Tuesday, March 21 2023

HOUSTON — Rob Thomson pushed almost every proper button in guiding the Philadelphia Phillies from 22-29 to National League champions, and himself from interim caretaker to permanent manager.

But their hopes of a World Series championship dissipated shortly after arguably the toughest call he’s had to make as the Phillies’ leader.

With Zack Wheeler just 73 pitches deep into a dominant start, but runners at the corners in the bottom of the sixth inning of Saturday night’s Game 6, Thomson decided his ace had enough.

Soon, the Phillies’ season would elapse, too, and Thomson will have to live with knowing baseball’s best underdog story succumbed with their best pitcher yanked from the game.

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Reliever Jose Alvarado gave up a titanic 450-foot, three-run home run to Houston Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez, erasing a one-run lead and catapulting the Astros to a 4-1, Game 6 victory and a World Series title.

Houston’s 4-2 Series conquest was never easy, as the Astros trailed it 2-1 after three games; even after seizing a 3-2 lead with two wins in Philadelphia they found themselves locked in a taut Game 6 duel with Wheeler and Astros starter Framber Valdez putting up zeroes into the sixth.

Zack Wheeler comes out of the game in the sixth inning.Zack Wheeler comes out of the game in the sixth inning.

Zack Wheeler comes out of the game in the sixth inning.

Then, Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber struck for a solo homer leading off the sixth inning, and dreams of a Sunday Game 7 were palpable. But in the bottom half, Wheeler’s pitch grazed No. 9 batter Martin Maldonado and, after a fielder’s choice, gave up a single to World Series MVP Jeremy Peña.

Decision time: Slumping slugger Alvarez vs. Wheeler, whose velocity was back up to 98 mph after sagging to 95 mph in Game 2? Or Alvarado, who let three inherited runners score in a similar spot in Game 4.

“Win-or-go-home right there,” Wheeler told reporters. “It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s ultimately Rob’s call and that’s the call he made.”

One that “caught me off guard a bit,” Wheeler acknowledged.

Thomson wasn’t surprised Wheeler was taken aback, competitive juices and all. The rookie manager tried to stay pragmatic with the season in jeopardy.

“He had his good stuff,” says Thomson of Wheeler. “I just thought that was a key moment in the game and that Alvarado had a chance to strike him out.”

No such luck. Alvarado grooved a 2-1 pitch that Alvarado drilled above the batter’s eye in center field. It was a 3-1 game, soon to be 4-1.

“You know, man,” Alvarado told reporters, “sometimes I win it, sometimes I take my hat off for the hitter. That’s the game.”

Doesn’t Thomson know. The veteran bench coach had already seen it all when he was tabbed to take over for Girardi. Perhaps he makes that decision this year, next year and five years from now.

One bad pitch ensured his first year ended sourly, though it can’t take away from the progress he and the franchise made.

“I’ll probably take a couple weeks to reflect on that, but I think just the fact that I can sort of handle this process, handle this routine, that I wasn’t really used to,” says Thomson. “Right now, that’s probably the thing that stands out the most because that’s what I was worried about the most going into it.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Phillies manager Rob Thomson’s decision backfires in World Series loss

Source: Yahoo Sports


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