Phillies’ reliever Jose Alvarado has been pitching like it’s October since his recall from triple-A Lehigh Valley, but he has plans for more than just himself.
“Oh, man, I’m feeling the moment, you know? If we win this series, Philadelphia, you go to the World Series,” Alvarado told the media excitedly after the Phillies’ win on Tuesday in Atlanta.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as that, but the Phillies sure are trending in the right direction.
Alvarado knew he’d have a big role in the Phils’ postseason run, but he wasn’t the only focus in what turned out to be an all-around team win. Two of the Phillies’ seven runs came on sacrifice flies, and they had four total sacrifices in the game.
“We’re super confident,” Phils’ superstar outfielder Bryce Harper said. “But that’s a great team over there.”
After a poor series in St. Louis, Nick Castellanos bounced back, and quite frankly, saved the entire game. Castellanos recorded three hits and three RBI, while also making a game-saving catch in right field with an out in the ninth inning.
“It’s kind of just a fresh start, a clean slate, so to speak… And obviously these games are really intense. For me, that helps me lock in and kind of slow things down. It’s just a lot of fun. Baseball is really, really fun right now,” Castellanos told the media following the game.
The team’s twelve hits were the same amount they had in both Wild Card games in St. Louis, and they needed each and every one of them. The Phillies had five two-out RBI, and the team was 5-12 with runners in scoring position.
Early success for the Phillies led to Max Fried being pulled with one out in the fourth inning, in what ended up being one of his worst starts of the season.
“I thought we were relentless in the [batter’s] box,” Phillies’ first baseman Rhys Hoskins said after the game. “Not everybody got results, but we put pressure on them all day, and I think that’s why he ended up out of the game.”
Ranger Suarez allowed one run in the first 3.1 innings but was pulled after a career-high five walks. The Phillies’ bullpen had to record the last 17 outs, which was no easy task given how much it has struggled over the past four seasons.
It wasn’t clean or easy, but it got done.
Down four in the ninth, Braves’ slugger, Matt Olson lifted a towering three-run home run off reliever Zach Eflin to pull the Braves within one. Olson struggled in the second half of the regular season, but he’s had one of the best stretches of his career in the past two-and-a-half weeks.
His big home run, though, was not enough.
Connor Brogdon’s struggles continued in his outing, which only lasted .1 innings. He allowed two hits, two walks, and two runs. The backend of the Phillies’ ‘pen, though, was dominant as ever. Brad Hand cleaned up Brogdon’s mess, and Seranthony Dominguez threw two perfect innings to set up Jose Alvarado and Zach Eflin to close the win.
Alvarado’s inning was scoreless, but Eflin allowed the home run to Olson, making things a little more interesting.
“‘Ef,’ although he gave up three runs, he will not [be] scare[d], his heartbeat won’t change. He’s not going to walk people, he’s going to attack people. That’s what I like about him,” Phillies’ manager Rob Thomson said in his postgame press conference.
With two outs in the ninth, Braves’ catcher Travis d’Arnaud grounded out to Edmundo Sosa, ending the Phillies’ 7-6 win.
The Phillies and Braves will play one more game in Atlanta before coming to Philadelphia for games three and four of this best-of-five National League Division Series.