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October 24, 2023

Instant observations: Phillies' Red October ends with Game 7 whimper

The Phillies started October with a bang, but ended it with a deafeningly quiet whimper as the D-backs take the NL pennant.

It's quite the experience to watch a home team lose a Game 7. Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?

The hopes of millions of Phillies fans were dashed by a lackluster offense and a staff of relievers off their game in the first ever winner-take-all seventh game in team history, and a period of mourning for a promising team, that two years in row showed it was good enough to parade down Broad Street, will commence.

The Phils squandered a 2-0 series lead, a 3-2 series lead and a 2-1 lead in Game 7 of the NLCS as they fell 4-2 to the Diamondbacks, who advance to face the Rangers in a World Series nobody in the Delaware Valley will be watching. For those of you brave enough to relive the pain, or for others wondering what the hell went wrong, here's our last look at the good, the bad and the ugly for the 2023 Phillies:

The good

• Alec Bohm made everyone completely forget his absent bat in the cleanup spot with his first plate appearance, blasting a line drive solo homer to left, tying a game that felt like it had a chance of slipping away early. It was his first homer of this entire postseason and it's one that could've gone down as the biggest of his entire career:

Bohm's impact was felt again when he walked on his next at-bat, bringing up fellow "daycare kid" Bryson Stott. Stott hit a rope to the gap between left and center and Bohm spun his wheels all the way home to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Did these contributions validate Rob Thomson's refusal to shake up his batting order?

There is really no available hindsight when lamenting batting order possibilities. Would this series have made it to a Game 7 at all if Bohm hit lower in the order, allowing some other hitter to protect Harper and make good on all the walks he and Kyle Schwarber have drawn? Would the barrage of solo Schwarbombs in the NLCS have been multi-run homers had he been hitting somewhere in the heart of the order? 

There's no way to know for sure, but goodness, it's not really possible for the Phillies to have fared worse with runners in scoring position Tuesday. The blame will be spread around for weeks after this game, and Thomson will have to live with his static approach to his lineup. 

• I was worried about Ranger Suárez early on as the Diamondbacks appeared to sort of have his number, seeing the ball really well and rallying together six hits off him, but all in all given the circumstances, the Phillies' No. 3 starter pitched as well as could have been expected, exiting with the score tied and the Phillies in control of their own destiny.

• Also one last kudos to Zack Wheeler, who did everything he could to try and propel the Phillies to the World Series. He was called upon to make his first ever relief appearance in the seventh inning and pitched a very solid 1.2 innings.

• I would be remiss, win or lose, not to acknowledge the entire Philly fanbase for how absolutely incredible and memorable they made this season and postseason. There is a desperation to win in this city, and a tunnel vision need to celebrate a shared experience. The heartbreak from last fall in Houston and from the Eagles' Super Bowl setback in February have fueled this entire region to root their asses off and jump on the bandwagon, and no matter how things ultimately end, there's a truly special community of sports fans in this town. Be proud. 

The bad

• The Diamondbacks' momentum from their Game 6 domination clearly carried over to Game 7, as they were able to aggressively manufacture a run from two singles, a stolen base and a weakly hit ground ball. It's almost like the Phillies were lured into a false sense of security early in this series as the Diamondbacks were extremely conservative and didn't put much pressure on Philadelphia's pitchers or defense until a few games in. It was also the first time an opposing team has scored in the first inning against Philly this postseason.

• Thomson talked up the idea of having a short hook for his pitchers in Game 7, but he left Suarez out there to allow a second run in the fifth inning — a game-tying single from Corbin Carroll that knocked him out of the game after 75 pitches. Many expected him to last far shorter. He stranded Carroll at first and the presumptive Rookie of the Year proceeded to steal second and score on a single from Gabriel Moreno off of Jeff Hoffman. The Phillies were in a hole yet again and the crowd got pretty quiet.

• José Alvarado came in with one man out and nobody on and created a mess for himself, giving up two hits and a sac fly to hand Arizona an insurance run and 4-2 lead in the seventh. For all his success during the season, the flame-throwing lefty hasn't been the most clutch of relievers.

• Castellanos was arguably one of the MVP's of the NLDS, but since his Game 1 homer he's gone 0-for-23 with 11 strikeouts. The worst of these came in the fourth inning with runners at the corners following Stott's go-ahead RBI. Castellanos had a chance to break the game open but didn't even get the ball in play. 

Johan Rojas is another player whose offensive contributions have been virtually non-existent this series. He had the bases loaded in the fourth and struck out on a pitch out of the zone. He was hitting .093 in the playoffs entering Tuesday.

• This tweet says it all:

In all the Phillies stranded seven runners on base and were 1-for-10 in the game with runners in scoring position. The hits did not come in bunches, nor did productive outs, and a quick synopsis of what went wrong for the Phillies in the NLCS would probably lead with this shortcoming.

The table was set for Bedlam at the Bank Part II, but Harper hit a lazy fly-ball out with two men on in the seventh and the crowd was hushed to a barley audible murmur. 

• Jake Cave made the last out of the season. Kind of perfect actually. 

The ugly

• I know it's easy to be sitting in the press box and comment on the failures of players who make more in a day than I make in a year — but man, the swings and misses on Arizona starter Brandon Pfaadt's fastball were nauseatingly bad. The Phillies' hitters whiffed 16 times mostly on balls way out of the zone and for whatever reason they were unable to resist offering up at pitches that had no business being swung at. The Phillies are at their best when they are jumping all over a starting pitcher, taking an early lead and playing from in front. Major props to the Diamondbacks' rookie, who showed up all postseason, including an impressive Game 7 start.

• Harper, Castellanos and Turner made almost as much this year as the entire active roster for the NL pennant-winning Diamondbacks did. They went 0-for-12 in Game 7. Stupid money can only go so far.

• Game 7's are extremely rare. Tuesday night was the first one the Phillies franchise has ever played in, in 141 years of existence. The Sixers have played in 18 of them — including last year's Boston meltdown — and the Flyers have played in 17 of them. Those squads combined for 15 wins in those 35 win or go home matchups. 

FranchisePlayoff gamesGame 7 %

Of the teams in the city that play seven-game series' just 3.4% of them have gone to a seventh game. We should mention that there have been winner-take-all games before for the Phillies, as the LCS expanded to seven games only in 1985. Still, pretty special stuff.

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