The Phillies’ Costly Bullpen Meltdown in NL Championship Series

The Phillies’ Costly Bullpen Meltdown in NL Championship Series

Philadelphia battled against Arizona in a bullpen game, taking advantage of the Diamondbacks’ moves and building a commanding three-run lead. However, a disastrous bullpen meltdown cost the Phillies dearly, resulting in a loss and tying the NL Championship Series at 2-all. This article delves into the critical mistakes made by the Phillies and analyzes the impact it had on the game.

After a defeat characterized by 13 strikeouts in the previous game, Philadelphia seemed to have Arizona exactly where they wanted them. Kyle Schwarber’s solo homer and Brandon Marsh’s run-scoring double tied the game at 2, setting the stage for the Phillies to take control. A combination of an infield single and an error in the sixth inning allowed the Phillies to score two runs, giving them a 5-2 lead with Trea Turner’s sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson faced criticism for his decision to use Orion Kerkering late in Game 3, where the rookie blew a 1-0 lead. Despite the shaky performance, Thomson repeated the same mistake by sending Kerkering back out in a critical situation in Game 4. Once again, Kerkering struggled, walking two batters, including walking in a run with the bases loaded. Thomson’s persistence in relying on Kerkering despite his recent struggles raised eyebrows.

With the Phillies still leading 5-3, Thomson made another questionable decision by bringing in closer Craig Kimbrel in the eighth inning rather than waiting for the ninth. Despite Kimbrel having a successful regular season with 23 saves in 28 chances, he struggled with control in the previous game, giving up the game-winning hit. His control issues persisted in Game 4 as he gave up a game-tying two-run homer to Alek Thomas. Kimbrel further unraveled, allowing a double and hitting a batter before giving up the go-ahead run with a single.

Throughout the season, the Phillies’ bullpen had been one of their strengths. They showcased an impressive 1.26 ERA in the Division Series against Atlanta and performed admirably in the first two NLCS games against Arizona. However, in Game 4, Gregory Soto, Kerkering, Kimbrel, and José Alvarado struggled to find the strike zone, throwing strikes on only 25 of 54 pitches and allowing four runs in the final 1⅔ innings. The bullpen’s inability to throw strikes greatly contributed to their downfall.

With the Phillies now searching for late-inning answers, Game 5 holds immense importance for them. The series will return to Philadelphia for Game 6, and the Phillies must regroup and reassess their bullpen strategy to avoid any further meltdowns. The ability to control pitches and maintain composure in pressure situations will be crucial for their success moving forward.

The Phillies’ bullpen game strategy initially seemed to be paying off, but a series of poor decisions and a lack of control from their relievers ultimately cost them the game. The bullpen meltdown opened the door for the Diamondbacks to seize the victory, tying the NL Championship Series. As the series progresses, the Phillies must learn from their mistakes, making necessary adjustments to avoid repeating the same errors. Only then can they regain control and secure their path to the World Series.


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