The final Phillie getting some blame for the team's shocking fall from grace is manager Rob Thomson. It may seem unfair to play the blame game with someone who can't step on the field, but being the skipper means wearing the defeats when they happen.
At one point in the playoffs, "Topper" could do no wrong. Think back to Game 1 of the NLDS against the Braves when, to everyone's surprise, he removed Ranger Suárez after just 3 2/3 of spectacular pitching. Thomson looked like a genius, however, as reliever after reliever trotted out of the Phillies' bullpen and combined to shut out the best regular-season offense.
But by Game 7 of the NLCS, some of the shine had worn off. Stemming from questions around Thomson's use of Craig Kimbrel on back-to-back days in Games 3 and 4 when the closer clearly didn't have his usual stuff, there was plenty of second-guessing going on as the Phillies' once promising series lead evaporated before our eyes.
The biggest question mark came in the fifth inning. With two out and a runner on second and Corbin Carroll due up, most observers figured that Suárez's time had come. Sure, he had just fanned Ketel Marte, who up until Game 7 had been the Diamondbacks hottest hitter, but Carroll was seeing the Phillies starter well on Tuesday.
The soon-to-be-named Rookie of the Year had already collected two hits off the left-hander, but Thomson left Suárez pitch. While there was a slight statistical advantage to letting Carroll face a lefty (.283/.339/.382 vs. LHP compared to .286/.369/.552 vs. RHP), rather than bringing in the warming righty Jeff Hoffman, any other left-hander would have been preferable after watching Carroll's first two at-bats against Suárez.
Carroll got to the southpaw for a third time, lacing a 109.7 mph groundball up the middle to drive in the tying run. It was then that Thomason emerged to pull his starter. Unfortunately, it was a little too late. Carroll would steal second and score the winning run on Gabriel Moreno's single.
Thomson said all the right things following his team's elimination, but there's a good chance he'll be thinking about that Carroll at-bat for while.