In a crucial Game 4 of the NL Championship Series, the Philadelphia Phillies found themselves in a favorable position. They had built a three-run lead against the Arizona Diamondbacks, taking advantage of their opponent’s bullpen game. However, what seemed like a sure victory quickly turned into a nightmare as the Phillies’ bullpen imploded, leading to a heartbreaking 6-5 loss and a series tie at 2-all.
One of the key factors that contributed to the Phillies’ downfall was their pitchers’ inability to adjust to the pressure of the situation. Catcher J.T. Realmuto noted that many pitchers appeared “sped up,” falling behind in counts and allowing baserunners. The deafening cheers from the crowd and the intense atmosphere seemed to affect their performance, causing them to lose control and make critical mistakes.
Despite their struggles, the Phillies had rallied after a disappointing Game 3, where they struck out 13 times in a 2-1 defeat. Home runs by Kyle Schwarber and a run-scoring double by Brandon Marsh seemed to have turned the tide in their favor, tying the game at 2-all. The Phillies continued to build on their lead, scoring two runs in the sixth inning and adding another run in the seventh. It appeared that they were poised to take the lead in the series.
However, the game took an unexpected turn when Phillies manager Rob Thomson made a questionable decision. He sent struggling rookie Orion Kerkering back out for a critical situation in Game 4, despite his previous blown lead in Game 3. Kerkering struggled once again, walking two batters, including Christian Walker with the bases loaded. This decision was met with widespread criticism, questioning Thomson’s judgment and refusal to make necessary adjustments.
With a slim lead of 5-3, Thomson made another controversial call by bringing in closer Craig Kimbrel in the eighth inning instead of waiting for the ninth. Kimbrel, who had a solid regular season, had already shown signs of vulnerability in the NLCS. He struggled to locate his pitches, and the Diamondbacks capitalized on his weaknesses. Kimbrel gave up a game-tying two-run homer to pinch-hitter Alek Thomas, followed by a double and a hit-by-pitch.
Philadelphia’s bullpen, once considered a strength throughout the season, faltered at the worst possible time. Gregory Soto, Kerkering, Kimbrel, and José Alvarado combined to throw strikes on only 25 of 54 pitches, allowing four runs over the final innings. Their inability to find the strike zone and maintain control proved disastrous for the Phillies.
As the series heads into Game 5, the Phillies find themselves scrambling for solutions in the late innings. The once-reliable relievers have lost their touch, leaving the team in a vulnerable position. The pressure now falls on the coaching staff to regroup and make the necessary adjustments to prevent such collapses in the future. With the series tied, Game 6 in Philadelphia will be a do-or-die situation, putting the Phillies’ season on the line.
The Phillies’ bullpen’s collapse in Game 4 of the NLCS was a night to forget. They let slip a commanding lead, and their inability to handle the pressure and execute effectively cost them the game. It serves as a reminder that no matter how talented a team may be, a lack of composure and execution can lead to heartbreaking defeats. As the series continues, it remains to be seen if the Phillies can overcome this setback and regain control of the series.