Local boy makes good, much to the dismay of the local team


Earlier in this postseason, when everything seemed to break the Phillies' way, the ball would have clanged off Chas McCormick's glove -- valiant effort young man! -- and J.T. Realmuto would have been standing on third base with Dan Baker bellowing Bryce Harper's name as the Phillies' showman/slugger/savior sauntered to the plate with his team down a run in the bottom of the ninth.

But everything is not breaking the Phillies' way anymore and you can feel the tide turning. They have lost two in a row for the first time this postseason and also trail in a series for the first time this postseason.

They hit a bunch of balls hard Thursday night, but the Houston Astros had a glove and an answer for everything that came their way -- line drives above the shortstop's head, hard groundballs into the shift, one-hop bullets to first base, and, oh, how about that catch by the kid from Chester County?

When McCormick used to make game-saving catches in his backyard in West Chester, the imaginary ballpark was Citizens Bank Park. In Game 5 of the World Series, he got to do it for real. He climbed the wall in right-center and stole extra bases from Realmuto for the second out in the bottom of the ninth. The catch helped the Astros hold off the Phillies, 3-2, to go up three games to two in the World Series.

"J.T. put a really good swing on it," said the 27-year-old McCormick, who was only lightly recruited out of Henderson High School in West Chester and went on to star for Division II Millersville.

"Honestly, I thought he hit it out. At that point, I was being really aggressive. I was going to run through a wall and catch it, no matter what. I saw it up in the air. The fence is really flexible. I ran right into it and it didn't hurt too much. I jumped as high as I could and just made a great catch."

Probably a game-saver.

The action shifts back to Houston for Game 6 on Saturday night.

It's do-or-die for the Phillies.

Meanwhile, the Astros need just one victory to win their second World Series in six years.

Things might be different for the Astros if McCormick hadn't saved the day just 30 or so miles from where he grew up.

"Incredible," Harper said of the catch. "That's why he's out there.

"J.T. takes a good swing on that ball and has a really good opportunity to get to third base in that situation, but it just didn't happen."

Realmuto rescued the Phillies from a 5-0 deficit in Game 1 with a two-run double in the fifth and a go-ahead homer to right in the 10th.

And let's not forget, he hit an inside-the-park homer in the NLDS clincher against Atlanta. If McCormick doesn't make his superb catch ... maybe, just maybe.

When Realmuto drove the pitch from Astros closer Ryan Pressly deep to right-center, Kyle Schwarber was thinking, Here we go. More Realmuto magic.

"I definitely was," Schwarber said. "The guy made a heck of a play. Usually, that ball hits off the wall and is a double, possibly a triple. It was a big play to keep him off second or third.

"Tip your hat to them. They made some big defensive plays."

A couple of the Astros' eye-popping defensive plays came on balls hit by Schwarber, a rocket into the shift that second baseman Jose Altuve took care of in shallow right field to end the sixth with a couple of men on base, and a bullet to first baseman Trey Mancini to end the eighth with runners on the corners and the Phillies down a run.

The Astros have made big plays and big pitches in winning Games 4 and 5.

The Phillies have not gotten big hits. Sure, the Astros took some away Thursday night, but the Phillies came up empty a number of times on their own. Houston starter Justin Verlander allowed eight baserunners in five innings and the Phillies left seven runners on base, including the bases full in the second inning when Rhys Hoskins struck out for the first of four times.

"We were close, but we could talk about would have, could have, should have," Nick Castellanos said. "We put together good at-bats, we gave ourselves a lot of opportunities, but we didn't capitalize on them. So now we've got our work cut out for us when we go to Houston."

The Phils' offensive woes were a continuation of Wednesday night's when they were no-hit by a quartet of Houston pitchers.

It gets no easier in Game 6 as the Phillies will face lefty Framber Valdez, who dominated them in Game 2. Zack Wheeler, bothered recently by arm fatigue, will pitch for the Phillies.

It doesn't help that Game 6 and Game 7, if there is one, will be played in Minute Maid Park, not Citizens Bank Park, where the crowds have been huge and deafening.

"We thank them," Schwarber said of the fans. "Keep riding with us and see where this takes us. No one said this was going to be easy. We've overcome a lot this year to be in the position we're in. We're a resilient club and we're going to play to the end and see where it takes us."

Schwarber was part of a Chicago Cubs team that went on the road down three games to two and pulled off two straight on the road to win the 2016 World Series.

He knows it can happen.

"We're going to be confident," he said. "We're excited about the task ahead of us. Just keep believing in ourselves. This is a one-game-at-a-time thing, not a big picture thing. We need to win Saturday and go from there."

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