The Phillies needed to take one of two games in Atlanta. Conquering their nemesis Spencer Strider would have been a bonus.
Not only did they do both of those things, but they added a shutout of the Braves to boot, the first of which Atlanta has suffered at home all season.
The MVPs of this game were Rob Thomson and the Phillies bullpen. Thomson elected to pull starter Ranger Suárez in the fourth inning with two on and two outs in a one run game. The Phillies had scored their first run on a two out, 0-2 single from Bryson Stott that scored Bryce Harper from second who advanced on a Strider throwing error.
Stotty puts us on the board!!! pic.twitter.com/4brRdNMgTf— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 7, 2023
Suárez got Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley out relatively easily before running into trouble. Matt Olson singled before Ozzie Albies reached on a fielder’s choice. Thomson brought in Jeff Hoffman to face Marcell Ozuna, looking to preserve the one run game and utilize his rested bullpen. Hoffman walked Ozuna on six pitches and fell behind the next hitter, Michael Harris II, 2-1 before ripping off two nasty splitters to get a strikeout.
Jeff Hoffman, Filthy 89mph Splitter. pic.twitter.com/oAQUKGKUCf— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 7, 2023
Next up was Seranthony Dominguez to face the bottom of the Braves order. He allowed a leadoff single to Orlando Arcia on his second pitch before falling behind 2-0 to Sean Murphy. Dominugez struck out Murphy on a 99 MPH fastball after running the count full. But Eddie Rosario came in as a pinch hitter for Kevin Pillar and promptly singled as well, putting Arcia on third with one out.
Dominguez then reared back and threw almost nothing but fastballs and struck out Acuna and Riley to end the inning.
Seranthony Domínguez's 3Ks in the 5th. pic.twitter.com/8rqa5ZUgvr— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 7, 2023
The Phillies struggled to much going against Strider after Stott’s RBI single until Bryce Harper ripped a first pitch slider into the seats for his first home run of the postseason and gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead. Strider exited the game after 7 IP and allowed 2 runs, one earned, on 8 hits with 5 Ks.
Jose Alvarado allowed a single in sixth to Albies but otherwise ended the sixth with 12 pitches, 10 of which for strikes.
Help from the stars
The Phillies and Rob Thomson have said that they plan to use Orion Kerkering in big spots this postseason. Well, his first was entering in the seventh inning of a 2-0 game against arguably the best lineup ever. And the 22-year-old who’s been in the Majors for two weeks got a 1-2-3 inning on 8 pitches.
Orion Kerkering retires the Braves in order in his Postseason debut pic.twitter.com/svvx4JvVbo— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 8, 2023
Trea Turner singled in the eighth against A.J. Minter with one out and then stole second and third. Bryce Harper then walked and stole second as new pitcher Pierce Johnson struck Alec Bohm out. Harper’s steal was the fifth of the game for the Phillies, a franchise record for a postseason game. Stott added a walk of his own after falling behind 0-2 to load the bases for J.T. Realmuto with two outs.
Realmuto got ahead in the count 2-0 before a 2-2 pitch was called catcher’s interference, awarding Realmuto first and allowing Turner to score and push the lead to 3-0. On replay, the glove didn’t appear to make contact with the bat but there seemed to be a double click sound on a separate replay indicating possible contact. Murphy didn’t argue behind the plate and slammed his mask down in frustration. It was challenged by the Braves but upheld upon review to the dismay of Braves fans who started to throw trash onto the field.
Kerkering was given the start of the eighth inning on the mound but was replaced by Matt Strahm after walking Acuna on four pitches. Strahm then allowed a single to Riley to put runners on first and second with no outs. Strahm loaded the count to Matt Olson before inducing a fly out that allwoed Acuna to go to third, but a quick throw from Johan Rojas held Riley at first.
That throw proved important because Trea Turner made what could possibly go down as one of the best defensive plays in Phillies postseason history by turning a sensational double play and preventing a run from scoring.
OH MY TREA AND THE DOUBLE PLAY pic.twitter.com/HoDnjoEmLT— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 8, 2023
Nice and easy
Craig Kimbrel entered to close out the game in the ninth and retired Ozuna, Harris II, and Arcia on 12 pitches to seal a massive 3-0 win in Game 1. The goal for the Phillies was to flip home field by winning one of two games in Atlanta. Mission accomplished.
That’s the first time the Braves were shut out at home since Aug. 28, 2021.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) October 8, 2023
Zack Wheeler will take the ball for the Phillies in Game 2 with a 1-0 series lead against Max Fried. Fried has been dealing with blister issues and hasn’t pitched in a game since September 21st. The game will be Monday night at 6:07 and will air on TBS.