Phillies end 11-year playoff drought as Aaron Nola flirts with perfect game

Aaron Nola wasn't perfect on Monday. But he was close enough in a playoff-clincher for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Nola pitched 6.2 perfect innings before Yordan Alvarez spoiled the party with a single in the seventh. He settled for a nine-strikeout, two-hit effort in a 3-0 win over the Houston Astros that clinched a wild-card berth for the Phillies. Kyle Schwarber's leadoff home run turned out to be all the scoring Philadelphia needed on Monday.

The clincher ends an 11-season playoff drought for the Phillies, who were postseason mainstays during their last appearance in 2011. That trip to the playoffs capped a five-year postseason run in Philadelphia that included a World Series championship in 2008. The Phillies celebrated the moment on Monday as MLB teams are wont to do — with a champagne shower in the clubhouse.

Monday's win caps a remarkable regular-season turnaround that saw the Phillies rally from a 22-29 start and the midseason firing of manager Joe Girardi in June. The Phillies replaced Girardi with interim manager Rob Thomson and have since posted a 65-44 record. But they didn't make it easy in September while losing 10 games in a 14-game September stretch before winning four out of their last five games.

The good news for the Phillies was bad news for the Milwaukee Brewers, who were eliminated from the postseason when Philadelphia clinched MLB's final unclaimed postseason berth. The Phillies will travel on Friday to face either the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets or Atlanta Braves in a best-of-three series in MLB's new 12-team playoff format.

Philadelphia Phillies' Aaron Nola, center, celebrates with teammates after the Phillies won a baseball game against the Houston Astros to clinch a wild-card playoff spot, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Aaron Nola took a beer bath after his shutout effort clinched a playoff berth for the Phillies. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)