Schwarber powers Phils to 1-game lead for final WC spot
WASHINGTON – Somebody needed to do something.
So Kyle Schwarber did.
He smashed the second pitch in Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Nationals into the second deck in right field at Nationals Park. The homer propelled the Phillies to an 8-2 victory, erasing the sting from an ugly 13-4 loss in Game 1 and allowing them to enjoy the Marlins’ ninth-inning comeback against the Brewers in Milwaukee.
Players roared from different corners of the clubhouse as they watched Miami score the go-ahead run on phones and TVs.
“Go Fish!” Ranger Suárez yelled.
The Phillies have a one-game lead over the Brewers for the third NL Wild Card. Their postseason magic number is three, with four games to play, because they own the season tiebreaker over the Brewers by virtue of their 4-2 head-to-head record this season. If Philadelphia and Milwaukee finish the regular season with the same record, the Phils would get the postseason spot.
Philadelphia can clinch its first postseason berth since 2011 as early as Monday in Houston.
“Baseball is fun,” Schwarber said. “That’s why we say we’ve got to enjoy this. There’s a lot of people who aren’t in this position that we’re in right now. A lot of people are making their offseason plans right now, and we’re trying to make sure we’re not doing that. So it’s an important time. I go back to that story from my first year in the big leagues [with the Cubs in 2015] when [outfielder Chris] Denorfia said it was his first year in the postseason. He said, ‘You better relish every time you’re in the postseason. You’ve got to have fun and enjoy this.'”
This is fun, right? The Phillies have made things tighter than it needed to be. The Game 1 loss was their 11th in 15 games. It dropped them into a tie with the Brewers for the third NL Wild Card.
But Schwarber’s leadoff homer in the first inning in Game 2 allowed the Phils to breathe a little, much like Rhys Hoskins’ first-inning homer Friday allowed them to relax on their way to snapping a five-game losing streak.
“That’s what’s special about this team, just the ability to forget and move on,” Phillies right-hander Noah Syndergaard said. “That was a really crucial, pivotal moment, especially with these last four games we’ve got. I think it put us back on the right track, and we’re just going to skyrocket from here.”
“I felt like we did a really good job today of turning the page,” Schwarber said. “That was the biggest message: there’s still a game to be played tonight. We’ve got to enjoy it. We’ve got to have fun.”
Phillies right fielder Matt Vierling generated more excitement when he ripped a two-out triple to right field in the second inning that scored Jean Segura to give Philadelphia a 2-0 lead.
That’s when the real fun started.
Alec Bohm hit a two-run homer to left in the third to make it 4-0. Brandon Marsh followed with a back-to-back blast to right to make it 5-0. Segura reached on an error and two batters later, Vierling hit a two-run homer to left to give the Phillies a 7-0 lead.
Schwarber homered again in the fourth to make it 8-0.
Each homer came against Nationals right-hander Tommy Romero. It was just the second time since 1901 that the Phillies have homered five times against one pitcher in a game. (The MLB record is six.) The first was against Phil Douglas of the New York Giants on June 27, 1921, at Baker Bowl.
Syndergaard allowed two hits in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. He had thrown only 28 pitches since Sept. 15, when he got bumped from the rotation. It was huge for the Phillies.
So now Philadelphia will try to win the series finale on Sunday.
The Phillies have ace Zack Wheeler on the mound, which is a good thing. But Hurricane Ian’s rain is in the forecast, which is not.
Playing Sunday is critical for the Phillies. They want Wheeler to pitch then so that he is able to start Game 1 of a best-of-three NL Wild Card Series on Friday. But if the Phils cannot play Sunday, they must bump Wheeler to Monday in Houston. In that scenario, Wheeler could not pitch until Game 2 on Saturday.
A postponement also bumps Aaron Nola’s next scheduled start from Monday to Tuesday, if they need to win that game. If Nola pitches Tuesday, he could not pitch again until a potential Wild Card Game 3 on Sunday.
That sets up Suárez to start Game 1, unless they need Suárez to pitch Wednesday.
Oh, one more thing: if the weather means the Phillies can’t play Sunday, there is a chance they return to Washington on Thursday, if that game is needed to decide the final Wild Card. But nobody wants that.
Fun, isn’t it?