The hype train had stalled after Monday’s loss. Sure, they were coming back home after stealing a win in enemy territory, but the way in which they lost Game 2 was a harsh reality for which many were not prepared. You could feel the tension in the ballpark early on Wednesday night as the Philadelphia Phillies took on the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NLDS.
Aaron Nola continued his comeback (but was he actually gone?) tour against Braves’ rookie, Bryce Elder with a next game elimination advantage at stake.
Both starters were strong early, going blow for blow with four strikeouts each in the first two innings.
Atlanta drew first blood with one out in the top of the third. Ronald Acuna, Jr. sailed a 2-1 sinker down the right field line for a double and Ozzie Albies dropped the next pitch in front of Nick Castellanos for an RBI single.
Ronald Acuña Jr.'s hustle double (before he scored). pic.twitter.com/tuXaLig5HB— Baseball GIFs (@gifs_baseball) October 11, 2023
After getting the second out on a line-out by Austin Riley, Nola walked Matt Olson on four pitches before striking out Ozuna swinging to stem the tide.
It took two pitches for the Phillies to level the score, as Nick Castellanos sent a 1-0 sinker to the left field seats to lead off the bottom of the third, his third home run in his last six at bats against Elder.
Brandon Marsh and Trea Turner worked Elder for 12 total pitches in their following ABs that both ended in singles, setting the table for Bryce Harper. After striking out swinging to end the first inning, Harper launched a 2-1 slider to the second deck in right field for a 3-run shot and lead.
Harper’s big fly also served to awaken a crowd that for the most part seemed dormant in comparison to similar, recent big moments. “Momentum.”
Over the next six pitches, Elder would allow a single to Alec Bohm (first pitch), a walk to Bryson Stott, and get removed from the game in favor of righty reliever, Michael Tomkin. Tomkin got behind 2-1 on JT Realmuto before JT blistered a sinker to the left-center gap for a two-run double that brought the score to 6-1.
Marsh doubled and advanced to third with some aggressive baserunning on a throw across the diamond to get Johan Rojas.
Our old buddy, Brad Hand, came in to face Kyle Schwarber for the lefty-lefty matchup and got Schwarber and Turner to strikeout swinging back to back.
Acuna got his second hit of the night off of Nola in the top of the fifth inning, but Aaron again limited the damage, pitching to weak contact and stranding another runner.
Hand stayed out for the bottom of the fifth with the Phillies having two lefties due to appear in the frame. Harper led things off. You already know how this story ends.
With a six run lead and only 79 pitches, Rob Thomson elected to have Nola come back out for the bottom of the sixth inning. Nola struck out the National League’s home run champion in Olson on three pitches before allowing an 0-1 single to Ozuna. After Travis d’Arnaud worked an eight pitch AB that ended in Nola’s ninth K of the evening on his 92nd pitch, Thomson gave way to Matt Strahm.
Kevin Pillar came in to pinch hit for Braves’ left fielder, Eddie Rosario, and worked a nine pitch walk to put two men on. On the next pitch, Orlando Arcia laced a single just beyond the reach of Stott for an RBI single to cut into the lead and make it 7-2. Strahm would get Michael Harris II to groundout to first to end the awkwardness for Arcia and Harper.
The Braves other rookie starter, AJ Smith-Shawver came in to relieve Hand and finish off the bottom of the fifth inning and came back out for the sixth. After retiring Rojas and Schwarber, the rookie got behind 2-1 to Turner and Trea got just enough of it for his first postseason homer as a Phillie.
Smith-Shawver rebounded for a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh inning and Thomson went to his own rookie pitcher, Orion Kerkering to handle the top of the eighth. After allowing a leadoff single to Ozuna, Kerkering settled down to retire the next three batters. His six innings of big league experience now include three shutout innings in the playoffs.
Braves’ manager, Brian Snitker, made the tough decision to sacrifice his rookie pitcher’s confidence in order to save his high leverage bullpen arms by sending out Smith-Shawver for his fourth inning of work. It backfired.
Castellanos hit his second home run of the night on a 1-0 fastball to lead off the bottom of the eighth and Brandon Marsh followed suit on a 2-1 fastball for back to back jacks to make it 10-2.
Righty, Daysbel Hernandez, came in to relieve A.S.S., rudely hitting Schwarber on the thigh with a misplaced slider and walking Turner before exposing Harper as an actual human being by inducing him to ground into a double play.
Thomson elected to bring in Michael Lorenzen for the ninth inning to hold the eight-run lead and the erstwhile starter gave up a walk to Albies and a single to Riley before getting Olson to ground out to end the night.
Harper’s two home runs give him the most career long balls in NLDS history with 10.
Nola’s home ERA on the season is 3.05 and 1.42 in his 12.2 IP this postseason.
In the postseason history of Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies are 25-11, including 6-2 last year and 3-0 this season.
The Phils can punch their ticket to the NLCS tomorrow night. In a rematch of Game 1, Ranger Suarez will face off against Braves’ ace, Spencer Strider.
9 more, Topper.