stone. LOUIS — Back on Opening Day, Bryce Harper addressed a sold-out crowd at Citizens Bank Park before his first pitch.
After 10 straight seasons without the playoffs, fans are hungry for a championship.
Harper threw them some red meat.
“Let’s party on Broad Street,” he told the crowd.
You need a couple of smaller parties before a big party, and on Saturday night, the Phillies had their second smaller party of the week.
Five days after clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2011 and squirting champagne in Houston, the Phillies once again advanced to the second round of the playoffs with a 2-0 victory over St. Louis. The St. Louis Cardinals are in front of 48,515 at Busch Stadium in Game 2 of the National League Wild Card Series.
The Phillies won their best three-game series in two games. They will go on to compete in the NL Division Series and date familiar rivals, the NL East champion Atlanta Braves. Game 1 of the best-of-five series begins Tuesday night in Atlanta. This will be the Phillies’ fourth trip to Atlanta this season. They beat the Warriors 8-11. These two teams do have some playoff history. The Phillies defeated the Warriors in the 1993 NL Championship Series.
Left-handed ranger Suarez will be ready for Game 1 for the Phillies, who have had an excellent starting pitch in the playoffs so far.
Zach Wheeler pitched 6⅓ innings Friday afternoon in a 6-3 win over the Cardinals in Game 1 of the Phils.
Aaron Nola followed Wheeler with a scoreless 6⅔ innings in Saturday night’s series. The right-hander scattered four hits, walked one run, and struck out six. His five strikeouts came on base. He had two runners on second base in the first inning and two runners on first base in the sixth inning. Strikeouts in the sixth inning were against the Cardinals’ two most dangerous hitters, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
Nora exited with first base runner in the seventh inning. Jose Alvarado came on and finished the game before giving up a walk in the eighth. As the game progressed, manager Rob Thomson went to right-hander Celantoni Dominguez, while the menacing Albert Pujols strode to the plate. Dominguez gave up a single against the Pujols to bring a potential go-ahead performance to the plate, then recorded the biggest two outs of his career with strikeouts from Goldschmidt and Arenado.
Zach Eflin got the last three outs to save Nola’s win. Evelyn allowed a pair of two-out hits before retiring Tommy Edman, the potential winner, to close out the game.
What a week it has been for Nora. The longest-serving Phillies retired the top 20 hitters he faced in a key playoff game Monday night in a 3-0 win in Houston before coming back five days later with the first of his career The goods were delivered at the start of the playoffs. In his last two games, both very important for the team, Nora has thrown 13⅓ innings scoreless.
That’s a big pitcher.
On Monday night in Houston, Nora was backed by three homers — two by Kyle Schwaber and one by Bryson Stott.
In Saturday night’s series tiebreaker, Nora took an early lead thanks to Harper’s solo homer against Miles Mikolas in the second inning. Right-hander Mikolas hoisted a broken ball after the opening shot, and Harper picked it up immediately, keeping his legs steady, with a smooth, powerful swing that sent the ball into his right-field seat. The homer was Harper’s first since Sept. 24 and his fourth in 36 games since he was taken off the injured list on Aug. 26.
The Phillies added a second in the fifth when Alec Bohm doubled on Mikolas, Brandon Marsh’s bunt went up, Schwarz Schwarber’s sacrifice flight scores.
As the Phillies cheered on the lawns of Busch Stadium, the two great Cardinals walked off the field one last time — and failed. Future Hall of Famers, slugger Puyols and receiver Yadir Molina, were in their game. Both have previously said this will be their last season.
Both Pujols and Molina were part of the 2011 Cardinals, who went on to win the World Series after beating the 102-win Phillies in the division series. The Phillies were eliminated in Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park with a 1-0 loss. That was the night Roy Halladay left everything on the mound, Ryan Howard collapsed with a ruptured Achilles tendon, and it will never be the same again.
After all these years, the Cardinals’ season is over and the Phillies’ season continues.
There is still a chance.
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