“Harper Game!” They don’t pay 44.28 billion for nothing… 6 home runs → ML tie! PHI heads to NLCS for second straight year

The Philadelphia Phillies are headed to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) for the second straight year. Ace Aaron Nola’s solid pitching and slugger Bryce Harper’s fiery bat have kept the Atlanta Braves at bay.

The Philadelphia Phillies took a commanding 10-2 lead in Game 1 of the 2023 Major League Baseball National League Division Series (NLDS) against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to take a one-game series lead.

Philadelphia and Atlanta were tied at one game apiece heading into the game. Philadelphia took the first game of the division series on April 8, and after a day’s rest, Atlanta evened the series with a one-run victory in game two on April 10. But on this day, Philadelphia regained the lead.

On the mound, the Phillies shut down Atlanta with “Ace” Aaron Nola going 5⅔ innings, throwing 92 pitches, allowing six hits, one walk, nine strikeouts, and two runs (two earned), while at the plate, “slugger” Bryce Harper went 5-for-5 with two home runs, four RBIs, and two runs scored, proving why he’s worth $330 million.

Harper struggled in the fall, but not anymore

Since his first postseason appearance in 2012 with the Washington Nationals, Harper has struggled in the postseason until 2017. Aside from a five-hit, .294 OPS and 1.250 slugging percentage in four games in 2014, he hasn’t lived up to the “Harper” moniker. Last year, however, he burst onto the scene, hitting .349 with six homers and a 1.160 OPS over 17 games, and he’s been a fixture this year.

After going 2-for-4 with a double, home run, RBI, two runs scored and two walks in Game 1 of the division series, Harper continued his hot streak in Game 2, going 1-for-1 with a walk. Harper started the game with a bases-loaded walk in the first inning, and after a five-pitch battle with Atlanta starter Bryce Elder, Harper struck out swinging on a high fastball.

It wasn’t until his second at-bat that Harper’s bat woke up. With runners on first and third in scoring position in the bottom of the third inning, tied 1-1 on a Nick Castellanos solo homer, Harper swung at a four-pitch 84.7 mph (136.3 km/h) slider from Elder in the middle of the strike zone. You could almost feel the pitch leave the bat and head for the fence.

Harper’s pitch traveled a whopping 109.5 mph (176.2 km/h) and traveled 408 feet (124.4 meters) before clearing the right field fence for a walk-off three-run home run. With both Castellanos and Harper’s home runs setting the tone, the Phillies scored a whopping six runs in the bottom of the third inning on J.T. Realmuto’s run-scoring double.

Harper didn’t stop there. To start the bottom of the fifth inning, Harper again swung hard at a three-pitch sweeper, this time from Atlanta reliever Brad Hand, and sent it over the wall for a 414-foot (126.2 m) solo home run that traveled 109.8 miles (176.7 km). The local commentator shouted, “Harper game!” as the Phillies took control of the game and solidified their mid-game lead.

Harper’s multi-homer night was compounded by the fact that he also made Major League Baseball history as the player with the most home runs (10) in a National League Division Series ever.

3: Not a lot of fall ball experience, but an ace in the hole

Nola, who made the postseason in 2015, hasn’t had much luck in the postseason, but after going 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA in five games last year, he pitched well in the fall this year.

Nola’s start was a little shaky. He quickly got Ronald Acuna Jr.-Azy Albies to ground out to short, but back-to-back singles to Austin Riley and Matt Olson put him in a jam. Nola got out of the jam by striking out Marcel Osuna to start the game 레고토토.

The shaky pitching was short-lived. After getting Travis d’Arnaud to ground out to third base to lead off the second inning, Nola used a knuckle curveball with a “warning shot” to both Eddie Rosario and Orlando Arcia for back-to-back strikeouts to record his first career triple play. Nola’s first run came in the third.

After giving up a double to Acuna Jr. in the third inning, Nola was hit by a knuckleball to Albies for a single to right field. Nola then gave up a walk to Olson to put runners on the corners, but again, he got Osuna to ground out to end the inning.

Despite giving up the lead, the bats came alive and Nola shut down the Dano-Rosario-Arcia lineup again in the fourth inning and, despite giving up a hit and a stolen base to Acuna Jr. in the fifth, held the Atlanta offense scoreless. The most frustrating part of the great pitching came in the sixth inning.

Nola took the mound in the sixth and struck out Olson and Dano to put runners on second and third, before giving way to Matt Stram. Stram, who took over for Nola, gave up a walk to Kevin Pillar and a single to Arcia. With Osuna at the plate, Nola was left with two runs on the board. But he had already pitched so well that it didn’t matter.

Philadelphia stuns Atlanta, NLCS now in sight

After taking the lead behind solid pitching from Nola and an outburst from Harper, the Phillies solidified it late in the game. After Atlanta pulled within one run in the top of the sixth, the Phillies regained their six-run lead in the bottom of the sixth when Trey Turner hit a solo home run to put the game out of reach.

Following Stram, the Phillies brought in Seranthony Dominguez in the seventh to shut down the Atlanta lineup, and Ryan Kirkering pitched a scoreless eighth. In the bottom of the eighth, Castellanos and Brandon Marsh hit back-to-back home runs to extend the lead to 10-2, giving Philadelphia six home runs, setting a new franchise record for most home runs in a single postseason game and tying the all-time major league record.

It was also only the fourth time in franchise history that two players hit multi-homer games in the same series against the same team, joining Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig in the 1932 World Series, Fernando Tatis Jr.-Will Myers in the 2020 National League Wild Card Series, A.J. Pollock-Chris Taylor in the 2021 National League Championship Series, and Bryce Harper-Nick Castellanos in the 2021 World Series.

The Phillies closed out the game with a scoreless ninth inning from Michael Lorenzen to take a 10-2 lead in the series. At this rate, the Phillies could clinch a spot in the National League Championship Series as early as Game 13.