PHILADELPHIA — Brandon Marsh hit a three-run homer and JT Realmuto hit an inside-the-park home run to send the Philadelphia Phillies ahead in the NL Championship Series for the first time since 2010 with an 8-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 on Saturday.
Realmuto became the first catcher to hit an in-the-parker in postseason history, and Bryce Harper scored a run-scoring home run to help the Phillies take the NL Division Series 3-1 against the World Series champion Braves.
The Phillies will face either San Diego or the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. The Padres held a 2-1 lead over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLDS on Saturday night.
Atlanta’s loss meant that Major League Baseball has not had a repeat championship since the New York Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000.
Philadelphia finished third in the NL East, 14 games behind the 101-win Braves this season, but is now hitting on all cylinders under manager Rob Thomson. He took over for the fired Joe Girardi and transformed a team that went 22-29 in early June.
And the Phillies used a dose of Marsh Madness to keep the party going in October.
Hell, call it Mash Madness, as the Phillies turned Citizens Bank Park into a cozy home box for the second straight game — and with another fired-up crowd waving the towel for every long ball.
After Rhys Hoskins hit a three-run shot in the Game 3 win, it was Marsh’s turn in the second inning to slam his three-run homer in Game 4.
Braves starter Charlie Morton elbowed Alec Bohm’s 71.9 mph single to lead off the inning. After checking, Morton allowed a single to Jean Segura and hung a 2-2 curveball that No. 9 hitter Marsh launched deep into the right-field dugout for a 3-0 lead.
The 24-year-old Marsh is known as much for his bushy hair and ZZ Top-esque beard as he is for being one of the best young players on the Phillies. Marsh, who also doubled in the fourth, was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in August just before this season’s trade deadline. Phillies president Dave Dombrowski traded another deadline with the Angels that landed them Game 4 starter Noah Syndergaard, also known for his long locks.
Hey, it’s going to be easy for the Phillies to let their hair down and have fun.
Reliever Brad Hand was one of six Philadelphia pitchers to pick up the win.
Thomson asked Syndergaard, who was cut from the rotation at the end of the season, to do nothing but keep the Phillies in the game. He might stay unscathed once around the order. Syndergaard had three strikeouts in three innings in a brief throwback to his commanding “Thor” days with the New York Mets.
Orlando Arcia hit a solo shot off him in the third to make it 3-1.
Realmuto then made postseason history.
He connected to lead off the third inning against reliever Collin McHugh. The ball hit a slanted section of the wall beyond the reach of center fielder Michael Harris II, and the carom rolled down the warning track toward right-center. Ronald Acuña Jr. he was standing in right field watching the play, and didn’t start running toward the ball until Realmuto was well past first base. Realmuto, who runs extremely well for a catcher, made a head slide into the plate, well ahead of the relay.
That said, there was terror in the park as the sellout crowd of 45,660 cheered wildly, all senses tingling that there would be no Game 5.
No. Only Game 3 of the NLCS on Friday in Philly.
Harper hit a solo homer in the eighth, the second straight for the reigning NL MVP.
It seemed fitting that the trio of Phillies players who make up the heart of the franchise put the game away in the sixth. Hoskins-Realmuto-Harper all had RBI singles to make it 7-2, and the run was just a formality.
The Phillies ejected 2008 World Series champion Pat Burrell to throw out the first pitch after his ’08 teammate Shane Victorino did the same before Game 3. The Phillies’ five straight postseason appearances — which included the 2009 NL pennant — – stretched from 2007 to 2011 until the franchise was saddled with so many dry years without hope. They no longer have to look to Burrell, Victorino and other members of that streak as the only reminders of postseason stars — Harper, Hoskins, Realmuto, Marsh have all carved their October marks, with at least one more series to go.
Morton came out on the mound to start the third inning, but couldn’t break free. He was replaced by McHugh. Morton entered 5-0 with a 0.73 ERA in five career elimination games, four starts.
Matt Olson and Travis d’Arnaud hit solo homers for the Braves.
ROOM for coaches
Phillies RHP David Robertson hoped he could return to the roster for the NLCS. The reliever hurt his right calf jumping to celebrate Bryce Harper’s home run in their convincing wild-card victory at St. Louis. Louis. The 37-year-old had a breakout season with the Cubs and Phillies, going 4-3 with a 2.40 ERA, including a 2.70 ERA in 22 appearances after a midseason trade. Robertson called the injury “embarrassing.”
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