Phillies Take Their Dominance to a Different Level in Game 2 Rout
There is always excitement in the Citizens Bank Park when Bryson Stott comes up to bat. The second-year second baseman has played a clean, throwback style ever since last summer when he shook off the growing pains that defined the start of his big league career. The jam-packed home crowd will sing the serene lyrics to the entire chorus of his walk-up song (A-O-K by Tai Verdes), even if the sound gets cut before it finishes.
“Picking that song, I never imagined this. But I feel like every at-bat, it gets louder and louder,” Stott said. “It’s been awesome.”
Strip the bias and rosy tune from the thousands of part-time singers, full-time fanatics standing in front of the blue seats, and they might’ve seen trouble coming their way when Stott stepped up in the bottom of the sixth. Since his social-media-breaking grand slam in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series, Stott was 3-17 with six strikeouts. Joe Mantiply, a 2022 All-Star who held lefties to a .185/.209/.231 line this year, entered from the bullpen to retire Stott and smother the Phillies’ sixth-inning hopes.
Philadelphia won a close Game 1 on the strength of three solo home runs. But they missed numerous opportunities to put the game away. Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo brought in Mantiply in this spot to do exactly what Arizona did on Monday — hang around.
So often that ability separates the successful underdogs from the ones who flame out. The Phillies pitching did it in the team’s first postseason game last year in St. Louis. Without it, who knows what this would look like? It’s hard to imagine it would be as good as it is now, with the Phillies two wins away from making consecutive World Series trips for just the second time in their 140-year existence. Arizona was able to do it in Game 1 and brought the tying run to the plate in the last three innings as a result. This was their chance to do it again.
Stott bounced a 1-0 sinker that Mantiply left over the plate into center field for a single. Three batters later, the Phillies had turned a three-run lead to six. It was emblematic of yet another special autumn night in South Philadelphia. Even when the Diamondbacks seemingly had the edge, it didn’t matter. This was the Phillies’ night. Again.
“This is kind of the lineup that we envisioned ourselves having all season long,” said catcher J.T. Realmuto, who drove in two of those insurance runs with a 3-2 double. “And I just think we’re clicking at the right time right now.”
It’s hard to realize because of how fast it’s developed, but what the Phillies are doing right now isn’t normal. There is domination, and then there is this. The Phillies are outhomering their opponents 19-4 in this postseason. As a team, they have an absurd .941 OPS. In the regular season, only Shohei Ohtani, Corey Seager, Ronald AcuÃ±a Jr., Matt Olson, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman exceeded that output. Each of their top eight hitters had at least one hit on Tuesday. It was a suffocating performance from a Phillies team that knows how to deliver a knockout blow and takes joy in doing so.
That sixth inning began with Kyle Schwarber delivering one of his own on a 427-foot blast that arched through the autumn night. The at-bat before, Schwarber didn’t even catch a 1-0 fastball on the barrel and still snuck it over the right field fence. The only other hit Arizona starter Merrill Kelly allowed in 5.2 innings was to his World Baseball Classic teammate Trea Turner on his fifth pitch of the night. That, too, left Citizens Bank Park in a hurry.
Game 2 felt like a classic postseason pitcher’s duel for most of the night. Kelly retired seven hitters during the middle innings, settling into the game in a way Zac Gallen never could in Game 1. He pitched well in his first career League Championship Series start. But every pitch he threw was in the shadow of Aaron Nola. The Phillies’ “Ace 2,” as Bryce Harper called him, started running out of gas on this stage a year ago. After Corbin Carroll reached on an error to lead off, Nola set down the next nine hitters he faced. Turner and Schwarber launched the night’s first two long balls in the background.
“I felt good last year in the NLCS, [the San Diego Padres] just kind of got me on some pitches,” Nola said. “But obviously, this one’s a lot more fun.”
The postseason is supposed to be the most stressful time of the season. But it hasn’t felt that way for the Phillies. Even the slightest remark that Philadelphia might not have the most raucous environment in the sport is seen as a challenge to rise up to. Gallen and Kelly were 25 and 32 percent better than league average in the regular season, respectively. They began the postseason with a 2.04 ERA in 17.2 innings across three starts. They were Arizona’s biggest strength coming into this series. And the Phillies neutralized them with just a few flicks of their wrists.
It should be harder as the series shifts to Arizona on Thursday. But there is no doubt in this series that the Phillies are the standard, and the Diamondbacks are chasing. Just two wins separate them from another Fall Classic berth. It looks, feels and even sounds so sweet.
“It’s the best place on Earth man, are you kidding me?” said left fielder Brandon Marsh. “This is, this is, this is where you’re supposed to be at, right here. Philadelphia. It’s awesome. The unity we have and the love that we have and passion for each other and just want all of us to good, it’s really, I’m just blessed to be a part of it.”
46,000-plus and 25 teammates feel the same.