Phillies Clinched the Top NL Wild Card Spot

They’re back in the tournament. The Philadelphia Phillies clinched the top National League Wild Card spot and will host a best-of-three series that starts Tuesday. The Phils are in the postseason for the second season in a row after they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 in 10 innings. Rookie centerfielder Johan Rojas singled home Cristian Pache with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning.

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Aaron Nola Looking Like Aaron Nola

Phillies starter Aaron Nola was excellent. He pitched into the 7th inning allowing just one run (a home run by Bryan Reynolds) on four hits with eight strikeouts and no walks. Craig Kimbrel gave up a solo homer by Henry Davis in the eighth inning to tie it. Jose Alvarado was lights out in the ninth – striking out two of the three hitters he faced.

With Jack Suwinski starting the 10th inning at second base, Jeff Hoffman came in to pitch for the Phils. He walked the first batter he faced, but he got the next two men to fly out to Rojas. He struck out Davis with a slider to end the threat.

Pache was the pinch runner for Nick Castellanos, who was the scheduled automatic runner starting the 10th. Brandon Marsh went down on strikes before Rojas hit a groundball up the middle on a 1-2 count, Pache raced home, and there was Bedlam at the Bank.

Early, while Nola was mowing down Pirates, all the Phils could do against Pittsburgh starter Mitch Keller through the first five innings was a pair of walks by Bryce Harper. That changed in the sixth before he threw his first pitch of the frame. The trainer came out to talk with Keller. After a few tosses, it was determined Keller was sound, but Marsh deposited his second pitch into the seats just to the right of the bullpens. Rojas then singled, but Kyle Schwarber forced him out. Trea Turner singled and as Pirates right fielder Joshua Palacios attempted to field the ball, he slipped, allowing Schwarber to chug into third base. It turned out to be key as he scored on a sacrifice fly when Harper lined to center.

Quotes of the Game

“It was awesome,” said Nola, who tipped his cap as he walked off the field to a thunderous ovation in what could’ve been his final regular-season start as a Phillie at Citizens Bank Park, “just to know the fans got our backs. It’s good to get back in the postseason for those guys.”

“It meant the world to clinch here,” said Marsh, who equaled his career high with his 11th home run of the season, “after last year, we were on the road for the last 17 so to clinch here at CBP was an unreal feeling.”

“You’ve got to have players that are healthy and playing well,” said Phillies owner John Middleton, “at precisely the right moment in time, and if you have that then once you get in, anything can happen. If you’re injured or in kind of a swoon, you back into the playoffs. That’s why I was happy to see us win tonight because I want to go in the front door.”

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Bryce Harper’s Attitude

“We all have that same attitude,” said Bryce Harper, “from our fans to our ownership to the guys in this clubhouse. We’re just excited to get back in, no matter how you get in everything starts over. It’s all even once you get in.

“We understand we’re going to play some really good teams,” the two-time NL MVP added, “October baseball is a lot different.”

“October baseball is, by far, the best brand of baseball,” said Kyle Schwarber. “Anything goes. Numbers don’t matter, it’s about trying to outdo the team that’s across from you.”

“They were normal,” said Hoffman about his emotions as he was coming out of the bullpen, “until I heard the crowd roar. That crowd roar was different. That’s what I imagine it will be like next week.”

“I watched every game from home,” said Rojas, through interpreter Diego, when asked what he did during the Phillies 2022 playoff run. “All I could think was next year I really want to be part of this team.”

Game one of the playoffs is Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park, with time and opponent to be determined.

Rock Hoffman
Rock Hoffman

Rock Hoffman has been covering sports in the Philadelphia region for over 30 years. He’s been the co-host of a radio show – SportsPage – on the Delaware Valley Radio Network (WRDV.org) in the time. He’s reported on games involving all the Philadelphia teams at the profession and collegiate levels. During his career he’s provided coverage for a Super Bowl, an All-Star Game, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games as well NFL, MLB and NHL playoff games. Additionally, he’s the College Football Editor for Football Stories Magazine (FootballStories.com).

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