The Philadelphia Phillies spent much of the year struggling to recapture the magic of their 2022 run to the World Series. Just two days into the 2023 MLB postseason, though, the rest of the league has been put on notice: This team is peaking at the right time, and Citizens Bank Park is feeling like a house of horrors once again. Philly had absolutely no problems with the Miami Marlins in the Wild Card round, getting another gem from one of their co-aces and rolling to a 7-0 win in Game 2 to punch their ticket to the NLDS.
From pretty early in Game 1, this series felt like the mismatch many expected it to be, but credit to the Phils for never really messing around. After Zack Wheeler shoved for 6.2 innings on Tuesday night, Aaron Nola did him one better on Wednesday, firing seven innings of three-hit ball and looking nothing like the pitcher who struggled to a 4.46 ERA during the regular season. This Marlins lineup was totally overmatched for most of this series (Josh Bell excluded), and while Miami’s pitching staff was game, it was only a matter of time before the dam broke.
In Game 2, that moment came in the bottom of the sixth. Philly had already built a 3-0 lead thanks to RBI knocks from Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner and a solo homer from J.T. Realmuto, chasing Miami started Braxton Garrett after just three innings of work. But the game was still ostensibly in doubt, especially with some of the hiccups the Phillies’ bullpen has experienced of late. Until Bryson Stott stepped to the plate with the bases loaded, that is:
HOLY GRAND SLAM BRYSON STOTT pic.twitter.com/xTdrDcjGDn— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 5, 2023
That shot is just the second grand slam in Phillies postseason history, after Shane Victorino did the deed in the 2008 NLDS. (A year, you’ll note, in which Philly won the World Series.) From that point on, the party was officially on at Citizens Bank Park, which at this point has established itself as the single best home-field environment in the Majors. Rookie Orion Kerkering once again did his very best K-Rod impression in the eighth, Gregory Soto slammed the door in the ninth, and Philly was moving on.
A Miami team with a -54 run differential was always going to have a hard time making this a competitive series without some real small sample size shenanigans, though. Now, the real fun begins: Waiting for the Phils in the next round is a familiar foe, the same Braves team they dispatched in memorable fashion from last year’s NLDS. This year’s version of Atlanta might have the single best offense in baseball history, however, and Rhys Hoskins won’t be around for any bat spikes.
Will Ronald Acuna Jr. and Co. be able to compensate for a rotation that’s been taking on water in the second half? Or will Philly be able to break the Braves’ hearts again? We’ll begin to get our answer this weekend, as the two teams square off in Game 1 from Truist Park on Saturday, Oct. 7.