Phillies hold on to beat Cardinals despite ninth-inning jam

ST. LOUIS – Alec Bohm easily fielded the ground ball. But he didn’t set his feet, causing his throw to sail high and wide of its target. The tying run moved to a third base with nobody out in the ninth inning, and, well, Bohm knew how this usually ends.

“You’ve seen the movie before,” he said.

But a funny thing happened Saturday on the way to another Phillies ninth-inning meltdown. They didn’t unravel like a ball of yarn. They didn’t crumble like feta cheese. With a crowd of 41,853 on its feet at Busch Stadium, nothing went haywire.

Instead, closer-for-the-day Corey Knebel won a nine-pitch duel by freezing Cardinals cleanup hitter Nolan Arenado with a curveball. Rookie second baseman Bryson Stott alertly covered first base on a no-man’s-land grounder. Nick Castellanos squeezed a fly ball to the right field.

And the Phillies emerged with a character-building 1-0 victory, their second consecutive shutout and third in the last three games over a span of seven days against the Cardinals, the team that is on their heels in pursuit of the final National League playoff spot.

How’s that for a twist?

“I’ve obviously never played in October, but those types of innings, those types of situations, especially on the road, probably is the best chance to feel that before we get there,” Rhys Hoskins said. “You have to learn how to do it and how not to do it, I think.”

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Late-game collapses – heck, late-season collapses, for that matter – have been the Phillies’ signature over these last four seasons. Can you imagine them winning a game like this earlier this season, and certainly last year and in 2020?

“I can’t answer that,” said interim manager Rob Thomson, who has been a witness to all of it. “I just think it was great that they kept their poise and everybody stayed in the game.”

It was a crucial victory, too. The Phillies improved to 4-1 against the Cardinals with two games remaining between the teams. By clinching the season series, they would have a tiebreaker over St. Louis if the teams are deadlocked at the end of the season for the last spot.

Bohm snapped a scoreless stalemate at the top of the ninth on a fly fly, capping a rally that started when Darick Hall stroked a double leadoff against Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos.

Thomson called on Knebel for the bottom of the ninth to face a run of right-handed hitters in the middle of the Cardinals’ order because Seranthony Domínguez was unavailable after pitching back-to-back days. Knebel walked Juan Yepez to open the inning before Bohm’s errant throw on a grounder by Paul Goldschmidt.

Nervous times, right?

“It’s like I was in my backyard,” Thomson said, unable to stifle a chuckle. “You’re always thinking through things. The game’s on the line, so your heart thumps a little bit harder. But, yeah, that’s the way it is. ”

Said Bohm: “I think it was the right play. Want to keep the tying run off second base, right? I just missed the throw, and that’s all. ”

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It all worked out in the end, thanks in large measure to Stott, who recognized that Knebel didn’t break to cover first base on a grounder fielded by Hoskins. Stott ran behind Hoskins and shouted to him for a calm, cool flip to first base.

To Thomson’s surprise, Yepez didn’t try to score from third base on the play. But hey, the Phillies will take a rare ninth-inning break in their favor.

“That’s just heads-up baseball,” Bohm said. “I made a pretty crucial mistake, but that’s what this team does. We pick each other up.

“It felt like playoff baseball a little bit, I guess. I’ve never experienced it. But it’s kind of what you could imagine. ”

The Phillies are starting to believe it’s possible, too.

A week after giving up four home runs in a row to the Cardinals, Gibson blanked them for seven innings.

“It was probably as much work as I’ve done in between starts in a long time,” said Gibson, who made a few mechanical adjustments and changed his tempo between pitches. “I think I touched the mound three times and worked on a lot of stuff. Any time you can get an extra day, especially when you’re struggling, it helps a little bit. ”

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For much of the game, Cardinals center fielder Dylan Carlson did a solid impersonation of Jim Edmonds.

Carlson hauled in Hoskins’ missile to the warning track in the first inning, robbed Didi Gregorius with a sliding grab in the fourth, and retreated to reel in Matt Vierling’s line drive over his head in the fifth.

But Vierling wouldn’t be outdone. The Phillies center fielder – and a st. Louis native making his first career start in his hometown – dove for Carlson’s sinking liner in the seventh inning and hit his face on the turf, dislodging his sunglasses and leaving a divot in the grass, but holding on to the ball.


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