The Philadelphia Phillies are one step closer to returning to the World Series after defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-1 in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday night. The Phillies now have a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, thanks to a stellar performance by their ace Aaron Nola and a birthday homer by their superstar Bryce Harper.
Nola outduels Kelly in pitching duel
The game was a pitchers’ duel between the Phillies’ Aaron Nola and the Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly, who both had impressive outings in the NL Division Series. Nola, who had a 4.46 ERA in the regular season, showed why he is still one of the best pitchers in the league by tossing seven innings of one-run ball, striking out nine and walking none. He allowed only four hits, including a solo homer by Ketel Marte in the sixth inning that broke his shutout bid.
Kelly, who had a 3.29 ERA in the regular season, was also effective, but not as dominant as Nola. He gave up three runs on six hits in six innings, striking out six and walking two. He was hurt by two costly mistakes: a two-run double by Nick Castellanos in the first inning and a solo homer by Bryce Harper in the third inning.
Harper celebrates birthday with homer
Bryce Harper had a special gift for himself on his 31st birthday: a home run off Merrill Kelly in the third inning that gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead. Harper crushed a 1-2 fastball over the right-field wall for his fifth homer of the postseason and his 10th career playoff homer. He is now tied with Chase Utley for the second-most playoff homers in Phillies history, behind Jayson Werth’s 11.
Harper has been on fire in the postseason, hitting .409 with four homers, seven RBI, nine runs and eight walks in eight games. He has also been drawing intentional walks from opposing pitchers who are afraid to face him. In Game 2, he was walked intentionally twice, once with Trea Turner on second base and once with Turner on third base.
Phillies bullpen holds on to secure win
The Phillies bullpen, which was a weakness in the regular season, has been solid in the postseason, especially at home. In Game 2, the Phillies relievers combined for two scoreless innings to preserve the win for Nola. Hector Neris pitched a perfect eighth inning, striking out two batters. Ian Kennedy closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, earning his third save of the postseason.
The Phillies have now won 10 straight home playoff games against NL opponents, dating back to 2021. They have also won five straight games overall in the postseason, outscoring their opponents 32-12. They are looking to become the first team to repeat as NL champions since the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 and 2018.
Diamondbacks face uphill battle to stay alive
The Diamondbacks, who had won five straight games to start the postseason, have now lost two in a row to fall behind 2-0 in the NLCS. They have struggled to score runs against the Phillies pitching staff, managing only four runs on nine hits in two games. They have also failed to capitalize on their scoring opportunities, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
The Diamondbacks will try to turn things around when they return home for Game 3 on Thursday night. They will send their ace Zac Gallen to the mound, hoping he can repeat his performance from Game 1 of the NLDS, when he threw seven shutout innings against the Dodgers. The Phillies will counter with Zack Wheeler, who had a rough outing in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Braves, allowing five runs in four innings.
The Diamondbacks will need to win at least two of the next three games at home to force a Game 6 back in Philadelphia. Otherwise, their Cinderella run will come to an end at the hands of the defending NL champions.