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Welcome home: Phillies 9, Braves 1

Playoff baseball returned to Citizens Bank Park, and it proved almost worth the wait

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Three
You should have never let this man get hot
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After the last playoff game at Citizens Bank Park ended in abject disaster for the Phillies, the hometown fans had to wait eleven long years to see another. Thankfully, the return of postseason baseball to Philadelphia was everything the fans could have wanted. The Phillies’ offense exploded, Aaron Nola delivered another gem, and the Phillies pounded the Atlanta Braves 9-1, to take a 2-1 lead in the National League Divisional Series.

Not only did the Phillies have to wait eleven years to host a playoff game, it had been 19 days since any game was played at their stadium. After finishing the season with a ten-game road trip, they had to play two games in St. Louis and two more in Atlanta. The fans were desperate to watch some baseball in person and it showed.

All that energy appeared like it would be for naught in the early going. The status of rookie phenom Spencer Strider was unknown headed into today, but he was deemed able to take the mound and looked near unhittable in the first two innings.

Strider hadn’t pitched in nearly a month, and as the third inning began, he seemed to tire, walking Brandon Marsh to start the inning. An errant pickoff throw and aggressive baserunning got Marsh to third, and the Phillies looked to be in position to possibly steal a run from the heretofore dominant hurler.

They did far more than steal a run. First, Bryson Stott capped off an exceptional at bat by hitting a double into right field.

With one out, the Braves oddly chose to intentionally walk Kyle Schwarber who had struggled badly in the series up to that point. I assume the thinking was that Rhys Hoskins, who was struggling even worse than Schwarber, would ground into a double play.

They assumed wrong. This at bat and the resulting celebration could go in the dictionary next to the term “catharsis.”

J.T. Realmuto followed with a single, and Strider was removed from the game in favor of Dylan Lee. Bryce Harper greeted him warmly.

Aaron Nola now had a six-run lead to work with, and unlike Strider, he did not tire quickly. Nola was dominant through five innings and should have escaped the sixth unscathed if not for Hoskins dropping what should have been the final out of the inning. If not for Hoskins’ inability to field, the Braves might not have scored a run through the first three games of the series.

That probably cost Nola an inning because after he allowed the first runner in the seventh to reach base, manager Rob Thomson turned to the bullpen. Jose Alvarado made sure nothing became of that in the seventh, but with Nola out of the game, the five-run lead felt just uncomfortable enough, especially as the offense went cold for a few innings.

Fortunately, they heated up again in the seventh. Harper just missed his second home run of the game, settling for an RBI double. Pity the remaining teams in the league now that Harper has gotten hot.

With an eight-run lead, Brad Hand and Conor Brogdon shut the Braves down without incident in the final two innings, ensuring that the return of playoff baseball to Philadelphia was a successful one.

The Phillies can close out the series on Saturday afternoon. Considering they made us wait eleven years to watch a playoff game, it seems only fitting that the team reward the long-suffering fans with an on-field clinching celebration.