The St. Louis Cardinals were two outs away from putting the Philadelphia Phillies on the brink of elimination. And then they absolutely crumbled.
Shoddy relief pitching and poor defense from St. Louis changed the game and, ultimately, the series.
The Cards are now one loss away from having their season end after the Phillies’ miraculous 6-3 win Friday.
The Cards called on Ryan Helsley for a five-out save with a 2-0 lead. The eighth inning was easy, and the Phillies had just four baserunners through that frame. But the ninth was a different story.
After starting the inning with a strikeout, Helsley loaded the bases by surrendering a single and back-to-back walks. Then, he hit Alec Bohm to bring in a run. Helsley was taken out — by an athletic trainer, not by the decision of manager Oliver Marmol — and in came Andre Pallante to get the final two outs with the bases loaded.
But Jean Segura squeaked a two-run single under the glove of second baseman Tommy Edman, giving the Phillies a 3-2 lead. Bryson Stott then laced a grounder that MVP favorite Paul Goldschmidt stopped on a dive, but pinch runner Edmundo Sosa darted for home, and the throw to the plate was late, making it a 4-2 game.
Brandon Marsh then hit a routine double play ball, but it went under the glove of nine-time Gold Glove Award (and five-time Platinum Glove Award) winner Nolan Arenado, and it was a three-run lead. Kyle Schwarber added a sac fly, and Philly led 6-2.
The Cardinals did get the tying run to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Yadier Molina struck out to end the game.
No one had a real threat until the bottom of the sixth inning, as both starters traded zeros. Edman singled, and Lars Nootbar walked to lead off the inning, which brought up the red-hot Albert Pujols. But he grounded into a double play. With a man on third, Goldschmidt came to the dish, and he grounded out to end the threat.
In the seventh, the Cards didn’t let an opportunity go to waste. After Dylan Carlson drew a two-out walk, rookie Juan Yepez pinch-hit for Corey Dickerson and, on the first pitch he saw from Jose Alvarado, launched a two-run homer just inside the left-field foul pole, giving St. Louis a 2-0 lead.
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But that was all short-lived.
Jose Quintana came into the day with the league’s lowest ERA and WHIP since the start of September. He tossed 5 ⅓ scoreless innings and allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out three. Zack Wheeler was even more dominant, going 6 ⅓ scoreless. He too allowed just two hits and a walk with four punchouts.
Pitcher Aaron Nola will look to send the Phillies to the NLDS against the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves, while Miles Mikolas will try to keep St. Louis alive Saturday.