December 10, 2023

Thomson pushes right buttons in Phillies’ rollercoaster-like win to take lead in NLCS


Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Schwarber rounds the bases after a home run during the first inning in Game 3 of the baseball NL Championship Series between the San Diego Padres and the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Rob Thomson had one goal for game three of the NLCS between the Phillies and Padres—to win at all costs.

He needed all the Phillies’ resources, from Kyle Schwarber to Seranthony Dominguez. And it sure wasn’t easy. There were hanging heads, big fist pumps, and curse words muttered on the mound. It sure wasn’t easy, but Skipper’s goal was achieved.

It all started with Thomson pulling Ranger Suarez after allowing two runs in five innings over just 68 pitches. His line, unfortunately, does not show how dominant he was at his start. Only one of the runs he allowed was earned, and the Phillies’ defense cost him multiple outs at the beginning of the game.

“Well, [Suarez] hasn’t pitched in nine days,” Thomson told FOX sideline reporter, Ken Rosenthal, during the game. “I wanted a righty on Machado.”

Jean Segura dropped an easy flip from Bryson Stott, which turned what should have been an inning-ending double play into a run for the Padres. After escaping that inning, Rhys Hoskins’ two-base error on a routine groundball an inning later cost the Phillies another run.
Like all rollercoasters, there had to be some highs to go with the lows. Miraculously, Jean Segura mixed in two fabulous diving plays, while also being a key component in the 4-6-3 double play that ended a tense sixth inning.

Luckily, Segura made up for his first mistake further with a go-ahead, two-run single in the home half of the fourth inning. The pitch was well out of the strike zone, but Segura poked it over the head of Padres’ second baseman Jake Cronenworth.

His first playoff run in the major leagues hasn’t been flawless like he might have hoped for, but it sure has been fun to follow.

Segura came into the season as the longest-tenured major-league player to not have played in a postseason game. He hit .273 and sported a .723 OPS in the regular season and battled a hand injury throughout the summer. At times, he struggled after his return, but he’s found his consistency once again, putting up postseason numbers nearly identical to those of the regular season. He isn’t going to be the best hitter in your lineup, but he is consistent and smart, both of which are attributes any team would love to have in the postseason.

Padres starter Joe Musgrove was on a similar rollercoaster as the Phillies’ defense. Kyle Schwarber, the first batter Musgrove faced, connected with a full-count cutter that left his bat at 109.2 miles per hour. The 405-foot moonshot was the slugger’s second long ball of the 2022 postseason and the eleventh postseason bomb of his career.

Musgrove showed signs of settling in, but two two-out doubles from Nick Castellanos and Alec Bohm led to his removal with one out in the sixth.

From there, it was all up to the bullpens. Rob Thomson chose the aggressive approach, using Zach Eflin in the sixth, Jose Alvarado in the seventh, and Seranthony Dominguez in the eight and ninth innings.

Each of them ran into a little bit of trouble, but the Phils were able to escape the innings without any damage.

The Padres’ bullpen continued its dominance, posting 3.2 innings of scoreless baseball.

But it was the bullpen that truly won the Phillies this game. And believe me, this is not something I expected to put into a sentence at any point in this season.

In 2020, the Phillies’ ‘pen posted a 7.06 ERA, the worst bullpen ERA baseball has seen in the past 92 years. Their three best relief pitchers at the time—David Robertson, Jose Alvarez, and Seranthony Dominguez—were all hurt, and the Phillies’ bullpen became historic for all the wrong reasons.

2021, to be fair, was better, but not by much.

This season, however, the tables have turned. Seranthony Dominguez has allowed just two hits all postseason, Zach Eflin has made an unexpected late-season swap to the bullpen, David Robertson finally seems to be healthy, and Jose Alvarado has been unhittable over the past two months.

And quite frankly, the Phillies’ opponents have not been ready.

Today, Rob Thomson went all in, using Eflin, Alvarado, and Dominguez to lock down the 4-2 win.

Thomson’s idea to pull Ranger Suarez after just five efficient innings might have seemed like the wrong move at the time, but once again, we were reminded of the reason we are here—we rode with good ol’ Philly Rob.

Hopefully, the ride with Rob Thomson continues and the end of this magical season is far from over.

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