Zack Wheeler started Game 5 of the National League Championship Series and did exactly what the Phillies needed to do.
He was phenomenal as the Phils won 6-1 salvaging one of their three games in Arizona. They return to Philadelphia with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and will have two chances at home Monday and Tuesday (if necessary) to advance to their second straight World Series.
They both took Zac Gallen deep in the first inning of Game 1 and did the same in the sixth inning of Game 5. Gallen struck out a career-low one-batter. The Cy Young candidate was owned by the Phillies’ left-handed hitters in the NLCS.
The Schwarber-Harper duo have combined for 22 homers in the last two postseasons (11 each). That is the most combined HR by a duo over a two-year span in the playoffs in MLB history, per ESPN Stats Info. Schwarber and Harper are now also tied with Jayson Werth for the most home runs in Phillies playoff history with 11. Schwarber’s 20 career postseason homers are also the most ever by a left-handed hitter.
With J.T. Realmuto down 0-2 in the count with runners on the corners, the Phillies tested the Diamondbacks’ defense as Stott broke for second, forced a throw, froze, and Harper took off from third beating a bad throw to slide in safely for the Phillies’ first-ever postseason steal of home. He did not have room to move around Gabriel Moreno and he elbowed Moreno’s in the kisser.
Realmuto also blasted a two-run homer to left field in the eighth inning, breaking a skid of 16 consecutive solo homers by the Phillies.
Wheeler was not as strong as he was in his first three starts this postseason, but he got the job done efficiently. He went seven, allowing just one run on an Alek Thomas home run, and struck out eight on 99 pitches.
Wheeler’s lengthy start was key after the Phillies’ bullpen was pretty limited. Manager Rob Thomson went with Jeff Hoffman, Seranthony Dominguez, and Matt Strahm to shut the door. With a day off Sunday, the entire bullpen should be available for Game 6.
Now the DBacks will need to beat the Phils twice at Citizens Bank Park, where they are 6-0 this postseason. Good luck.