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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Diamondbacks dash Phillies’ World Series dreams with 4-2 win in Game 7

Arizona closer Paul Sewald celebrates with teammates after beating the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 in Game Seven of the Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 24, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Getty Images)
By Scott Lauber Philadelphia inquirer

PHILADELPHIA – As the bottom of the sixth inning started Tuesday night, another jampacked Red October crowd rose to its feet and, in accordance with a seasonlong custom, sang in unison with the chorus to Bryson Stott’s walk-up song.

“I know I’ll be A-O, A-OK.”

“I know I’ll be A-O, A-OK.”

The patrons at Citizens Bank Park knew better. The Phillies were anything but A-OK. They were actually in serious trouble, improbably trailing the underdog Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series and down to their last 12 outs.

One inning later, still losing and with eight outs to play with, they had 630 million reasons to believe. But both Trea Turner and Bryce Harper – the $300 and $330 million stars on a star-studded team – flew out to center field with the tying run on base.

A-OK? More like AWOL in the first Game 7 in club history, a shocking 4-2 loss that ended the Phillies’ season one victory shy of defending the pennant that they won 366 days earlier and returning to the World Series.

Instead, it’ll be the Diamondbacks – an 84-win team that backed into a wild-card spot on the second-to-last day of the season – who represent the NL against the Texas Rangers in the 119th World Series beginning Friday night.

The final out was recorded at 11:22 p.m. Eastern. Jake Cave, of all people, came up as a pinch-hitter and lofted a fly ball that landed in right fielder Corbin Carroll’s mitt. And as the Diamondbacks celebrated around closer Paul Sewald and a stage was set up on the infield for the presentation of the NL championship trophy, the crowd of 45,397 stood silent and shocked before filing out to the gates.

How did it come to this? The Phillies will likely be asking that question until they reconvene for spring training four months from now in Clearwater, Florida.

The Phillies romped through the first two games of the series. They grabbed a 5-3 victory in Game 1 and a 10-0 rout in Game 2 and headed to Phoenix with visions of a pennant-clinching celebration in the pool beyond the right-field fence at Chase Field.

Instead, the Diamondbacks evened the series with back-to-back wins. Even then, the Phillies won Game 5 and had two chances to wrap up the pennant at home, where they lost back-to-back games to the same opponent only six times all season.

But they were flat in a 5-1 Game 6 loss and unable to rally in the last five innings of Game 7. Their previously unstoppable offense went away with a whimper, mustering a total of 11 hits in the last two games.

Because every postseason game, especially the losses, tends to be a referendum on the manager, let’s do this now.

The good: Rob Thomson stuck with Alec Bohm in the cleanup spot behind Harper, and well, it paid off. Bohm swatted a leadoff homer in the second inning, then walked and scored from first base on Stott’s gap-splitting double in the fourth.

The bad: Thomson allowed starter Ranger Suárez to face Arizona rookie stud Corbin Carroll not once, not twice, but three times. The third resulted in a single that tied the game, with Carroll stealing second and scoring the go-ahead run on Gabriel Moreno’s single off reliever Jeff Hoffman.

But the series never figured to unravel on Thomson’s bullpen mix-and-match, and if we’re being real, it didn’t. It came apart because the Diamondbacks were smart and careful with how they pitched to Kyle Schwarber and Harper, and the Phillies’ other big-money hitters did this:

•Turner: 0 for 12 in Games 5, 6, and 7.

•Nick Castellanos: 0 for 23, 11 strikeouts after a Game 1 homer.

•J.T. Realmuto: 4 for 19 after Game 2.

As a team, the Phillies had one extra-base hit in Game 6 and two in Game 7, none by Harper, Schwarber, Turner, or their other big-money boppers.

With the game on the line in the seventh inning, Turner waved at back-to-back sliders to fall behind in the count against Diamondbacks reliever Kevin Ginkel before flying out.