St. LOUIS — The Phillies wasted no time bringing their raucous celebration from the field to the visitors’ clubhouse, where they broke out the champagne. It was the Cardinals who were slow to leave.
They flipped their sorrows and the end of an era.
Aaron Nola pitched four-hit ball in the seventh inning, Bryce Harbor homered, and Philadelphia beat St. Louis 2-0 on Saturday to sweep the wild-card series, marking the end of the illustrious careers of Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.
Nola notched six strikeouts and allowed one walk in his career on 101 pitches. He left in the seventh inning with two outs. Jose Alvarado then retired Molina with a bunt, stranding a runner at first.
“Everybody in this clubhouse, this team and this organization is really excited,” Nola said. “We’re a group of unselfish gamers who will do whatever it takes to win at any point. That’s what makes us so excited.”
Serantani Dominguez got two MVP candidates, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, out of a jam in the eighth inning with two on and a pair of outs.
The Cardinals had one last shot at Zach Eflin in the ninth. Corey Dickerson and Molina hit back-to-back singles with two outs.
However, the returning opener responded by forcing Tommy Edmond to end the game. It gave the Phillies their first playoff series win since defeating Cincinnati in the 2010 divisional round.
The next stage is a fight against a known enemy. The Atlanta Braves, the defending Eastern Division champions and the defending champions, will host the first meeting of the World Series on Tuesday.
Pujols hit a pair of singles, including one in the eighth in what was surely the last game of his career. Both he and Molina have said they will retire after the current campaign.
Busch Stadium drew 48,515, the third largest crowd in Busch Stadium history. They waved flags and continued to scream, in which the Cardinals appeared to be on their way to accomplishing something important to give their two Latin American stars a triumphant send-off.
Instead, they saw the NL Central champions eliminated in a heartbeat.
St. Louis lost in the opening round of the playoffs for the third year in a row.
“It’s tough, especially when you know it was Yadi and Albert’s last year,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “They have an extra motivation. We wanted to do something great and finish their story with a championship.”
“Obviously it’s a disappointment. But it is what it is.”
For the Phillies, Dominican Jean Segura is 1-0.
For the Cardinals, Dominican Pujols is 4-2. Venezuelan Juan Yepes is 4-1. Puerto Rican Molina 4-1.