MLB playoffs 2023: Phillies' bats wake up, Zack Wheeler pitches another gem in NLCS Game 5 win over Diamondbacks

The Phillies are up 3-2 and headed home to Philly with a chance to clinch a spot in the World Series

On Saturday in NLCS Game 5, the Phillies got exactly what they needed from ace Zack Wheeler, along with some big hits from the power bats, to head back to Philadelphia one win away from back-to-back trips to the World Series.

Philadelphia Phillies at Arizona Diamondbacks, NLCS Game 5: Phillies 6, D-backs 1 (Philly leads 3-2)

Game summary:

A series-tied Game 5 can always be a career-defining night for a pitcher, but Wheeler also took the mound with the Phillies bullpen gassed from back-to-back losses in Games 3 and 4. Four relievers — Jeff Hoffman, Orion Kerkering, Craig Kimbrel and Jose Alvarado — pitched in both of those games, and Phillies manager Rob Thomson doesn’t like using relievers three days in a row.

Wheeler made it as small of an issue as he could. The right-hander, whose five-year, $118 million contract has been one of the best values in recent baseball history, held down the D-backs’ scrappy offense for seven innings. He didn’t surrender a run until the seventh, when Game 4 hero Alek Thomas clubbed a solo homer.

Wheeler finished with six hits, one earned run, one walk and eight strikeouts in his seven innings, throwing 99 pitches. He lowered his career postseason ERA to 2.48 in 61⅔ innings.

Zack Wheeler headshot
Zack Wheeler
SP - PHI - #45
10/21/2023 v. ARI

There might be a lot of contenders for NLCS MVP if the Phillies close this out, but Wheeler's performance Saturday combined with what he did in Game 1 — six innings, two earned runs, eight strikeouts — figures to make him a top contender. No other pitcher this postseason comes close to his 26 innings pitched through four starts.

Following Wheeler, Hoffman pitched yet again, throwing a scoreless eighth inning, then was followed by Seranthony Dominguez and Matt Strahm to finish the ninth.

On the offensive side, the Phillies did what they have done for most of this postseason: hit early and hit often.

Key moment:

The Phillies scored in the first inning in their wins in Games 1 and 2 and got back into the habit Saturday. Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper both reached base with singles, and then Bryson Stott drove in Schwarber to get his team on the board.

Harper proceeded to steal home on a double steal — in a play that ended ugly. An errant throw led to D-backs catcher Gabriel Moreno, who has left games due to injury twice this postseason, falling in Harper’s path and taking a brutal hit.

Moreno, fortunately, managed to stay in the game. And the Phillies were up 2-0.

Impact player:

Schwarber’s contributions weren’t limited to that first-inning run.

Kyle Schwarber headshot
Kyle Schwarber
DH - PHI - #12
10/21/2023 v. ARI

The Phillies’ slugging leadoff hitter did what he does best in the sixth inning, clobbering an unholy missile off the D-backs' Cy Young contender to bump the lead to 3-0. Statcast tracked the homer’s distance as 461 feet, which bears out when you see the video.

That homer ups Schwarber’s career postseason total to 20, moving him into a tie with Derek Jeter for fourth in MLB history. Only Manny Ramirez, Jose Altuve and Bernie Williams have more career playoff homers.

Not to be outdone, Harper followed two batters later with his own gargantuan homer, measured at 441 feet.

Finally, J.T. Realmuto provided the knockout blow with a two-run homer in the eighth that sealed the 6-1 win.

What’s next?

The teams travel back to Philly for Game 6, which begins at 2:07 p.m. ET Monday. Just like in Game 2 of this series, it’ll be Aaron Nola for the Phillies against Merrill Kelly for the Diamondbacks.

With a win, the Phillies can end this NLCS and punch their ticket to a second straight World Series.