The tragic ending to the Phillies’ postseason run can be attributed to several key factors, hindering their ability to celebrate and ultimately succeed. One of the main reasons for their downfall was the underperformance of their expensive and experienced lineup when it mattered most. In the final 17 plate appearances of Game 7 of the 2023 NLCS, the Phillies failed to produce a single hit. Throughout the 2022 World Series, they only managed to bat .092 over the final 30 innings, going 9-for-98. Despite being a team built for power hitting, their bats went cold in crucial moments during both playoff years. Specifically, in Games 6 and 7 against the Diamondbacks, the Phillies struggled with a 2-for-17 performance with runners in scoring position. They were also 5-for-34 after Game 2. While this lack of offensive production was the primary reason for their defeat, there were other contributing factors worth mentioning.
One significant issue was the reliance on pitcher Craig Kimbrel, who had performed well for most of the season. However, he ultimately became synonymous with Mitch Williams from the 1993 playoffs due to his pivotal mistakes. Kimbrel allowed the walk-off run in Game 3 of the NLCS and blew a two-run lead in the eighth inning of Game 4. Manager Rob Thomson continued to trust Kimbrel despite his struggles, but it did not pay off as he performed even worse in Game 4. Though Kimbrel had a successful start to the playoffs with four consecutive scoreless appearances, there were warning signs even during those innings. These signs included yanked fastballs and falling behind in counts, suggesting that he was not in peak form. However, Thomson defended his decision to rely on Kimbrel, mentioning the track record of his All-Star season and potential Hall-of-Fame induction.
Another factor that impacted the Phillies’ loss in the NLCS was the construction of their roster. Pitcher Taijuan Walker was included in the playoff roster for every round but did not see any action. Similarly, Michael Lorenzen was included in the NLDS and NLCS rosters but only pitched in low-pressure situations. Thomson claimed they were there for length and as backup options, but their limited usage restricted the team’s flexibility. This decision became more questionable considering that Walker appeared to be excluded from starting in Game 4, despite the struggles of another pitcher, Cristopher Sanchez. Keeping both Walker and Lorenzen on the roster without providing them meaningful roles ended up negatively impacting the team.
Additionally, the concept of regression played a role in the Phillies’ postseason performance. Baseball has shown time and again that players’ hot streaks eventually normalize. This was evident in Aaron Nola allowing two home runs in Game 6 after not allowing any in his previous seven starts. Similarly, Ranger Suarez had a strong playoff record before Game 7 but gave up three runs in that game. Nick Castellanos, who had an impressive hitting streak, suddenly went hitless in subsequent games. The Phillies also experienced their fair share of regression as they faced defeats and struggles that were indicative of baseball’s natural balance.
Lastly, the Phillies’ decision to rely on young and inexperienced players, such as Johan Rojas and Orion Kerkering, played a role in their downfall. Despite their promising potential, these players were thrust into important roles at a young age. Rojas, who performed exceptionally well in defense and held his own at the plate, saw a decline in his offensive performance during the playoffs, going 4-for-43 with one walk and 15 strikeouts. In Game 7, the Diamondbacks intentionally pitched around Brandon Marsh to attack Rojas, resulting in a strikeout as his final plate appearance of the season. Kerkering, a right-handed setup option, was chosen by Thomson to pitch in a crucial moment in Game 3 with the Phillies leading 1-0. Unfortunately, this decision did not pan out as desired.
In conclusion, the Phillies’ defeat in the NLCS can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the underperformance of their lineup, reliance on struggling pitchers, questionable roster construction, regression, and the challenges of relying on young players. These elements ultimately contributed to their heartbreak and inability to secure a spot in the World Series.
David Rodriguez brings the excitement of Major League Baseball to readers. With a deep appreciation for America’s pastime, he covers the latest MLB news, scores, and player achievements, keeping fans up to date with their favorite teams and players.