PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Phillies had a weekend full of viral highlights as they advanced to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2010 by beating the Atlanta Braves 8-3 in Game 4 of the NL Division Series on Saturday.
The clinching victory included a three-run blast by center fielder Brandon Marsh in the second inning, an inside-the-park home run by catcher J.T. Realmuto in the third and an opposite-field shot by Bryce Harper in the eighth. The Phillies outscored Atlanta 17-4 in Games 3 and 4.
“The last 24 hours shows what we’re made of,” Marsh said after the win. “There’s a lot of good going with this ballclub. We’ve just got to keep it going, keep our heads down and grind and just stay focused on the task at hand. The last 24 hours have been pretty fun.”
Hoskins’ home run and bat spike in Game 3 was a game-changing moment but Realmuto’s scamper around the bases in Game 4, after hitting the ball off the center-field wall, might be the series-defining one.
“I’m not usually a guy that shows a lot of emotion,” Realmuto said. “When I slid into home, I couldn’t help myself. I was so excited. Excited for this city. Excited for this team. It was one of those moments I’ll definitely remember forever.”
The fans will remember it as well as their cheers came to a crescendo when Realmuto rounded third and headed for home. Players gushed at how the Philly faithful showed up for the two home games after the team ended the season on the road for three weeks. The long road trip included a wild-card series win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
“When you see the alumni coming back and they all talk about it, from the ’80 and ’93 team, they talk about what this city does and how they get behind you, how fiery and passionate they are, I think every single night we see that,” Harper said. “For them to come out the last two days it’s so much fun.”
Former Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell threw out the first pitch Saturday, one day after ex-teammate Shane Victorino did the same.
Meanwhile, Harper advanced to his first league championship series after signing with the Phillies before the 2019 season. The team added sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos before this season but got off to a slow start, leading to a managerial change. Bench coach Rob Thomson took over and things began to turn.
“We had ups and downs during the season, just like any other club does,” Thomson said. “But they knew that they were going to come out of it at some point and start winning again. And we did.
“Sometimes you have to reset them a little bit, whether it’s take them out of a certain role or give them a day off or whatever it is.
The Phillies scored 24 runs in the four-game series despite getting shut out in Game 2.
Marsh’s homer came off Braves starter Charlie Morton, not long after the veteran right-hander got hit in the elbow by a line drive off the bat of Alec Bohm.
Morton would eventually come out of the game, continuing a trend of subpar performances from Atlanta starters. Both Max Fried and Spencer Strider had poor outings as well.
While the Braves were trying to figure things out on the mound, the Phillies took advantage.
“It’s really cool for everyone in the room to come together with that one common goal,” left fielder Kyle Schwarber said.
Schwarber said he signed with Philadelphia for one reason: He knew the club had a chance to win. Castellanos echoed the same feelings — as did Harper, who went 8-for-16 in the series.
“Think that’s always been the goal, to get to where we are right now,” Harper said. “But to get even further than that. This is step two in what we’ve been through. Step one being the wild card. This being step two and [now] we’ve got two more.”
The Phillies rotation should be set up nicely for the NLCS, which begins Tuesday. Both Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola will get full rest before taking the mound again.
“We still have a long road ahead of us but we’ll soak it in today,” Nola said. “Team played just great this series.”
Philadelphia could get a boost in its bullpen as closer David Robertson says he has almost recovered from a calf injury suffered while celebrating in the wild-card series.
The Phillies are healthy and as confident as they’ve been all season as they enter baseball’s final four.
“The sweetest thing about all this is no one really knows what this team has gone through unless you were here every single day,” Schwarber said. “To see this whole team come together, it gives me goose bumps.”