Jean Segura lifts Phillies to improbable comeback victory against Cardinals

Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Jean Segura (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)
Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Jean Segura (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports) /

Behind Jean Segura, the Phillies stunned the Cardinals to take a 1-0 Wild Card Series lead.

Exactly 11 years ago, the best season in Philadelphia Phillies franchise history ended with heartbreak after a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.

After waiting more than 4,000 days to play in their next postseason game, the Phillies completed an improbable, historic comeback against the same team — in large part thanks to Jean Segura — to win Friday’s Wild Card Series opener, 6-3, at Busch Stadium.

Phillies ace Zack Wheeler and Cardinals southpaw José Quintana dueled neck-and-neck through the first half of the game — reminiscent of the classic Roy Halladay-Chris Carpenter Game 5 postseason pitcher’s duel. Wheeler wound up tossing 6 1/3 scoreless innings on 96 pitches — recording three more outs than Quintana’s 5 1/3 scoreless innings effort.

After Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson walked with one out in the seventh, Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson turned to the hard-throwing  José Alvarado. On his very first pitch opposite Cardinals pinch-hitter Juan Yepez, Alvarado surrendered a two-run home run that snuck inside the left-field foul pole — the left-hander’s first runs allowed since August 23.

The Phillies had an opportunity to score the game’s first run two innings prior when Alec Bohm led off the fifth with a double — the franchise’s first postseason extra-base hit since Shane Victorino. Segura and Bryson Stott went on to ground out, followed by Matt Vierling flying out — stranding Bohm on third base.

Segura would make up for the missed opportunity in a big way in the top of the ninth against Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley — with the Phillies’ season seemingly on life support, not to mention scoreless in their last 18 postseason innings dating back to Game 4 of the 2011 NLDS.

Trailing 2-0, Rhys Hoskins started the frame by striking out swinging. J.T. Realmuto followed with a single, preceding Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos each walking to load the bases. Then, on a 1-1 count, Bohm was hit by a Helsley 100-plus miles per hour fastball, cutting the Phillies’ deficit in half.

Helsley was replaced with Cardinals rookie right-hander Andre Pallante. Segura entered the batter’s box and came through with the most important Phillies hit of the past decade — a two-run single on a ground ball to right field, putting them ahead, 3-2.

The Phillies would add three more insurance runs, giving Zach Eflin ample breathing room to record the final three outs in the ninth and secure the 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.

Entering the game, the Cardinals were 93-0 in their postseason history when leading by two or more runs entering the ninth inning. The Phillies worsened that record to 93-1 with their historic comeback, and made some history of their own:

As The Athletic’s Jayson Stark notes, the Phillies trailed in the ninth of a postseason game and came back to win for the first time since Jimmy Rollins’ clutch, game-winning hit in Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS.

Lost in the thrilling victory is David Robertson keeping the Cardinals offense silent in the eighth inning, setting up the record-setting top of the ninth. Robertson struck out two batters to deservingly earn the winning decision — improving his career postseason record to a perfect 6-0.

Saturday night, the Phillies will look to advance to the National League Division Series behind Aaron Nola. He will oppose fellow right-hander Miles Mikolas.

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