PHOENIX — The Phillies had exactly the man they needed on the mound Saturday night, and they never looked back in Game 5 of the NLCS after scoring two hits for Zack Wheeler before his first pitch of the night.
As for Zac Gallen? He’s probably seen enough of Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper.
The Phillies won 6-1 to save one of their three games in Arizona and return to Philly with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series. They will have two chances at home on Monday and Tuesday (if necessary) to advance to their second straight World Series.
Schwarber and Harper hit a 905-foot solo home run in the top of the sixth to double the Phillies’ lead. They each took Gallen deep in the first inning of Game 1 and did the same in the sixth inning of Game 5. Gallen struck out a career-low single hitter. He’s a Cy Young candidate, but he hasn’t fooled the Phillies’ left-handed hitters.
The Schwarber-Harper duo was also responsible for two Phillies runs in the first inning, as they singled to put runners on the corners with one out. After an Alec Bohm error, Bryson Stott delivered a huge RBI single.
The next batter was JT Realmuto, who was also hitting runners on the corners. With Realmuto down 0-2 in the count, the Phillies tested Arizona’s defense and broke Stott to second. As soon as D-backs catcher Gabriel Moreno made his throw, Stott froze and Harper took off from third, overcoming an errant throw to slide in safely for the Phillies’ first postseason steal of home. He didn’t have much room to move around Moreno and his fist/forearm ended up making contact with Moreno’s face. Harper stuck around to check on the catcher as Arizona’s coaches took care of him for a few minutes.
Schwarber and Harper are now tied with Jason Werth for the most home runs in Phillies playoff history with 11. Schwarber’s 20 postseason home runs are also the most ever by a left-handed hitter.
Realmuto joined the home run party with a double blast to left field in the eighth inning, breaking a streak of 16 straight singles hit by the Phillies. The two extra runs were huge in allowing the Phillies to use fewer relievers for playoff purposes in the final two innings.
Wheeler was not as sharp as he had been in his previous three postseason games, allowing stronger than usual contact but avoiding damage until Alec Thomas’s solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. Wheeler went seven, allowing just one run and striking out eight. He threw 99 pitches.
In 10 playoff games, Wheeler’s opponents hit .164/.211/.256. That’s 232 hitters with the equivalent of a pitcher’s slash.
Wheeler’s length has been pivotal for the Phillies after they used their bullpen to cover 8⅔ innings in the last two games. Manager Rob Thompson knew he needed to move away from Craig Kimbrel and Orion Kerkering, which reduced his right-handed picks. Jose Alvarado also appeared in back-to-back games and was warming up at one point in the seventh inning but the Phils were able to get away from him.
Jeff Hoffman, Seranthony Dominguez and Matt Strahm were used only after Wheeler to shut it out, with Strahm facing one batter. With Sunday off, the entire bullpen should be available for Game 6.
Every playoff game has to be won, Realmuto said Friday, and the Phils needed this one. Now, the D-backs will need to beat them twice at Citizens Bank Park, where the Phils are 6-0 in the postseason and own the best home run record in MLB playoff history at 28-11.
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