Worth the wait: Phils defy huge odds with historic rally in G1 win
Long-awaited playoff moment for Segura, whose clutch hit in 6-run 9th puts Philly on cusp of NLDS
ST. LOUIS -- Now this is the way to end an 11-year postseason drought.
With J.T. Realmuto, who had played 1,005 regular-season games without a postseason appearance, giving the Phillies hope with a one-out single in the ninth. With Bryce Harper, who had been dying to return to baseball’s biggest stage since he signed with the Phillies in 2019, working his way back from a 1-2 count to walk. With Nick Castellanos, who had not enjoyed the season he expected in his first year in Philly, walking to load the bases.
With Alec Bohm, who got drilled by a 100.8 mph fastball, hopping up and clapping as the Phillies scored their first run. With Jean Segura, who had played 1,328 regular-season games without a postseason appearance, leaping into the air like a little boy after hitting a ball into right field to give the Phillies the lead.
The Phillies enjoyed a historic 6-3 comeback victory over the Cardinals on Friday in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series at Busch Stadium. They are the first team in postseason history to score six runs in the ninth inning when trailing to enter the frame.
The Phils can clinch a trip to the NL Division Series against Atlanta with a victory Saturday night in Game 2 of the best-of-three series.
“I said it in the cage before the game,” Harper said. “We're not losing this game. That was the mentality. I swear. I was saying it all morning, 'We're not losing today.' It's just not going to happen. We're not going to lose this series, we're not going to lose this game. That's the mentality that we have in there. We want to go out there and win. Whatever that takes, we're going to play 27 outs. It doesn't matter how long you lead in a game, as long as you have the lead at the end.
“We were all talking about it. You have to speak it into existence, right?”
So the Phillies did.
Ace Zack Wheeler pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings before left-handed reliever José Alvarado allowed his first runs since Aug. 23 to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead in the seventh. The Phillies had just two hits through eight. They said they might have been trying to do too much. Maybe they were too excited, too nervous.
But then, with Philadelphia’s win probability at just 3%, Realmuto hit a one-out single against Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley in the ninth.
“Against a guy like that, honestly, you’re just trying to put the ball in play,” Realmuto said.
Helsley is one of baseball’s best relievers. He went 9-1 with a 1.24 ERA and 19 saves this season while striking out 94 in 64 2/3 innings. But he jammed his middle finger earlier in the week and he lost feeling in that finger during the ninth.
Harper worked a six-pitch walk to put runners on first and second.
“That was a massive at-bat,” Realmuto said. “If he chases just one of those pitches, that inning we just had probably doesn’t happen. … [Helsley] threw a couple good swing-and-miss pitches, and Bryce just had great takes. It looked like, in the middle of that at-bat, he slowed it down and saw the ball better. That was huge for us.”
Castellanos worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. Then, Bohm got drilled on the left shoulder. He spun into the dirt like a top, but he hopped up and clapped.
“I didn’t feel it,” Bohm said, smiling.
“It kind of hurts, but I don’t care,” he said.
St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol chose Andre Pallante over Jack Flaherty to replace Helsley and face Segura.
“Segura is a … 60-percent ground ball guy against righties all year,” Marmol said. “Pallante is a high-ground ball guy. That matchup has about a 70-percent [chance of working]. You got one out. The situation is basically you want to end the game there with a ground-ball double play.”
No active player had played more regular-season games without a trip to the postseason than Segura. (Realmuto was second.) Segura had talked endlessly about his desire to make the postseason.
OK, Jean, time to step up.
The Cardinals moved the infield halfway in. Segura slapped a 2-2 slider just off the dirt. Cardinals second baseman Tommy Edman dived to his left. He got a glove on it, but the ball scooted into shallow right field. Harper and Castellanos scored to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead.
“Classic Jean,” Castellanos said.
“That’s Jean, he can hit anything,” Bohm said. “He’s a hit machine.”
Segura’s two-run single was the second go-ahead hit with the team trailing in the ninth inning or later in Phillies postseason history. The other came from Jimmy Rollins off Jonathan Broxton in 2009.
The Phils scored three more runs. Zach Eflin got three outs in the ninth to seal the Phillies’ first postseason victory since Game 3 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals. The Cards eliminated the Phillies with a 1-0 victory in Game 5, exactly 11 years ago Friday.
“I was ready today,” Segura said. “I woke up at 7 a.m. with adrenaline in my body, knowing that I am going to play a postseason game.”
The adrenaline propelled him into the air as he ran to first base.
“Just like when you give a little kid a toy and just jumping around and happiness,” he said. “It’s such a great feeling when you come through in the situation like that. That's why you play the game. That's why you become a big leaguer, for those types of moments. Because I think when you come through in those types of moments, people and the fans are going to remember you forever.”