ST. LOUIS – Rhys Hoskins has been chasing that October feeling for years.
He believes Saturday will set the Phillies up for the grind ahead and all of those intense, scary and great moments that are to come when they get there. The Phillies defeated the Cardinals 1-0 at Busch Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Everything happened in the ninth inning to give the game a postseason feel, from crafting the game’s only run in the top half to finding your way in and out of a big jam in the bottom half.
“Those kinds of innings, those kinds of situations, especially on the road, is probably our best shot at feeling that before we get there,” Hoskins said.
Philadelphia (46-39) is a season-high seven game over .500. It’s two games ahead of St. Louis for the third NL wild card.
“It felt a bit like playoff baseball, I think,” said Alec Bohm. “I’ve never experienced it, but it’s as you can imagine.”
The Phillies and Cardinals carried a goalless tie into ninth place thanks to seven scoreless innings from Kyle Gibson.
Darick Hall started things. He joined the team last week because Philadelphia without Bryce Harper and Jean Segura needed a punch in the lineup. He wanted to get on base, so he actually talked to hitting coach Kevin Long about bunkering a ball on third baseline.
Hall adjusted. He crushed the next pitch to right midfield for a double. Pinch runner Mickey Moniak advanced to third with Didi Gregorius’ colorful single on the first base line.
“We didn’t do much throughout the game,” said Gregorius. “I didn’t do much anyway. So I thought, ‘I have to do something for the team.’ The first time I fouled the third and saw that they didn’t move. I say, ‘I’ll just take it with me.’”
Bohm followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Phillies the lead. Böhm scored twice in Friday’s 2-0 win. He has tapped in the series’ only three heats.
Corey Knebel started in ninth place, Seranthony Domínguez was unavailable, and left-hander Brad Hand is unlikely to face right-handers Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado. Gag led Juan Yepez five fields, although two of the balls probably should have been strikes. Goldschmidt hit Bohm with a helicopter. He threw the ball up cleanly, but he threw on the run, and the ball sailed into right field to send runners to the corners.
“I made a pretty crucial mistake,” Bohm said. “But that’s exactly what this team does. We pick each other up.”
Gag and Arenado locked themselves in a nine-pitch at-bat. The score was 3-2 when Arenado struck while eyeing a curveball.
Gag and Philadelphia catcher Garrett Stubbs noticed a little earlier that they tried to capitalize on. Arenado landed on a curveball in Gibson’s dirt in the fourth. He fouled another curveball in the dirt from Knebel.
“I kept thinking the curveball was a ball the whole time,” Knebel said. “I just throw it for a strike. After I threw a fastball in his face and then lived with the fastball upstairs, I think Stubbs and I were exactly on the same page. I thought curveball. He put it down. Let’s go.”
Goldschmidt stole second place in the game to put the runners in second and third place. Dylan Carlson landed a 0-1 fastball between the mound and first base. Knebel took a few steps away from the hill, then stopped and ducked. He expected Yepez to run home and didn’t want to disrupt Hoskins’ shot at the plate.
“I just hit the deck,” Knebel said.
But Yepez never ran, surprising everyone in the Phillies. Hoskins looked back at Yepez for third place, then turned his attention to first. He couldn’t beat Carlson. Luckily Bryson Stott was on his way. He yelled at Hoskins a few times and got in first in time to take the throw.
“I wanted the ball first,” Stott said. “When I saw Rhys had it, I looked at the runner. I just saw Corey there. That’s when I knew I should go to first base because nobody else was going. I let Rhys know I was there so he wouldn’t have to start a race.”
“I’m glad he paid attention because I wasn’t there,” said Knebel.
Knebel then thanked Stott on the bench for his game-saving game.
Corey Dickerson flew right to end the game.
“We know we can make runs, we know we can pitch,” Bohm said. “But to win a game like this where it’s 0-0 you crunch, both pitchers have their stuff going, it’s cool to see our bullpen coming in and finishing games. It’s a big confidence boost. As a baseball fan, you see something like this and you’ve seen the film before. You already see where it’s going. But Corey could make it big. … It was fun playing like that with that confidence.”