Every time you think that the Philadelphia Phillies couldn’t possibly get any hotter, that baseball is a brutally difficult and fickle sport that resists extended dominance and relishes in chaos, that surely this fever has to break at some point, they find a way to raise the bar even higher. After playing with their food a bit in a too-close-for-comfort Game 1 — it’s a sign of just how ridiculous this run has gotten that a two-run win in the NLCS counts as something of a disappointment — Philly came out in Game 2 on Tuesday night determined to leave absolutely no doubt. The result: a 10-0 romp over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park that not only gave them a stranglehold on this series but made some postseason history while they were at it.
Much like they did on Monday, Philly drew blood in the bottom of the first. And much like Monday, it was via the long ball — this time courtesy of Trea Turner, who parked a Merrill Kelly fastball deep into the seats in left-center:
Two innings later, it was Kyle Schwarber’s turn, his second in as many nights:
Give Arizona credit: They refused to cave in Game 1, and they refused to cave in Game 2. Those two long balls aside, Kelly was game, allowing just four baserunners and striking out five over his first five innings of work to keep the D-backs hanging around.
They couldn’t take advantage, however, because Aaron Nola was brilliant for the third straight start. The version of Nola who’s shown up this October was a pitcher we hadn’t season all regular season long, spotting his fastball on the corners and consistently burying his wipeout curveball. Much like Zack Wheeler did on Monday, the righty cruised through this Arizona lineup, allowing just three hits over six shutout innings to go along with seven strikeouts.
Aaron Nola, Nasty 93mph Back Door Two Seamer.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 18, 2023
19 inches of run. pic.twitter.com/pYzSlUodtH
With the way this Phillies lineup is rolling right now, it’s only a matter of time before the dam breaks — and sure enough, that moment came in the bottom of the sixth. First, it was Schwarber again, launching his second homer of the night and the 18th of his postseason career, tying him with none other than Reggie Jackson for the most by a left-handed hitter in baseball history.
A walk and two outs later, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo opted to pull Kelly at 89 pitches, bringing in lefty Joe Mantiply to face Bryson Stott. For the first time all October, Lovullo pushed the wrong button: Stott singled, J.T. Realmuto doubled in two runs and all of a sudden the score was 5-0.
From there, the party was officially on. Brandon Marsh drove home Realmuto to make it 6-0. In the seventh, the Phillies poured it on even more, beginning with a two-run double from Alec Bohm:
SEIZE THE BOHMENT, ALEC pic.twitter.com/ILAoLKJl72— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 18, 2023
Then another RBI knock from Realmuto:
In all, Philly plated eight runs across the sixth and seventh innings on a combined eight hits and four walks — as if just to prove that they weren’t totally reliant on the home run. The Phillies bullpen wrapped things up without incident, preserving the team’s second shutout so far in October.
It’s tough to really do justice to how dominant Philly has been in this postseason run. The numbers are mind-boggling. They’re now 7-1 in October. With three more homers on Tuesday night, they’ve now hit 15 over their last four games, the most by any team in a four-game stretch in playoff history. (They’ve also hit 19 over their first eight games, one off the all-time record to open a postseason held by the 2021 Red Sox and 2004 Astros.)
But for as much as the homers grab all the headlines, this is about much, much more. Philly has now allowed just 13 runs so far in October, posting the second-lowest ERA by a team over its first eight games of a single postseason (1.39, behind only the 1983 Orioles). Their +33 run differential is the highest ever in an eight-game span in a single postseason. And most absurd of all: Throughout this entire run, the Phillies have trailed at the end of just two innings, the eighth and ninth of their lone loss in Game 3 of the NLDS to the Braves. That’ not only a new record — it laps the previous low of seven, set by the 2014 Royals on their march to the World Series.
Yes, this series is far from over — Arizona can totally change the tenor of things by taking Game 3 back home on Thursday — and yes, Philly is still six wins away from the ultimate goal. Still, it’s not an exaggeration to say that this has been quite possibly the most impressive playoff run in the modern history of the sport. No team has ever been as dominant in October as these Phillies, and somehow it feels even more overwhelming than the numbers suggest.
Baseball is, famously, a fickle game, one that resists consistency and relishes chaos. Hitting a little white ball traveling at ridiculous speeds with a thin wooden stick is very, very hard, and lends itself to all sorts of weird stuff — funny bounces, seeing-eye singles, a million different ways for tragedy to strike. It has a way of keeping you humble, particularly in the postseason.
And yet, somehow, the Phillies seem to have spat in the eye of the baseball gods. Playing this team right now, especially in front of their home crowd, feels like trying to walk across a floor full of mouse traps with no lights on: You can hope to delay it for as long as possible, but sooner or later, something very, very bad is going to happen, and it’s probably going to hurt. If the postseason has taught us anything, it’s that fortunes can swing in an instant, but this Philly team simply doesn’t seem to care.