Leading 4-2 with two outs in the ninth, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Victor Arano struck out the St. Louis Cardinals’ Yairo Munoz to end the game. Or, it at least should’ve ended the game. The pitch got by Andrew Knapp, allowing Munoz to reach, while a run scored and another runner advanced to third base.
The Cardinals would then tie the game on a Kolten Wong RBI single, and took the lead in the 10th inning on a Tommy Pham homer. So St. Louis took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the 10th, and the Phillies had a runner on second base with one out when Carlos Santana stepped to the dish to face Matt Bowman.
Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny elected to intentionally walk Santana to set up a double play against Jesmuel Valentin. Santana is a much more dangerous threat than Valentin, but it’s putting the winning run on base when you (the Cardinals) already have a lead. As long as Santana doesn’t homer, you’re at worst tied. But after putting the winning on base, it’s likely just going to take a double for the Phillies to win the game.
Well, Valentin struck out, but the Cardinals still had to get one more out with two on and Aaron Altherr at the plate. Altherr cranked a sinking line drive into left field that Marcell Ozuna read terribly and whiffed on a diving attempt, allowing the Phillies to score two to win the game.
Ozuna should’ve gotten a better read on this ball, and definitely shouldn’t have gone with the all-in dive with how short he came up. Keep the ball in front of you and the game is still going on.
But that’s of course secondary to Matheny’s decision to put the winning run on base, when they already had the lead. Again, Santana is indeed a dangerous threat (a career .248/.364/.444 hitter), but it’s not like we’re talking about Mike Trout or Mookie Betts here. According to the FanGraphs’ win probability chart, the Phillies’ odds of winning the game went up from 28.5% to 33.9% after Santana was intentionally walked.
Maybe Santana hits a home run or reaches base anyway, but just putting him on base wasn’t the optimal decision in this spot.
But the Phillies certainly appreciate Matheny’s decision, and find themselves with a three-game winning streak and 38-32 record on the season (three games back in the NL East and NL WC races).
[NBC Sports Philadelphia]