As the Philadelphia Phillies prepared to play the San Diego Padres in game two of the NLCS Oct. 19, their followers back in the Delaware Valley were happily skipping through a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moment. Their third-place Fightin’s were 6-1 in postseason play, and local sports talk radio was awash with callers all but totally convinced it was 1980 or 2008 all over again.
Game two in San Diego wouldn’t be easy to be sure. The Phillies would face a very tough lefthander, Blake Snell, who had broken Bryce Harper’s thumb with a pitch in late June. However, both MVP Harper and NL Home Run Champion Kyle Schwarber were in the lineup. The previous night Schwarber had hit the longest homer in the brief history of Petco Park, a 488-foot cruise missile. Like Schwarber, Harper had also homered Tuesday. Harper, like Schwarber, bats left-handed.
Both of their solo shots had been hit off right-hander Yu Darvish in Philadelphia’s 2-0 victory.
Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola had been perfect in the postseason. Would that continue in the NLCS?
But the wind seemed to be in the Phillies sails, part of it provided by local radio hosts who mere days before had found the local ball team wanting in more ways than sanitation on a sailing vessel from New York to San Francisco in 1880.
The Phillies then, of course, went out and stank up the venue at 100 Park Boulevard after singling and bingling their way to a 4-0 lead in the second inning.
Instead of shutting down the Padres in the home second, Aaron Nola, who had been 24-carat gold in the postseason, immediately surrendered a line-drive homer down the left-field line to journeyman Brandon Drury, followed by Josh Bell’s monster blast into the right field seats. At the end of the second, though, Philly was up 4-2.
Nola had survived for the moment, despite loud calls personally heard from some fans for his early removal.
He didn’t make it through the fifth. He just didn’t have his usual fastball, perhaps a bit tired from nearly perfect pitching since the first game of the regular season’s last series. Worse, the Padres’ hibernating superstars, Juan Soto and Manny Machado, suddenly awoke.
Not to be discounted as well, though, was the fact that all but one of the pitchers who followed Nola were no real improvement, or as former Phillies reliever Ricky Bottalico tweeted about the left-hander who immediately took over from Nola, “[Brad] Hand was just bad!”
Hand threw only seven of his 15 pitches for strikes, and he hit the specific hitter he had been brought in to retire, Jake Cronenworth.
Later, Machado hit a monster home run off David Robertson. The Fathers won, 8-5.
And suddenly, the end drew neigh. It wasn’t 2008 anymore.
One sports talk jock repeated angrily that he wanted Aaron Nola “held to account.” He made it sound as though the hurler should have a finger removed.
The Philadelphia Phillies will host the Padres in Philadelphia for game three on Friday at 7:37 p.m.