Oliver Marmol waits too long
In St. Louis a few hours later, Oliver Marmol found himself in an eerily similar situation to the one Francona had maneuvered through. Entering the ninth inning, Marmol’s Cardinals led the visiting Philadelphia Phillies 2-0. Marmol’s pitcher starting the ninth was Ryan Helsley, who had closed out a minor Phillies eighth-inning threat by striking out Brandon Marsh and retiring Kyle Schwarber.
To the extent the Cardinals had a closer in 2022, Gallegos was it. Of the team’s 37 official saves, he had 19. More critically, Helsley had a 100 mph fastball. He used it to compile a 1.25 ERA and nine victories in 10 decisions.
Helsley’s 8.4 percent walk rate, while unremarkable, was at least in line with the MLB average, so there appeared to be no reason to question Marmol’s decision to let Helsley go for the five-out save. That decision point looked better still when Rhys Hoskins fished for a low-outside 3-2 slider for the ninth inning’s first out.
Then things deteriorated. J.T. Realmuto singled, and Bryce Harper walked on a 3-2 curve that (like the first three called balls) was non-competitive.
With the tying runs on base, it became a fair question whether Marmol should stay with Helsley or look to one of his other closers. That was especially so given that Helsley had recently jammed a finger on his throwing hand. Marmol had Giovanny Gallegos, with 14 saves, available in the pen, but instead he chose to warm up starter Jack Flaherty and rookie reliever Andre Pallante.
Helsley complicated his situation by walking Nick Castellanos on five pitches, loading the bases and putting the tying runs in scoring position, No movement from Marmol. Then three pitches into Alec Bohm’s at-bat, Helsley hit him with a 100 mph four-seamer, forcing a run across and moving the go-ahead run into scoring position.
Finally Marmol went to his pen, calling on the rookie Pallante. By now, though, the momentum was undeniable on the side of the Phillies. Jean Segura singled the tying and lead runs home, then pinch runner Edmundo Sosa scored on a fielder’s choice, then Brandon Marsh rolled a grounder past Nolan Arenado and into left field, scoring Segura.
The final toll: six runs, enough to make a ninth-inning Cardinal rally a bridge too far. The Phillies won 6-3.