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Strahm und drang: Phillies 3, Braves 1

Who’s going to the NLCS? The Phillies are!

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four
Strahm shut the door on the Braves
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Phillies are going back to the NLCS! With their 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night, the Phillies will be going to baseball’s final four for the second straight year.

But it wasn’t easy. After teeing off on Bryce Elder and company in game three, game four always figured to be a little more difficult with Braves’ ace Spencer Strider on the mound. The Phillies had a chance to put some early runs on the board, by getting two runners on base in the first inning. But Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott (both of whom had awful nights at the plate) couldn’t get them home.

The Phillies once again had two runners on base in the second, but Braves centerfielder made a great catch on Johan Rojas’ sinking liner and was able to pick off Nick Castellanos for an inning-ending double play. (Don’t worry, he’d make up for it later.)

Those missed opportunities felt costly, but for the second time this series, Ranger Suarez showed he was capable of going toe-to-toe with Strider. Suarez breezed through the first three innings with the only base runner coming due to a Trea Turner error. (Don’t worry, he’d also make up for it later.)

The Braves did strike first when Austin Riley hit a solo home run in the fourth, but Castellanos quickly erased that deficit with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the inning.

In the fifth, Turner put the Phillies ahead with a solo shot to left, part of his four-hit night.

Suarez was done after five innings, and Rob Thomson would spend the final four innings attempting to mix and match with the Phillies’ bullpen. If you think that sounds stressful, you’d be correct. First up was Seranthony Dominguez who got two outs before a single prompted the arrival of Jose Alvarado, who got the third out.

In the bottom of the sixth, Nick Castellanos made the relievers’ job a little easier by making history.

That ended the night for Strider, who is now 0-3 in three playoff starts.

Alvarado came back out for the seventh, which started off well enough until he spontaneously lost the strike zone with two outs. He walked two, and Thomson called upon Craig Kimbrel, prompting more than a few fans to ask if Thomson knew what inning it was. Kimbrel walked the first batter he faced, bringing up Ronald Acuna, Jr with the bases loaded, which is generally not a good situation for a pitcher.

I’ll admit it: I had to lower my head and couldn’t watch. Which is a shame because I missed one of the greatest defensive plays in team history.

The eighth went a little smoother. Kimbrel came back out to retire Ozzie Albies and Riley, and then Gregory Soto arrived to induce a groundout from Matt Olson. Except for a minute, it looked like it might be one of the costliest groundouts ever.

Thankfully, it seems that Olson just got Harper in the funny bone. He was able to return to the game and seems to be fine.

The Phillies left three runners aboard across the seventh and eighth, meaning the Phillies would have just a two-run cushion to work with in the ninth. Bringing Soto back out for the ninth felt like a mistake from the start, and proved to be a mistake when he walked the leadoff hitter and then gave up a single to Sean Murphy.

With runners at the corners, and the nerves of Phillies fans fraying rapidly, Matt Strahm entered the game. I haven’t been the biggest fan of Strahm, but my opinion of him changed dramatically tonight. He got Kevin Pillar to pop up, Eddie Rosario to fly out, and then struck out pinch hitter Vaughn Grissom to kick off another round of celebrations.

This win was gratifying. After all the talk about how great the Braves’ lineup was, they ultimately proved to be no match for the Phillies’ pitching staff. And after witnessing the utter whininess of just about everyone associated with the Braves organization, it’s especially satisfying to send them home for the second straight year.

But enough about the Braves. It’s time to celebrate another series victory for the Phillies, and hopefully two more to come!