Deadline-savvy Phillies backed by Angels in NLDS clincher

October 16th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- At the 2022 Trade Deadline, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski set out to get a starting pitcher. He got that and more.

Sitting at 55-47 and holding onto the third and final National League Wild Card spot on Aug. 2, the Phillies acquired right-hander and outfielder from the Angels, along with righty reliever David Robertson from the Cubs.

On Saturday afternoon, Syndergaard gave the Phillies three innings of one-run ball in Game 4 of the NL Division Series and Marsh crushed a three-run homer to jump-start the Phils in their 8-3 win over the Braves to advance to the NL Championship Series for the first time since 2010. The NLCS will open on Tuesday in San Diego.

“They’ve been big for our club,” Dombrowski said. “I mean, every contribution by anyone throughout the club has been so [big] throughout. To see [Marsh] come through ... big-time like today, it’s a compliment to the people in the office that made the recommendation. So I really tip my cap to all the scouts and our organizational people that are up in the front office that made those recommendations.”

At the time of his acquisition, Marsh was hitting .226 with a .637 OPS in 93 games with the Angels. But the Phillies didn’t trade for his offense: They needed defense. The club had rotated through a number of players in center field, including Roman Quinn (19 games), Bradley Zimmer (nine games) and Oscar Mercado (one game). Since Aug. 2, Marsh has played 40 games in center for Philadelphia, starting in 37.

Manager Rob Thomson wasn’t concerned about Marsh's bat; he was confident hitting coach Kevin Long could help Marsh work through some things, mainly a leg kick. Marsh went on to raise his regular-season average to .248 after 41 games with the Phillies.

And his second-inning homer in Game 4 fired up a sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park, earning the 24-year-old the first curtain call of his career.

“First one ever, and that was cool,” Marsh said. “Looking up and seeing all the red towels waving around. The crowd really brought it today. They definitely assisted us and helped get us through this. Phenomenal city, phenomenal ballpark, and yeah, the crowd was awesome.”

The three runs were a nice cushion for Syndergaard, who was brought over to the Phillies after starter Zach Eflin was sidelined with a right knee injury. Linked by their journey from Anaheim to Philadelphia, Marsh and Syndergaard have developed an unspoken connection.

“I feel like every round that we’ve advanced [so] far, we give each other a little look and be like, ‘How ‘bout that?’” Marsh said. “Just both being traded over here at the Deadline, and now we’re in the Final Four. It’s a blessing. No words can really describe this right now.”

It’s been a long journey for Syndergaard, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020. No longer averaging 97-98 mph on his fastball, Syndergaard has had to reinvent his game. Saturday marked his first postseason start since throwing seven scoreless for the Mets in the 2016 NL Wild Card Game against the Giants.

“That I can go out there and pitch without blowing the doors off people,” Syndergaard said of what he learned about himself this year. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world that next year I’ll be back to throwing 98-100 [mph] but also have everything that I learned from this year.”

"I love it,” teammate Zack Wheeler said of Syndergaard. “We went through some times over there with the Mets. He's been on this stage before, but he came in today after that first inning and I was like, ‘How did that feel?’ And he was like, ‘This felt better than it did the first time.’ … I wasn't there then with him during that time, but I think it's just a vibe [with the Phillies]. It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun with these guys. And we expect to win right now."

The success of the Phillies’ Trade Deadline acquisitions mirrors that of another NL East team: the 2021 World Series champion Braves. Joc Pederson (acquired on July 15, 2021), Jorge Soler (July 30) and Eddie Rosario (July 30) all helped Atlanta to its championship last season, with Soler winning the World Series MVP Award and Rosario taking home the NLCS MVP.

Now, the stage is set for Syndergaard, Marsh and Roberston -- who was left off the NLDS roster as he rehabs a right calf injury, but may be available to return for the NLCS -- to help the Phillies to their first World Series since 2008.