PHILADELPHIA -- "Just battle."
That was Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson's response when asked about the task of facing arguably the three best pitchers in the National League -- Sandy Alcantara, Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom -- over a four-day span.
And that's exactly what the Phillies did Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
After recording only two hits against Alcantara through seven innings (and seeing only 71 pitches in the process), the Phils erupted for six hits off the NL Cy Young favorite in the eighth to turn a two-run deficit into an improbable 4-3 victory -- their seventh straight win. Philadelphia went 6-for-7 against Alcantara in the eighth after going just 2-for-23 through the first seven frames.
“I just think we have the right guys in this clubhouse,” said J.T. Realmuto, who notched the go-ahead RBI single to send the home dugout -- and home crowd -- into a frenzy. “We have a lot of confidence in ourselves. I’ve said this many times before, but we don’t feel like we’re ever out of a game. Our lineup’s too deep. We’re too consistent.”
The decisive frame started with Jean Segura hitting a leadoff single up the third-base line. Bryson Stott followed with a base hit before Brandon Marsh grounded an RBI single up the middle and Kyle Schwarber followed with a game-tying line-drive single to right field.
Even after Marsh was doubled off third on a liner off the bat of Rhys Hoskins, the Phils continued their uphill battle. Alec Bohm lined a hit into right field, and Schwarber used a perfect slide to narrowly beat the throw while going from first to third. Realmuto followed with a grounder through the left side to give the Phillies the lead and knock out Alcantara after his season-high-tying eighth hit allowed.
“You see what he does for those first seven innings -- it’s not easy to go deep into games,” Schwarber said. “And I’m sure the atmosphere got to him, too -- people were on their feet, people were loud, cheering. Once all those things kind of come to one, it can be a little rattling.”
Realmuto called Alcantara “one of the best pitchers on the planet.” The Marlins righty received similar praise from Thomson (who called him "one of the best pitchers in baseball") and Phils starter Noah Syndergaard, who said he is arguably the best pitcher in the game.
While Schwarber’s point is valid, that hasn’t been the case for Alcantara this season. He entered the night leading the Majors in innings pitched (158 1/3) and had thrown an MLB-best three complete games. And he’d done all of that while maintaining an NL-leading 1.88 ERA.
“It was a little shocking,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
While the visiting dugout was in shock, the home dugout was basking in the excitement of a postseason atmosphere.
Syndergaard did exactly that on a night when he battled around some hard contact. He allowed 10 batted balls with an exit velocity of at least 90 mph, though Miami's run-scoring hits off him came on a 73.6 mph broken-bat single by Jacob Stallings in the second and a 65.9 mph base hit -- the weakest contact allowed by Syndergaard on any ball -- by Charles Leblanc in the fourth.
“These are playoff games,” Realmuto said. “We’re going to face pitchers like that every night once we get to the playoffs. So we just have to do what we do -- like I say, grind out our at-bats. It’s not always going to be easy when you’re facing good pitchers like that, but our [pitchers] are going to keep us in the game, and we’ve just got to grind it out."
In the end, Syndergaard held the Marlins to just two runs on six hits and two walks over six innings -- his deepest outing since June 27 with the Angels.
The road certainly doesn’t get any easier for Philadelphia, which remains one game ahead of the Padres for the second NL Wild Card spot and two games clear of the Brewers. Following Thursday’s series finale against the Marlins, the Phillies head to Citi Field where they will face three-time Cy Young Award winner Scherzer on Friday and two-time winner deGrom on Saturday.
Though, after Wednesday’s rally against Alcantara, they’ll be heading to New York with a blueprint in hand.
“If we get to the postseason, that’s what it’s going to be like -- it’s really good pitching in the postseason, and that was a good pitcher tonight,” Schwarber said. “We showed tonight that we’re capable of doing things like that, where we’re never out of a baseball game.”