By DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Aaron Nola pitched four-hit ball into the seventh inning, Bryce Harper’s homer gave Philadelphia an early lead and the Phillies beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 on Saturday to sweep Philadelphia. your wild National League player. card series
Nola struck out six and walked one on 101 pitches before leaving with two outs in the seventh. Jose Alvarado then retired Yadier Molina on a popup, stranding a runner on first. Seranthony Dominguez struck out MVP candidates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado to break out of a two-out quagmire in the eighth.
The Cardinals finally charged at Zach Eflin in the ninth, getting back-to-back two-out singles from Corey Dickerson and Molina. But the starter-turned-closer responded by fouling Tommy Edman to end the game, giving the Phillies their first postseason series win since beating Cincinnati in the 2010 divisional round.
They will face a familiar foe, the NL East champion Braves, when their division series kicks off Tuesday night in Atlanta.
Miles Mikolas allowed two runs on two hits for St. Louis before leaving with two outs in the fifth. Albert Pujols had a pair of singles, including one in the eighth in what was probably the last at-bat of his career.
The sold-out crowd of 48,515, the third-largest in Busch Stadium history, waved the flag in its hoarsest fashion trying to keep the dream season alive for Pujols, Molina and the rest of the Cardinals. Instead, their fans watched the NL Central champions go down with a groan, losing in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.
Harper, who was hitless in Game 1, put the Phillies ahead when a 76 mph curveball left his bat at 111.6 mph on the first pitch of the second inning. The ball went through the cold October breeze and landed 435 feet away.
The way pitchers have dominated the wild-card round, it was thought Harper’s powerful swing could be the difference.
Nola made the final brilliant outing, giving up a single to Lars Nootbaar to open the game before sweeping the rest of the St. Louis lineup. The next blob down the line from the right-hander didn’t come until Edman walked in the third, and Nola quickly struck out Nootbaar and grounded Pujols meekly to end that inning.
Nola also got some spectacular defense behind him.
Third baseman Alec Bohm made a stellar trap off Molina’s ball that hit hard down the line that opened the third, then made an even more impressive catch to rob Arenado of the extra bases in the fourth.
Bohm followed that up with a ground rule double that opened the fifth. Brandon Marsh made a sacrifice bunt and, after Jean Segura was hit by Mikolas’ final pitch, Jordan Montgomery walked Bryson Stott on four pitches to load the bases. Kyle Schwarber followed with a sacrifice fly to extend Philadelphia’s lead.
The Phillies’ base slip? That was not so good.
Harper was ejected trying to take second base with a single in the sixth; the call was held after a video review. Moments later, Bohm was hauled off first base with a runner standing on third to end the once-promising inning.
The way Nola and his bullpen were throwing, none of it ended up mattering.
The sweep gives the Phillies an extra day off before heading to Atlanta, where they went 3-6 in the regular season against the defending World Series champions. The Braves have won eight of their 11 meetings overall this season.
The Cardinals are heading into an offseason of steep changes: Pujols and Molina have said this will be their last year, and former ace Adam Wainwright could join them in retirement. Arenado could opt out of his contract, though that seems unlikely, while pitcher Jose Quintana and outfielder Dickerson are eligible for free agency.
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