Phils bring home a tied NLDS after long time away
Wheeler stumbles in 6th inning of Game 2; Philly to host first playoff game since 2011
ATLANTA -- The Phillies did not fly home Wednesday night.
It seemed only fitting. They have been on the road since Sept. 25, when they last played a game at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies spent the past 17 days on the road, playing 14 games in five cities that covered two time zones. They planned to fly to Philly following Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Truist Park, but a two-hour, 55-minute rain delay scuttled those plans. So after they lost Game 2 to the Braves, 3-0, to even the best-of-five series, they boarded their buses and returned to their hotel.
They will fly home Thursday morning instead.
It could have been worse.
“Obviously, best case we would have won the first two games,” Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos said. “But realistically, if we could have said, ‘Are you good splitting here and going back home 1-1?’ Of course, bro. These are the defending world champions at the end of the day. You have to give them their respect. So the fact that we were able to come here and split, and now we’re going to our home turf, we’ve got to feel good about that.”
The Phillies will host Game 3 on Friday. They will be the first team to play a postseason game at home after not playing at home for at least 18 consecutive days since the 1944 Cardinals, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Games 3 and 4 will be sellouts, which is not a surprise. The Phils have not played a playoff game at home since the Cards' Chris Carpenter outdueled Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS.
The Phillies have heard plenty of stories about how loud and crazy the Bank can be in the postseason.
They can’t wait to see for themselves.
“Electric, absolutely,” Bryce Harper said. “I don’t expect anything less.”
“We’re ready to get back to Philly,” Zack Wheeler said. “We’re ready to win there. They've been waiting a while for this. We all know Phillies fans. They're ready for it.”
It would have felt sweeter to go home Thursday with a 2-0 lead in the series, but it wasn’t meant to be. Wheeler dominated the Braves through five innings, when a strange series of events in the sixth inning led to Atlanta’s three runs.
Wheeler hit Ronald Acuña Jr. with a first-pitch sinker with two outs. He writhed in pain behind the plate. Nearly five minutes later, Wheeler threw his next pitch. Dansby Swanson walked to put runners on first and second. Matt Olson hit a ground ball at 101.3 mph to Rhys Hoskins’ right.
Hoskins misplayed the single off his glove, and Acuña scored to make it 1-0.
“I just misjudged the speed of which it was hit,” Hoskins said. “I thought he hit it harder and he didn’t. That’s a play I’ve made before, I’ll make again, didn’t make it tonight.”
Austin Riley hit a slow roller 45 feet between the mound and third-base line. Wheeler picked up the ball and spun to first, but he had no play. Swanson scored to make it 2-0. Travis d’Arnaud singled to center to score Olson to make it 3-0.
Hoskins approached Wheeler after the inning and apologized for not making the play. Wheeler said it was his own fault.
“It's not making my pitches,” he said. “Went back-to-back sliders to Olson, and if I would've executed that, I think he would've swung over it. It was down the middle and right in his bat path. Execution. Same thing with d'Arnaud. Just left a slider up over the middle. I went from spiking them to just kind of leaving them over the middle. That's what got me that inning. It's not executing those pitches. It was a big spot. I needed to do that. I take pride in that kind of stuff. Really needed to bear down right there. Did my best, but just left some balls over.”
The Phillies hit some balls hard against Braves right-hander Kyle Wright. Harper barreled a ball at 103.9 mph in the third and at 100.1 mph in the sixth. Castellanos hit one at 103.2 mph in the third.
There were a couple of others, but the Phillies had just three hits.
“It’s just one of those days,” Castellanos said. “The ball wasn’t carrying as well as it does in the day, but yeah, there were a couple balls that were hit well. [Shoot], man. On another day or maybe if the game was at 4, it could be a different game.”
It wasn’t. But the Phillies are comforted by a few things. They are finally headed home. They have Aaron Nola on the mound in Game 3. They expect the Philly fans to live up to the hype. There is also this: in Division Series with a 2-2-1 format (excluding 2020 series played a neutral sites), teams split the first two games 39 times. In those 39 series, the team headed home for Games 3 and 4 won the series 26 times (67 percent).
“It's going to feel good,” Kyle Schwarber said. “That's a big thing. We've been on the road for, what, three weeks? To be able to go home and sleep in everyone's own bed, and feel rested going into our own clubhouse in front of our fans, that's going to be a big thing for us.”