Cardinals vs. Phillies score, takeaways: Philadelphia heads to NLDS for first time since 2011 with sweep
Aaron Nola was dominant, Bryce Harper homered, and the careers of Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina ended
The Philadelphia Phillies are going to the NLDS for the first time since 2011, as they've knocked off the St. Louis Cardinals with a two-game sweep in Busch Stadium. The 2-0 victory Saturday evening for the Phillies clinched the series, launched a celebration and moved them on in the bracket.
The Phillies' Game 1 win was incredibly dramatic, with a six-run ninth providing all their offense in a 6-3 win. This time around, it was nail-biting, but with less offensive fireworks.
Here's how it went down.
Phillies struck first, added insurance later
As noted, the Phillies went through eight innings without scoring a single run in Game 1, but then exploded with a six-run ninth. It didn't take quite as long to get on the board this time, as Bryce Harper crushed a Miles Mikolas offering to start the second inning.
That was Harper's sixth career playoff home run in 80 at-bats.
The Phillies would later tack on a run with a Kyle Schwarber sac fly in a rally that was started with an Alec Bohm double. In related matters, Bohm also made two sparkling defensive plays at third base.
The Harper homer along with the breathing room provided from the insurance run were all the Phillies needed.
Nola brought it
If the Phillies are to make any kind of run this postseason, they'll need great work from their two aces in Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. Not just in the run prevention department, but they both need to get deep into games, given the shaky bullpen situation.
Wheeler was good in 6 1/3 innings in his first career postseason start in Game 1. Nola was better in this one. He got through 6 2/3 scoreless and allowed only four hits (all singles) and one walk while striking out six. He made some huge pitches, particularly striking out Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado with a runner on base to end the sixth.
Speaking of which...
Goldschmidt and Arenado continued to struggle
Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado might both finish in the top three of NL MVP voting, but neither was great in the last month of the season. Goldschmidt hit .229/.328/.352 in his last 30 games. Arenado hit .221/.302/.347 in his last 27.
It seems to have carried over, mostly on Goldschmidt's end. Arenado went 1 for 8 in the series, though he did hit a few balls hard and ran into some good defense and rough batted-ball fortune. Goldschmidt can't really say the same. He was 0 for 7 with four strikeouts. They each left four men on base here in Game 2. A big swing from either one of them could've turned the tide and possibly kept the season alive.
The biggest moment of the series, in fact, came in the eighth inning after Albert Pujols singled to make it runners on first and second with one out, trailing 2-0. Seranthony Domínguez struck out both of them to end the threat.
Phillies bullpen gets the big outs
As noted, Domínguez wiggled out of trouble with some huge pitches and that was the theme for the much-maligned Phillies bullpen. It ultimately did its job and didn't allow a run in 3 1/3 innings.
First, it was José Alvarado who took over for Nola with a runner on in the seventh inning. He induced an inning-ending pop out by Yadier Molina.
It was Domínguez when they came in during the eighth inning with one on and one out. He gave up the Pujols single before the aforementioned strikeouts to end the threat.
Then it was former starter Zach Eflin, who only has one career save in the regular season and just started working late-inning situations late in September of this year, taking over in the ninth.
There was trouble, again, as Eflin recorded two outs before allowing singles to Corey Dickerson and Molina. He induced a Tommy Edman foul out to end the game.
Eflin's first career save came in the game that the Phillies clinched their first playoff berth since 2011. His first career playoff save comes right here with the Phillies clinching their first playoff series since the 2010 NLDS.
Pujols, Molina go out with hits
Albert Pujols debuted for the Cardinals on April 2, 2001. Yadier Molina debuted on June 3, 2004. Pujols left for a while by signing a gargantuan deal with the Angels, but the two still combined to play for the Cardinals for over 4,000 games in the regular season, not to mention the deep postseason runs that included World Series championships in 2006 and 2011.
This year was the final run for both. Pujols is easily a first-ballot Hall of Famer and Molina is probably headed that way himself. Each player was able to depart for a pinch runner at a big moment after collecting what could've been a pivotal hit. Pujols went 2 for 4 and his single put the Phillies in hot water in the eighth.
Molina then extended the game, instead of making the final out, with a two-out hit in the ninth to, again, really put the Phillies in peril.
The teammates who followed the hits didn't help make this a storybook ending for the duo, but they each went out with a well-struck single.
The Phillies move on to the NLDS against the NL East champion Atlanta Braves. The series starts with Game 1 on Tuesday in Atlanta. The Phillies went 8-11 against the Braves this season, including losing five of their last seven against them. Still, it's a clean slate. They'll likely start Ranger Suárez in Game 1 before going back to Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.
As for the Cardinals, it was a mostly successful season. They trailed the Brewers for most of the first half and used a huge run to start the second half to catapult into first place and win the NL Central by seven games. The season is now over after two disappointing home playoff games.
A stunning sweep for Philly, given that it was 2-0 Cardinals going to the ninth inning in Game 1. The Phillies got six runs in the ninth to win that one and take Game 2, 2-0.
Molina singles to right center
The Cardinals won't go quietly. The go-ahead run is now at the plate. Two on, two out.
Dickerson singles with two outs
And it's Yadier Molina with the Cardinals down to their last out before elimination. He's the tying run.
Goldschmidt strikes out
Up to Arenado
Cardinals in business
After a walk, Pujols singles down the third-base line and is removed for a pinch-runner as the tying run. It's Goldschmidt and Arenado coming ...
Phillies now up to an 83.2 percent chance of winning Game 2 and closing out the series.
Molina pops out. The mild threat is over. It's 2-0 Phillies with two innings to go.
A two-out single from Corey Dickerson has Phillies manager Rob Thomson going to the bullpen. Aaron Nola worked 6 2/3 scoreless innings and was mostly brilliant. He's responsible for the runner on first. Yadier Molina is coming up with Jose Alvarado entering the game in relief.
Nola through six scoreless
Pujols singles, but then Aaron Nola strikes out both Goldschmidt and Arenado to end the sixth. It's 2-0 Phillies through six. Nola has been great. He's only given up three hits and a walk with six strikeouts.
Goldschmidt's struggles continue
He looks out of sorts mechanically at the plate, to the point where you wonder if he's compensating for an injury. Dipping back into the regular season, he has one hit in his last five games, counting tonight. He hasn't homered since Sept. 7. Something's not right.
Bad baserunning for Harper
With no outs, Bryce Harper singled up the middle and JT Realmuto made it to third. But on the throw to third, Harper tried to take second and got nailed by by Arenado. At least it looks like it. The Phillies have challenged.
Cardinals have six hard-hit balls vs. Nola but nothing to show for it. Philly now has an almost 75 percent chance to close out the series, per win probability.
Montgomery in relief
I don't really get the decision. The Cardinals have multiple actual lefty relievers on the roster, and you go to a start mid-inning in a jam? If you want length out of him, just let him start an inning.
Sac fly from Schwarber. If this is all the Cardinals allow this inning, I think they'd have to call it a win at this point.
Four straight balls from Montgomery to load the bases for the top of the order. It's Kyle Schwarber.
Mikolas is done
After an HBP, the Cardinals will go to Jordan Montgomery, who usually is a starter, and Mikolas is done. Montgomery is a left-hander and the Phillies are set to have two lefties coming up. I wonder if Montgomery had enough time to get ready. He only got up one hitter ago and starters are used to longer, more drawn out warm ups.