Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: After sweeping their opponent in the NL Wild Card Series, the Phillies overwhelmed a powerhouse Braves team in four games to advance to the NLCS.
It may sound like a glitch in the matrix, but ask any of the 46,000 people in attendance at Citizens Bank Park tonight, and they’ll tell you exactly how it went down. The Phillies upset the Braves in the NLCS for the second year in a row. They’re now just four wins away from claiming a second consecutive National League pennant.
Philadelphia entered Game 4 of the NLDS with a chance to put things away, but it wasn’t going to be easy. While they had home-field advantage working in their favor, they would have to face All-Star hurler Spencer Strider. In his first start of the series, the young ace held the Phillies to one earned run in seven innings.
Yet lo and behold, the Phillies were not to be intimidated. They chased Strider from the game with three solo home runs, and their own pitching staff did phenomenal work to hold Atlanta’s offense at bay.
Indeed, Philadelphia’s recipe for success on Thursday was much like in the rest of the series. The starting pitching was phenomenal. The veterans in the lineup carried the offense. Finally, the deep bullpen did its job to close things out.
Ranger Suárez was practically unhittable, giving up just three hits and one run in five innings of work. Trea Turner went 4-for-4, crushing the go-ahead home run in the fifth. Nick Castellanos hit two homers of his own, becoming the first player in postseason history to hit multiple home runs in back-to-back games.
The bullpen made things tense at times, but ultimately, Seranthony Domínguez, José Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto, and Matt Strahm combined to pitch four scoreless frames.
When all was said and done, the Phillies were celebrating yet another postseason victory, while the Braves could do nothing but walk to the clubhouse in disappointment. Here are some of the best moments from the Phillies’ series-clinching win:
The Challenge Ahead
After a weekend to rest and recharge, the Phillies will welcome the surging Diamondbacks for a best-of-seven series starting at Citizens Bank Park.
This time around, the Phillies won’t be the underdogs. Not only did Philadelphia finish with a better regular season record and run differential than Arizona, but home-field advantage should prove to be a meaningful advantage indeed. The Phillies had the seventh-best home record in baseball this season, and they’re 4-0 this postseason at their home ballpark.
What’s more, the Phillies will have their top two starters, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, lined up to start Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS against Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. That doesn’t necessarily give the Phils the edge in either matchup, but it puts them in the best possible position to succeed.
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: The favorites don’t always win in October. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be the Phillies and Diamondbacks meeting in this series. Still, it must be nice to enter the NLCS with the upper hand.
The Phillies are a great baseball team. They proved as much last year when they won the pennant. They backed it up this past season, winning 90 games and taking the first NL Wild Card spot. After a decisive victory over the Braves, there’s no denying Philadelphia’s power. They’re the favorites to win the NLCS, and possibly even the favorites to win it all.
That’s a pretty nice position to be in.