Phillies clinch NL wild-card berth, head to postseason for second straight year

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola acknowledges the crowd after being pulled during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

By DAN GELSTON AP Sports Writer

The National League champion Philadelphia Phillies clinched a wild-card berth, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 in 10 innings on Tuesday night on Johan Rojas’ RBI single that set off a wild celebration in the outfield.

Rojas’ single off Pirates reliever David Bednar (3-3) scored pinch-runner Cristian Pache and sent the crowd of more than 30,000 fans into a frenzy. “Phillies CLINCHED Wild Card” flashed on the scoreboard and the Phillies mobbed each other in celebration.

Jeff Hoffman (5-2) tossed a scoreless 10th for the win.

The Phillies were set for another wild clubhouse bash after clinching series victories in the NL Division Series and NLCS at home last season. They lost the World Series to Houston in six games last year and carried the weight of unfinished business into this year.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Brandon Marsh reacts after hitting a home run against Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Mitch Keller during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Philadelphia.AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Step 1, complete.

Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds hit a solo shot in the seventh and Henry Davis hit one off All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel that tied the game at 2 in the eighth.

Brandon Marsh homered for the Phillies.

Phillies starter Aaron Nola, Philadelphia’s longest-tenured player, had earned the win in last season’s wild-card clincher against Houston. Nola struck out Ji Hwan Bae in the sixth of this one to reach 200 strikeouts for the third straight season. Nola, set to enter free agency at the end of the season, tipped his cap as he walked off the mound to a standing ovation after he fanned eight in 6 2/3 innings.

The Phillies celebrated their first clinch of a postseason spot at Citizens Bank Park since Sept. 18, 2011, when they won their fifth straight NL East title.

A decade of lean years followed, but Bryce Harper’s celebrated arrival in 2019 helped usher in excitement, enthusiasm for the future and eventually the postseason. The Phillies added free-agent shortstop Trea Turner this season and his second-half surge propelled the Phillies to the wild card.

They are poised to earn the No. 1 seed and host all games next week in the second year of the NL wild-card series.

Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott, right, throws to first after forcing out Pittsburgh Pirates’ Henry Davis at second on a double play hit into by Liover Peguero during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Philadelphia.AP Photo/Matt Slocum

No doubt, the ballpark will again rock as it did last October. Phillies manager Rob Thomson said a rival coach told him during the playoffs that a game in Philly was “four hours of hell.” The Phillies won their first six home playoff games last season, setting the tone for what they called Red October.

Pirates starter Mitch Keller (13-10) tried to play spoiler by taking a no-hitter into the sixth. But on the first pitch of the inning, Keller threw one high and outside and shook his right arm. The training staff came out and Keller tossed a few warmup pitches. On the second pitch, Marsh took him deep for his 11th homer of the season. He still struck out six and has 210 on the season, a franchise record (since 1887) for most by a right-handed pitcher.

Harper tacked on a sacrifice fly in the sixth for a 2-0 lead.

Thomson earned laughs n the aftermath of last season’s wild-card clinch. Thomson went to take a swig out of his bottle of bubbly and — doink! Much to the delight of fans who saw the video on social media, the cork was still inside.

“I didn’t know that anybody knew until I got back in my office and my daughter texted me,” he said ahead of Tuesday’s game.

Thomson joked he learned his lesson and was ready to uncork before he took a swig.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper watches after hitting an RBI-sacrifice against Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Mitch Keller during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Philadelphia.AP Photo/Matt Slocum


Phillies 1B Rhys Hoskins remained a long shot to make the postseason roster as he recovers from a torn ACL in his left knee. Thomson said Tuesday that the slugger still is not likely to be get cleared and activated ahead of the World Series, if at all.


The Pirates recalled infielder Nick Gonzales from Triple-A Indianapolis. The 24-year-old Gonzales finished the 2023 season leading all Pirates minor leaguers in extra base hits (49) while ranking fourth in batting (.281) and total bases (191) and was third in slugging (.507) and OPS (.886). This is Gonzales’ second stint with the Pirates this season (June 23 to August 3).


The Pirates send RHP Johan Ovedo (9-14, 4.12 ERA) to the mound against Phillies LHP Ranger Suarez (4-6, 3.89 ERA).