The Philadelphia Phillies had everything lined up for a Game 6 clinch of the National League Championship Series. Momentum was back in their favor after a big Game 5 win in Arizona. The home crowd was riled up before the first pitch. They had Aaron Nola on the mound.
But it wasn't in the cards for the Phillies on Monday night.
With Citizens Bank Park ready to explode, Aaron Nola gave them something to cheer about early. The joyful atmosphere wouldn't last as the Arizona Diamondbacks poured cold water all over the Phillies and their plans of advancing to the World Series with a convincing 5-1 victory in Game 6 of the NLCS.
Nola was sharp early, striking out three in the top of the first inning around a Gabriel Moreno single, and the Philadelphia fans had The Bank rocking.
With the volume turned up early, Diamondbacks' starter Merrill Kelly might as well have issued an intentional walk to Phillies' lead-off hitter Kyle Schwarber, pitching around him and not wanting anything to do with the sizzling slugger. After a walk to Harper, neither Alec Bohm nor Bryson Stott could get the Phillies on the board.
Nola's second inning was the complete opposite of his first frame. His home run problem from the regular season reared its ugly head. He gave up back-to-back solo homers to Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Then, to make things worse, Longoria doubled in the speedy Alek Thomas, who scored from first after a walk.
After the game, manager Rob Thomson confirmed nothing was physically wrong with Nola, calling the outing "strange."
"The second inning he just, you know," Thomson said, seemingly befuddled by Nola's performance. "The breaking ball to Pham [was] maybe a little bit of a hanger. The home run to Gurriel, they wanted to go up a little bit higher than that and he couldn't get it there. So didn't execute some pitches and he paid for it."
Suddenly, you could hear a pin drop.
Down 3-0, the Phillies showed some life in their half of the second. After J.T. Realmuto ripped a double, Brandon Marsh brought him around with a single, and the Phillies had a fighter's chance, however short-lived.
Kelly settled in, keeping Phillies hitters off balance and guessing as he masterfully painted the edges of the zone through the next three innings. Shockingly, Arizona manager Torey Lovullo pulled a furious Kelly after five innings. The veteran finished the night allowing just one run on three hits, striking out eight and walking three.
Nola wasn't so lucky. The Phillies starter, who had been so good through the postseason, was knocked out with one out in the fifth by a Ketel Marte RBI triple that made it 4-1. His final line was the ugliest of his 2023 playoffs, going 4 1/3, giving up four runs on six hits, striking out four with two walks.
Lorenzen finished the fifth out of the Phillies bullpen and pitched a clean sixth, giving the bats a chance to get back in this one, but it wasn't to be. The lineup didn't have any juice to mount a comeback, being foiled by the Diamondbacks bullpen over the final four frames.
Orion Kerkering surrendered a run in the seventh to extend the Diamondbacks' lead to 5-1, and that's all she wrote. Even much-maligned reliever Craig Kimbrel made an appearance, welcomed by boos from the home fans, and did his job in the eighth.
The Phillies could only muster six hits on the night and struck out 10 times, not exactly a recipe for success, especially when none of their six hits left the park.
So now, after failing to get the job done in Game 6 with a listless performance, the Phillies will have to bounce back on Tuesday in a deciding Game 7.