Phillies clinch wild-card playoff spot with win over Pirates – NBC Sports Philadelphia

It almost never gets easier for the Phillies, even when it seems like the stars have aligned, was there really any other way Tuesday night could have played out?

The Phillies punched their ticket to the playoffs with another dramatic moment at the ballpark that was seen many times over the past calendar year, clinching a 3–2 victory over the Pirates in 10 innings and a consecutive postseason berth. Got place for the second time.

Johan Rojas delivered the game-winning hit, a two-strikeout single to center, to send the Citizens Bank Park crowd into a frenzy.

The latest batch of late-game heroics was set up by a lead built in the sixth inning that was blown by Craig Kimbrel in the eighth. It’s the seventh time in the last 16 games the Phillies have allowed the go-ahead or tying run in the eighth inning or later, but they have held on to most of those games and have won 10 of 16.

In addition to clinching the wild-card spot, the Phillies have mathematically clinched the No. 4 seed, which comes with home field advantage in each game of the best-of-3 wild-card series. The only way the Phils won’t finish with the 4-seed is if they go 0-5, the Brewers also lose every remaining game and the Cubs win.

At 88–69 with five games played, the Phillies have their highest win total since 2011. They have won 18 games over .500 for the first time since the final day of that season. They have won six in a row and are finishing the regular season the way a team wants to, barring some late-season drama.

Most importantly, they have been able to align their rotation and rest their bullpen in the final two series against the Mets and Pirates. Game 1 of the wild-card round is on Tuesday, October 3, two days after Game 162.

Aaron Nola made his second consecutive strong start and waved his cap to the Citizens Bank Park crowd as he walked off the field and received a standing ovation. After limiting the Braves to two runs in six innings last week in Atlanta, they held the Pirates off the board until the seventh, allowing more than 6⅔ runs on Brian Reynolds’ solo home run.

Nola is one of the few Phillies who has been worse since the All-Star break, with a 4.99 ERA over his last 13 starts through Tuesday night. But all that matters is how he’s pitching now, and right now, he has his entire arsenal working. He is a tremendous hitter with a two-seamer, keeps his changeup low and misses bats with a curveball.

Nola surpassed 200 strikeouts for the fifth consecutive non-COVID-shortened season. He’s set to start on the final day at Citi Field, but will almost certainly be saved for the playoffs instead. There are nine days between Tuesday night and Game 2 of the wild-card round (Oct. 4), so Nola could make a brief appearance of two or three innings in place of a bullpen session on Friday. That’s all TBD.

Manager Rob Thomson has reiterated his confidence in Nola as a big-game pitcher through 2023, even in the right-hander’s worst moments. He’s still a possible contender to start Game 2 of the opening round.

While the crowd was loud, the Phillies’ bats were quiet Tuesday night until Brandon Marsh opened the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run to right-center. The Pirates’ right-hander Mitch Keller, their best pitcher and a 2023 All-Star, who entered with 204 K, held him to no hits in five innings. Rojas and Trea Turner later singled in the sixth and scored the second run on a sacrifice fly to center by Bryce Harper.

There was plenty of celebrating in the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park last calendar year, and the Phillies had another reason to party Tuesday night. It’s the first step on a journey that they fell two wins short of completing a year ago, and they’ll enter this October with even more confidence. Making another deep run won’t be easy — if the Phillies advance past the wild-card round, it will require eliminating both the Braves and Dodgers — but good luck getting any of these guys to believe they can. Can’t do this.

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