ST. LOUIS — Normally, if the Phillies came to Busch Stadium for a four-game series and left with a split, they would consider it a successful trip.
But under the circumstances, well, what a wasted opportunity.
The Phillies shut out the Cardinals in the first two games, and even after losing a two-point lead on Sunday, they had Aaron Nola in line to deliver a gem in Monday night’s Finals. Instead, Nola was knocked down by the bottom half of the St. Louis lineup in a 6-1 thrashing on a scorching night near Gateway Arch.
Two steps forward, two steps back.
There was a silver lining for the Phillies amid the 99-degree heat. Third baseman Alec Bohm’s left ring finger was dislocated, not broken as he feared after he slid headfirst into second base on the second inning.
READ MORE: JT Realmuto, Alec Bohm among four Phillies eliminated against Toronto Blue Jays due to vax status
“Very relieved,” said Bohm, who was filmed telling a coach as they walked off the pitch that he thought his finger was broken. “When you look down and see what I saw, your mind starts thinking really bad things, right? So I’m very relieved.
What Bohm said he saw was his ring finger bent grotesquely towards his little finger. It is not known if he will have to appear on the injured list. It may depend on pain tolerance.
But Bohm is also among four Phillies players who were unable to travel with the team to Toronto for this week’s two-game series because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. He will meet the team on Friday in Miami instead, and his availability will likely be determined at that time.
The Phillies scored a total of seven points in four games and left town in the same position they came in – tied with the Cardinals for the last National League playoff spot. They are already without Bryce Harper (broken left thumb) and Jean Segura (broken right index finger). Losing Bohm would have been another blow.
So, the Phillies pushed a collective exhale when the X-rays came back negative. The doctors put his finger back in place and put a splint on him to allow him to move it.
“It’s just about range of motion now and pain management,” Bohm said. “I think it’s kind of a thing that will be said over time. But it’s definitely the best-case scenario given the circumstances.
The best-case scenario for the Phillies would have been to leave town with a two-game lead in the standings. They still won the season series with the Cardinals, which would give them the tiebreaker if they were deadlocked in the hunt for a playoff berth. But they could have had more.
“It’s really disappointing [after] start the series 2-0,” said receiver JT Realmuto. “Even after losing [Sunday], we were convinced that we were going to win the series. It’s hard to lose two games in a row, but they’re a good team there. It will happen.
Nola went through four innings but allowed three runs in a 29-pitch fifth, in which he didn’t even have to face Cardinals MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt. Nola gave up back-to-back RBI hits to batters who entered the game with .183, .179 and .178.
Corey Dickerson hopped on a change for an RBI single before Edmundo Sosa landed a two-hit curve ball low and wide and hooked it to left field for a double RBI. Andrew Knizner followed with an RBI single to open a 3-1 lead.
Nola suggested he may have escaped the fastball in the fifth inning.
“Maybe I did,” he said. “I felt like I used him a bit the first four. I just wanted to change things up a bit, show them a bit different part of the arsenal. But I threw in a few hangers.
It was the first time Nola had given up more than four runs in a start since June 1 and lowered his ERA from 3.15 to 3.35. It was also his third loss in his last four decisions, with one scheduled start remaining before the All-Star break (Sunday at Miami).
The Cardinals held Nick Castellanos to four hits — all on singles — in the series. He struck out twice and got into a double play against Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas before lining up a single in the ninth inning.
But this is nothing new. Castellanos has a total of two extra hits (one double, one home run) in 92 plate appearances in his last 22 games. He has had a circuit since May 31.
Of the 152 players who qualify for the batting title in either league, Castellanos ranks 121st with a .376 hitting percentage.
Rhys Hoskins went deep into the third deck of left field — “Big Mac Land,” as it is called at Busch Stadium in honor of Mark McGwire — in the first inning. It was his 18th home run of the season.
It also brought to mind something Schwarber said on Sunday. In the list of teammates he thought deserved stardom, he mentioned Hoskins in the same breath as Zack Wheeler, Nola and Seranthony Domínguez.
A case could be made for Hoskins, who entered Monday night with an .829 base plus slugging. But a slow start – combined with a loaded group of NL first basemen including Goldschmidt, Pete Alonso (Mets), CJ Cron (Rockies), Freddie Freeman (Dodgers), Matt Olson (Braves) and Josh Bell (Nationals) – makes him a long shot.