Red October is back and, boy, did it live up to the hype once again in the National League Wild Card series between the Phillies and the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
You had everything: An electric crowd, chill-worthy hits, and the whole nation, once again, on notice.
Here are my three takeaways from the Phillies two-game sweep of the Marlins.
Takeaway #1: Wheeler and Nola – Ace 1 and Ace 2
Pitching wins World Series championships and Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola were unbelievable to start the playoffs.
In Game 1 of the Wild Card, Wheeler went 6.2 innings while striking out 8 Marlins and only allowing 5 hits and a single run that came in the 7th inning. Wheeler solidified himself as the prime ace of the Phillies and has once again shown why his late 2019 contract with Philadelphia is one of the best in the MLB.
Nola dazzled on Wednesday, pitching 7 scoreless innings while only allowing 3 hits and 1 walk to go along with 3 punchouts. Nola is looking to bring a very solid September into the postseason, and he stared it off hot against the Marlins to help his team clinch the NLDS. He will be one of the most important pieces for the Phillies as the postseason moves along.
Takeaway #2: Everybody hits
In Game 1, everyone in the starting lineup reached base with a hit which is a good sign for any team.
When you have players like Cristian Pache and Johan Rojas finding success in the 8th and 9th spots of the order, you know your offense is cooking. Rojas scored the first run of Game 1 after Alec Bohm drove him on a double down the left field line.
Pache had a big RBI in the first game to put his team up 3-0 in the bottom of the 4th on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he walked and scored the first run of the game off of an RBI double by the leadoff man Kyle Schwarber.
Teams are already aware of the fire power that comes from the top half of the Phillies batting order. But when the bottom half also chips in, those teams are in trouble.
Takeaway #3: The Big Moment
In every playoff series last year, the Phillies had that big moment. Jean Segura’s two-run single against the Cardinals in last year’s Wild Card, Rhys Hoskins’ bat slam against the Braves, Bryce Harper’s pennant winning home run against the Padres, and all of Game 3 against the Astros.
Citizens Bank Park was waiting for that big moment. RBI singles and doubles are awesome and are how the Phillies scored their 4 runs in Game 1 and their first 2 runs in Game 2. But this team is unique for its bell ringing, ball smashing ability. They got their first homer after J.T. Realmuto hit a no doubter to put his team up 3-0 in the bottom of the 4th inning in Game 2. But they REALLY made an exclamation in the bottom of the 6th inning.
In a scene that rivaled Bryce Harper’s first at bat against the Astros in Game 3 of the World Series with “Flower” by Moby being heard loud and clear on the FOX broadcast, Stott stepped up to the plate in Game 2 of the Wild Card with his own walk-up song “A-O-K” by Tai Verdes being audibly sung by the whole stadium.
With the bases loaded, and on the first pitch, Stott sent a laser to right field for the Phillies second ever postseason grand slam that extended the score to 7-0 and put the game to rest. And trust me, CBP was LOUD. Everyone knew that blast really clinched the series for the Phillies, and it was absolutely ELECTRIC at the ballpark. Stott solidified the iconic moment with a Rhys Hoskins-esque bat spike that I’m sure has been replayed hundreds of times by Phillies fans everywhere.
Playoff baseball in Philadelphia was everything expected and even more in the Wild Card against the Marlins. It’s got the city talking. It’s got the baseball world talking. It has opposing teams shaking in fear.
Next up for the Phillies is an NLDS rematch with the Atlanta Braves. It’s a proven fact that the Phils are the last team that the Braves want to play in the postseason. And for good reason.