Zack Wheeler dominated, the offense came up with some timely hits, and the bullpen recorded the final seven outs to move within one win of a must-see NLDS rematch against the Atlanta Braves.

Crazy game.

One moment, you felt like the Phillies could be up five or six runs. The next, you were holding your breath as the Marlins brought the tying or go-ahead run to plate in both the seventh and eighth innings.

That’s the beauty of postseason baseball, I guess. Let’s just hope it sticks around the rest of the month.

Time to jump right into some instant observations from the Phillies’ 4-1 Game 1 win over the Marlins.

Wheeler Does It Again

Zack Wheeler wasn’t fucking around tonight. The man was pumped up from the start:

After a spectacular 2022 postseason, Wheeler began his October encore by blowing the doors off Marlins hitters for six-plus innings, allowing just one earned run on five hits. He struck out eight without issuing a walk.

He leaned on his four-seam fastball and sinker a combined total of 63 pitches to set up an effective sweeper that was the finisher on six of his eight strikeouts. In fact, it generated whiffs on 8 of the Marlins’ 12 swings against it:

Just how good was Wheeler? He retired the side in order in five of the first six innings. He didn’t even allow a runner to reach scoring position until there was one away in the seventh inning. He likely would have pitched seven scoreless had Bryce Harper not wandered too far away from the first base bag on a should-have-been groundout to Bryson Stott.

As good as Wheeler was, his performance probably should have been expected.

In 42 career postseason innings, Wheeler now has a 2.55 ERA with a 0.73 WHIP. In those 42 1/3 innings, he has struck out 41 batters while allowing just 24 hits and seven walks.

Wheeler is already one of the Phillies’ best all-time free agent signings. A couple more postseason starts like this one, and I’m not sure it’s ridiculous to suggest he’s one of the best pitchers to ever put on a Phillies uniform. He has been that good.

Execute, Refocus, Do It Again

Also nasty, Jose Alvarado. He mixed his sinker and cutter to record three key outs, none bigger than a strikeout of pinch-hitter Yuli Gurriel with the potential game-tying runs in scoring position in the seventh:

Perhaps just as impressive, Alvarado, who pounded the strike zone on 12 of 17 pitches, was able to come down from that high in between innings, refocus, and record two more outs before giving way to Jeff Hoffman, who recorded the final out of the eighth.

You know who that looked like tonight? That looked like the Jose Alvarado that was nearly unhittable down the stretch last season (I know, the World Series). The Phillies will need that guy as long as they’re playing this month.

The Noise Was Real, And It Was Spectacular

If you’re a miserable person, and you haven’t been to Citizens Bank Park during these recent postseason runs, you might be wondering if all this Red October/fan impact stuff is getting played up a little bit too much.

It can’t be that loud, can it?

I don’t want to turn this into an Eagles/Phillies or Citizens Bank Park/Lincoln Financial Field thing, but I’ve been a guy 10 beers in screaming on third downs. I’m just not sure there’s anything like the energy in this stadium during the month of October — and I say that sans 10 beers, or any beers, for that matter.

Either way, it sure as hell looked like the Marlins were intimidated by the capacity crowd at Citizens Bank Park, at least early on. It was hard to blame them. Those guys had to feel like they were playing a different sport Tuesday night.

During pregame introductions at 7:41 pm – 27 minutes before first pitch – fans were just crushing the Marlins. They were losing it for the Phillies.

At the very least, the Marlins had to stand on the field for more than 10 minutes and listen to the crowd lose it for the Phillies. It couldn’t be lost upon the Marlins that Phillies team trainers and their backup catcher were getting louder cheers than any of them received during an 84-win season.

That’s not a shot at Miami. It’s also not pandering to Phillies fans. It was just that loud.

It’s Your Moment, Rhys

It wasn’t a Kelce, Taylor Swift, or any of the other names speculated, but the Phillies got the Game 1 first pitch right. Rhys Hoskins took the field to a raucous ovation, giving him a great moment during a season in which he missed out on many of them. His emotion and appreciation were obvious:

All Is Well That Ends Well, But…

You couldn’t have dreamt of a better start for the Phillies. Excellent defense, a pumped up Zack Wheeler ripping 99 mph fastballs, and an immediate scoring opportunity in front of 45,662 fans foaming at the mouth.

That’s what made the Phillies’ first-inning miss so frustrating. You felt like they had Marlins starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo immediately all fucked up, but they couldn’t take advantage.

We can’t talk about the first inning without getting into Dusty Wathan’s decision to hold Kyle Schwarber at third on Alec Bohm’s flyout.

Two things I’ll note in his defense:

  1. He probably knew Luzardo was fighting it a bit and didn’t want to run the Phillies out of an inning — especially with Bryce Harper on deck. If Schwarber gets thrown out, it’s an instant buzzkill. The decision is the decision – if you didn’t like it, you better not have liked it as the ball was sailing through the air off Bohm’s bat. You can’t criticize the decision because Harper and J.T. Realmuto subsequently failed to execute.
  2. The throw was up the line, but Jesús Sánchez has a strong arm. It would have been a pure gamble.

That said, if you’re on the other side of this debate, here’s something you can use when you bitch to all of your friends about it: Harper entered the night 1-for-9 with five strikeouts in his career against Luzardo.

It wasn’t like it was a foregone conclusion Harper was going to make playable contact that would get Schwarber home.

Now, let’s address Wathan’s second key decision, one that resulted in Jazz Chisholm nailing Nick Castellanos at the plate on Bryson Stott’s single –

I didn’t love it, much for the same reason I didn’t hate the first-inning hold.

Again, Luzardo was on the ropes, this time after surrendering three straight hits. It took a perfect throw by Chisholm, so it’s not like it was some egregious send. It just felt like the inning was spiraling on Luzardo and the decision helped get him out of it with just three runs on the board.

As for Castellanos’ RBI double that made in 4-1 in the eighth inning, I’m not sure what Wathan saw on that one, but it sure seemed like Harper had seen enough. He blew right through the stop sign and scored easily.

Up two runs with Bryson Stott on deck against a left-hander, it was the perfect time to gamble. Good thing Harper thought so.

It’s the Whole Team!

Every Phillies starting position player recorded a hit in Game 1.

It’s a great sign. It’s a testament to the overall depth of the lineup and the continued production the Phillies have gotten from the bottom of the order this season.

Relatedly, just crazy impressive stuff by Johan Rojas in his first-career postseason plate appearance.

The 23-year-old worked a nine-pitch at-bat before singling to left field and swiping second base. Three batters later, he was across home plate and back into the dugout after scoring the first run of the night.

By the way, about that first run.

How fitting is that it was Bohm who broke the Phillies’ 0-for-5 start to the night with runners in scoring position? How fitting is it that the hit came with two outs? All Bohm did was hit .344 with runners in scoring position this season and .321 with two outs and runners in scoring position. He’s come through in big moments so many times this season, and he got things rolling tonight.

Asleep at the Wheel?

Marlins manager Skip Schumaker did a great job getting the Marlins into the postseason, but I’m not sure what he was doing during the bottom of the fourth inning.

After a leadoff single by J.T. Realmuto, a double by Castellanos, and a single by Stott that gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead, you figured he would go get his starter. Luzardo was nearing 80 pitches and had a runner at third with one out.

Maybe Schumaker didn’t want to go to a right-hander against Cristian Pache and have the Phillies counter with Brandon Marsh. Cool. Makes sense, except he had four left-handers in his bullpen.

Instead, Pache got Luzardo with an RBI single that gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead. Strange stuff.

An Instant Playoff Payoff

It didn’t take long for Rob Thomson’s decision to start Pache in left field to pay off.

Luis Arraez led off the game with a 103.1 mph sinking liner to left field that carried a .740 expected batting average. Pache caught it belt-high without breaking stride.

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