ST. LOUIS: That’s the way to end an 11-year post-season drought.
With JT Realmuto playing 1,005 regular-season games without a postseason appearance, ninth-place finish gave the Phillies hope with a single win. With Bryce Harper desperate to return to baseball’s biggest stage since signing with the Phillies in 2019, he worked his way back from a 1-2 count to leave. He walked to load the bases with Nick Castellanos, who hadn’t enjoyed the season he expected his freshman year at Philly.
Featuring Alec Bohm drilled by a 100.8 mph fastball who jumped up and clapped as the Phillies scored their first run. Featuring Jean Segura, who had played 1,328 regular season games without a postseason appearance and jumped in the air like a little boy after hitting a ball into right field to put the Phillies ahead.
The Phillies celebrated an historic 6-3 comeback win over the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series at Busch Stadium on Friday. They become the first team in postseason history to score six runs in the ninth inning when lagging to get in the frame.
“I said it in the cage before the game,” Harper said. “We’re not going to lose this game. That was the mentality. I swear. I said it all morning, ‘We’re not losing today.’ It just won’t happen. We’re not going to lose this streak, we’re not going to lose this game. That’s the mentality we have in there. We want to get out there and win. Whatever the cost, we’re going to play 27 outs. It doesn’t matter how long you lead in a game, as long as you end up in the lead.
“We’ve all talked about it. You have to create it, don’t you?”
Ace Zack Wheeler threw 6 1/3 innings scoreless before left-hander José Alvarado allowed his first runs since August 23 to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead in the seventh. The Phillies only had two hits through eight. They said they might have tried to do too much. Maybe they were too excited, too nervous.
But then, with Philadelphia’s winning percentage at just 3%, Realmuto scored a one-off singles against Ryan Helsley, the closer Cardinals, in game 9.
“Against a guy like that, to be honest, you’re just trying to get the ball in play,” said Realmuto.
Helsley is one of baseball’s best hands. He went 9-1 with a 1.24 ERA and 19 saves this season while hitting 94 in 64 2/3 innings. But he pinched his middle finger earlier in the week and lost feeling in that finger during the ninth.
Harper worked a six-pitch walk to put the runners in first and second place.
“It was a huge blow,” said Realmuto. “If he’s chasing just one of those pitches, the inning that we just had probably doesn’t happen. … [Helsley] threw some good swing and miss pitches and Bryce just had great takes. It looked like he slowed the tempo midway through that shot and got a better look at the ball. That was huge for us.”
Castellanos worked a five pitch walk to load the bases. Then Bohm was drilled in the left shoulder. He spun in the dirt like a top, but he jumped 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 groundball guy against righties all year,” Marmol said. “Pallante is a high ground ball guy. This matchup has about 70 percent [chance of working]. you got one out The situation is basically that you want to end the game there with a groundball doubles game.
No active player had completed more regular season games without a postseason trip than Segura. (Realmuto finished second.) Segura had talked endlessly about his desire to make it into the postseason.
Okay Jean, time to get up.
The Cardinals moved the infield in halfway. Segura hit a 2-2 slider right next to the dirt. Cardinals second baseman Tommy Edman dived to his left. He got a glove on it, but the ball slipped into flat right field. Harper and Castellanos scored to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead.
“Classic jeans,” said Castellanos.
“That’s Jean, he can hit anything,” Bohm said. “He’s a hit machine.”
Segura’s two-run single was the second starting shot the team fell behind in the ninth inning or later in Phillies postseason history. The other came from Jimmy Rollins out of Jonathan Broxton in 2009.
The Phils scored three more runs. Zach Eflin hit three outs in game 9 to seal the Phillies’ first postseason win since Game 3 of the 2011 NLDS over the Cardinals. The Cards eliminated the Phillies with a 1-0 win in Game 5, exactly 11 years ago on Friday.
“I was ready today,” Segura said. “I woke up at 7am with adrenaline pumping and I knew I was going to play a postseason game.”
Adrenaline propelled him into the air as he ran to first base.
“Just like giving a little kid a toy and just jumping around and being happy,” he said. “It’s such a great feeling when you get through a situation like this. That’s why you play the game. That’s why you become a big player for those kinds of moments. Because I think if you pull through those moments, people and fans will remember you forever.”