Sometimes it only takes one swing or one pitch to decide a game. Other times, it takes contributions from the whole team. Or as the cliché goes, sometimes “it takes a village.”
In game one of the World Series, the Phillies needed a complex, gutsy combination of both.
It took over nine innings, but J.T. Realmuto was the singular hero. He was two for four, recorded three RBI, and reached base three times in the Phillies’ win in Houston. The “one swing” came in the top of the tenth inning, when Realmuto hit a high-and-away fastball from Astros’ reliever Luis Garcia into the right-field stands at Minute Maid Park.
The ball left his bat at only 98 miles per hour, which is slow for a home run. And the ball went just 346 feet, well below the major-league average for the distance of a home run.
“I’ve actually never faced [Garcia] before, so honestly, I was trying to see a few pitches early in the count. [I] was really just trying to get on base for the guys behind me. They’ve been doing a great job all year scoring me,” Realmuto told FOX’s sideline reporter, Ken Rosenthal.
Realmuto didn’t get on base, but his trip back to the dugout required an extra 360 feet from home plate back to home plate. He didn’t knock the cover off the ball, but it was far enough to miss the outstretched glove of Kyle Tucker, who was flailed over the wall in right field.
Understandably, Tucker had a better reason than anybody to want that flyball reeled in. Earlier in the game, Tucker got the Astros’ offense started by blasting a solo home run off Phillies’ Aaron Nola, giving Houston an early lead.
His next at-bat, Tucker connected with a poorly-placed two-seamer from Nola and sent his second home run of the night to right-center field. This time, he drove in three.
Tucker’s long ball put the Astros ahead by five, and the casual viewer thought that was the final nail in the Phillies’ coffin. Statistically, this surface-level analysis of the Phillies was justifiable. Until the conclusion of game one, teams with a lead of five runs or more at any point in a postseason game won 589 times out of 607. The Astros, specifically, came into the game 29-0 when leading a postseason game by at least five runs.
Who would have predicted a Phillies comeback?
Well, the players might not have openly predicted a miracle, but they did not lose hope, even when Aaron Nola was pulled after allowing five runs in just 4.1 innings of work.
“Anytime we get down early in the game, we feel pretty confident in ourselves,” Realmuto told members of the media following the game. “…[i]f we continue to just put good at-bats together and pass the baton to the next man, that we’ll have a good chance of coming back in those games.”
In this game, the “we” Realmuto referred to really did represent every Phillie that stepped on the field.
The comeback began with a two-out RBI single from Nick Castellanos in the top of the fourth.
To follow, Alec Bohm brought knocked in two with a double down the left-field line. As Justin Verlander and his infamous World Series history started to show, the Phillies were only gaining momentum. Aaron Nola threw his first three-up, three-down frame of the game in the other half of the fourth, and it was all Phillies from there.
J.T. Realmuto’s first heroic act came with two on and one out in the fifth, when he doubled home the game-tying run, Kyle Schwarber, from first base.
Aaron Nola went back out to face Jeremy Pena to start the fifth, but he was pulled after ending his night with a strikeout.
Brad Hand? Connor Brogdon? Andrew Bellatti? Maybe you even go with David Robertson or Zach Eflin here?
Nope, Rob Thomson had some other plans.
Flame-throwing lefty Jose Alvarado entered the game with one out and nobody on base, and this move surprised many. Alvarado has been inserted into a back-end role for most of the Phillies’ playoff run, but Rob Thomson felt that he had to adjust the script to keep the momentum trending toward the Phillies.
That move, and all his others, worked perfectly.
The Phillies even needed some defensive wizardry from Nick Castellanos, who saved the game in the ninth.
Miraculously, Rob Thomson outmanaged Astros’ manager Dusty Baker and his elite bullpen.
Zach Eflin, Ranger Suarez, and Seranthony Dominguez combined for 3.2 scoreless innings to get the Phillies through nine, and it was David Robertson who got the nod to pitch the tenth inning after Realmuto’s go-ahead homer.
Once again, Rob Thomson pushed all the right buttons. It wasn’t an easy victory, but the Phillies will take any win they can get against Justin Verlander, who the Phillies will almost definitely see in game five in Philadelphia.
But if the Phillies want their success to continue, if they want to bring a championship to Philadelphia for the first time since the Eagles in 2018, it is going to take all 26 of their rostered players.
Then maybe, just maybe, we can throw a party on Broad Street.