MLB Wild Card: Nick Maton leads Phillies past Sandy Alcantara for second straight week

MIAMI – Chalk up another victory for the Phillies over the Miami Marlins and give the credit to The Replacements.

No, we’re not talking about that great rock band.

We’re talking about Bailey Falter and Nick Maton. They co-starred in the Phillies’ 2-1 win over Miami on Tuesday night.

“That’s how it’s been all year,” manager Rob Thomson said. “These kids have come up from the minor leagues and played well. They’ve fit right in and contributed almost on a daily basis. It’s been great.”

Falter delivered six innings of one-run ball in his fourth start filling in for injured Zack Wheeler.

Maton, playing right field in place of injured Nick Castellanos, accounted for all of the Phillies’ offense with a two-run homer against Sandy Alcantara with one out in the top of the seventh.

The homer was Maton’s third in the last five days. Two of them have come against Alcantara, the favorite to win the National League Cy Young Award.

Informed that he’s the only player who has taken Alcantara deep twice this season, the always personable Maton, known as “Wolfie” to his teammates for reasons he will not divulge publicly, smiled and said, “I’m just happy it’s me.”

The victory improved the Phillies to 79-62 as they took a step closer to locking up an NL wild-card playoff berth and breaking a 10-year postseason drought. The Phils entered the day with a 1½-game lead on San Diego for the second wild-card spot. They led Milwaukee, the last team out, by 3½. There are 21 games to play and the Phillies are in the driver’s seat with the radio on loud.

Alcantara has had a brilliant season. He sports a 2.43 ERA and leads the majors with 203 2/3 innings. But the Phillies have figured out a way to beat the Marlins four of the six times that Alcantara has pitched against them this season. That could be a confidence builder heading into the postseason, where the pitching is often elite and the games are tight.

The Phillies’ most common formula against Alcantara has been a quality start to keep the game close and a big hit later in the game.

That’s how it went down in this one. Falter gave up just a solo homer to Bryan De La Cruz in the fifth inning and left trailing, 1-0, after six.

In the top of the seventh, Jean Segura stroked his third single of the night against Alcantara. That brought up the No. 8 hitters, Maton. He fouled off two pitches, a fastball and a changeup, to go down in the count, 0-2. The next pitch was a 98.9 mph fastball at the top of the zone. Maton turned on it and sent it over the Phillies’ bullpen in the right to give his team the lead.

Maton was looking fastball. Earlier in the game, Alcantara had struck him out on a front-door sinker. He missed his spot on this one and Maton made him pay.

“You always have to look fastball with him because he throws 100,” Maton said. “I was ready for it.”

Falter was on his way up to the clubhouse to grab a sweatshirt when Maton connected for the Phillies’ only extra-base hit of the night.

“I saw it on TV and lost my mind,” Falter said. “I ran down there and gave him a big hug.”

Maton, 25, is a clubhouse favorite, full of energy, always making teammates laugh. Tuesday night’s postgame clubhouse seemed particularly elated for him.

“It just comes naturally,” Maton said. “I like to hype up the boys, get ’em going whether I’m on the bench or in the field.”

Falter scattered six hits and did not issue a walk for the fourth straight outing. The 25-year-old lefty has made six starts for the Phils, all on a fill-in basis, since July 29 and the team has won all of them. Five of those outings have been quality starts—six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs.

“He sure has helped us since Wheels has been out,” Thomson said.

Falter is slated to pitch again Sunday in Atlanta. Wheeler could be back shortly after that.

What, then, will happen to Falter?

“We’ll talk about it,” Thomson said. “But he’s a big part of this club.”

After Falter exited, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez and David Robertson closed out the win.

The Phils are 11-6 against Miami this season. Kyle Gibson opposes right-hander Edward Cabrera on Wednesday night.

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