The Philadelphia Phillies scored six times in the ninth inning off the stingy St. Louis Cardinals bullpen, highlighted by a bases-loaded single by Jean Segura, and the Phillies beat the NL Central champion Cardinals 6-3 on Friday in the opening game of their National League wild-card series at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals, who were 74-3 on the season when leading after eight innings, were poised to put away another close game after Juan Yepez connected for the first go-ahead pinch-hit homer in franchise history with two outs in the seventh inning.
But after struggling all afternoon against José Quintana and the Cardinals bullpen, the Phillies finally got their powerful offense going against Ryan Helsley. JT Realmuto began the ninth-inning rally with a single, and walks for Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos loaded the bases before the All-Star closer plunked Alec Bohm to score a run.
The Cardinals training staff came out to check on Helsley, who had jammed the middle finger on his pitching hand earlier in the week in Pittsburgh. He tried to throw another warmup pitch but was pulled for Andre Pallante, who gave up Segura’s hit through the right side of the infield that put the Phillies in front.
Edmundo Sosa added a run when he brazenly scored on Bryson Stott’s grounder to first base, and Brandon Marsh drove in another run when a tough hop got past Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong.
By the time Kyle Schwarber added a sacrifice fly, Phillies reliever Zach Eflin had plenty of wiggle room in the ninth.
It looked as if Eflin might need it, too, when Nolan Arenado and Dylan Carlson reached base and Nolan Gorman hit a two-out single to right. But Eflin responded by striking Yadier Molina to end the game, leaving the Phillies a win away from facing the NL East champion Atlanta Braves in the divisional round.
Pitching dominated most of Friday’s series opener.
Quintana, who arrived in a deadline trade from the Pirates, was masterful for the Cardinals, allowing only a single to Matt Vierling and a double to Bohm while pitching into the sixth. His day was done after fanning Schwarber for the second time on his 75th pitch, handing the game over to a relief corps that had been dominant this season.
Zack Wheeler was the equal of Quintana, allowing a leadoff single to Lars Nootbaar and nothing else until Tommy Edman’s leadoff single in the sixth. Edman was left stranded on third when Paul Goldschmidt grounded out.
Wheeler departed after retiring Arenado to start the seventh. He struck out four and walked one on 96 pitches, his most since Aug. 20, shortly before the right-hander landed on the injured list with forearm tendinitis.
Then it came down to the bullpens, and the Phillies managed to overcome one of the best in the game.
Game 2: 7:30 p.m. Saturday in St. Louis, ESPN2
José Ramírez connected for a two-run homer, Shane Bieber dominated the Rays for 7⅔ innings and the young Guardians played with poise in the wild-card opener in Cleveland.
Ramírez’s shot off Shane McClanahan in the sixth inning helped the Guardians end an eight-game postseason losing streak and left the team one win from advancing in the best-of-three series.
Bieber, rocked in his only other playoff appearance two years ago, allowed just three hits and struck out eight before being lifted with a runner on in the eighth.
Emmanuel Clase took it from there, getting four outs for his first postseason save and finishing a game that took just 2 hours, 17 minutes. The Guardians closer led the majors with 42 saves in the regular season.
Jose Siri homered for the Rays, who dropped their sixth straight game overall and must win Game 2 on Saturday to force a decisive Game 3. The series winner plays the AL East champion New York Yankees in the Division Series starting Tuesday in the Bronx.
With 17 players making MLB debuts, the Guardians entered lacking playoff experience. However, Ramírez and Bieber have been here before, and both came through for the AL Central champions.
And the Guardians, who played small ball all season to win an unexpected division title, leaned on power for this win.
With the Guardians trailing 1-0 and running out of outs, Ramírez delivered — as usual.
Amed Rosario singled with one out in the sixth off McClanahan, and Ramírez, a four-time All-Star who finished second to Aaron Judge in RBIs in the AL this season, drove a 1-1 changeup over the wall for just his second postseason home run in 97 at-bats.
As the red-towel-waving fans in Progressive Field screamed, Rays manager Kevin Cash appealed whether Rosario missed second. TV replays showed Ramirez slowing and touching the bag.
While umpires waited for an official ruling, the crowd spontaneously sang “Jose … Jose … Jose,” like never before, prompting Ramírez to pop out for a curtain call. The home run stood.
Siri’s one-out homer in the sixth — just the second hit Bieber allowed — gave the Rays a 1-0 lead. Siri flew out to deep center in his first at-bat in third before driving a 1-0 pitch over the fence.
The Rays didn’t get their first hit of Bieber until the fifth, when Harold Ramírez bounced a single into center. But Bieber buckled down and got two outs before striking out Christian Bethancourt, the right-hander’s third punchout to end an inning.
When he was lifted, Bieber received a thunderous ovation he tried to return by clapping into his glove.
Game 2: 11 a.m. Saturday in Cleveland, ESPN2