as it should’ve been to dismiss this as just another challenge for the Phillies to overcome. Another obstacle to make another improbable Phillies victory that much sweeter.

Maybe it will still go down as that. But for the moment, it set something much more upsetting in motion. The massive lead provided even more confidence to an already-dealing Cristian Javier. He pitched two more one-two-three innings, then turned it over to the Astros’ electric bullpen. Confidence and the number of fans in the seats lessened. One number, however, remained constant: the zero in the Phillies’ hit column.

In the moment, it matters a lot. The Astros pitching staff needed a bounceback after the Phillies launched five home runs in an epic Game 3 win. All Javier, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero, and Ryan Pressly did was record the second no-hitter in World Series and third in postseason history. Two of the latter have come at Citizens Bank Park. The atmosphere as the game progressed was the polar opposite of what Roy Halladay‘s brilliance in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS looked and felt like, and fittingly so. For the first time this postseason, the Phillies have lost multiple times in a series. They also suffered their first loss at home.

To many teams, it would feel crushing. These Phillies, however, have seen far worse. They were no-hit six months and four days ago, and it turned a mediocre start into a direction-altering spiral. Game 4 is certainly humbling; just when you think you’ve seen it all, you see the Phillies fail to make solid contact against almost all of Javier’s 97 pitches, 70 of which were fastballs. Hitting heat is a major strength of the Phillies’ top-four hitters. But they did not come through on Wednesday.

The good news for the Phillies is that this moment is now over. At this time of year, it really does not matter how you win or lose. What matters is recognizing the next opportunity. In that category, the Phillies are faring almost as well as they did at the plate in Game 3. “Flush today,” said their biggest star, Bryce Harper, who drew one of Philadelphia’s three walks Wednesday. “Get ready for tomorrow.”

“Is what it is — just a loss,” Kyle Schwarber, who hit one of those Game 3 bombs, said. “Now it’s a race to two. We’ll see what happens.”

When Game 3 was postponed due to rain, many thought it would help the Phillies immensely by allowing them to better align their rotation. Perhaps the biggest thing going for them is that they will face Justin Verlander, who they tagged in Game 1. An offense that could understandably be lacking confidence will face a pitcher they scored five runs against in five innings less than a week ago.

They will face him in their biggest moment yet. That’s always more or less how it works at this time of year. But their sense of urgency in this postseason could peak in Game 5. Rob Thomson reaffirmed his readiness to turn to his biggest relievers in high-leverage spots, putting in José Alvarado with the bases loaded and no one out in the fifth with lefties Yordan Álvarez up and Kyle Tucker in the hole. It did not work, but considering Thomson is as cool-headed as anyone, he probably wouldn’t hesitate to make a similar decision, especially with an off day on Friday looming.

Wednesday reminded us all of just how thrilling November baseball almost always is.

If the Phillies win, they are one victory away from the World Series with their ace on the mound. If they lose, they are one loss away from elimination going on the road with a pitcher who was rocked in his first career World Series start in Game 2. That is the nature of postseason baseball. Every outcome’s importance is amplified right now. The Phillies lost Game 4, and that is incredibly important. Few of the details that led to it are for shaping what happens next.

That’s not to dismiss how special Houston’s historic dominance is, of course. What the Astros did on this crisp November night in Philadelphia will be remembered forever. Only two more wins separate the 2022 Phillies from being the same.

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