How the Phillies stunned the Braves in Game 1 of NLDS

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Phillies vs braves Bryce harper
Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper rounds third as he heads home to score on a hit by Nick Castellanos against the Miami Marlins during the eighth inning of Game 1 in an NL wild-card baseball playoff series Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

For Philadelphia Phillies manager Rob Thomson, this wasn’t like NLDS Game 1. They were going to play it like Game 7 of the World Series and put the 104-win Atlanta Braves on their heels.

And that’s exactly what happened. For the first time this season, Atlanta was shut out at home and the first time since Aug. 28, 2021.

The Phillies have won Game 1 of all six postseason rounds they’ve played over the last year and their 3-0 win over Atlanta only further proved the point. In 2022, the Phillies knocked off the same team 3-1 on the way to an improbable World Series appearance. Now, they’re up again heading to Game 2 of the best-of-five series Monday night in Atlanta.

What went well for the Phillies

This is Bryce Harper‘s (and the Phillies) favorite time of year. Both batting and pitching were on perfect display for the Phils and all Atlanta could do was watch.

Starting pitcher Ranger Suárez took the crowd out of it by stifling Atlanta’s offense early. But he did not last long yet that was on purpose. Suárez retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, but he got the hook with runners on first and second and two outs in the fourth. He pitched 3.2 innings with one hit, four strikes, and one walk.

Right-hander Jeff Hoffman replaced Suárez in the fourth with the game in the balance. Seranthony Domínguez then started the fifth and José Alvarado, Orion Kerkering, Matt Strahm, and Craig Kimbrel followed, each putting up a zero as well. For Kerkering especially, it’s been a wild ride to pitching in the postseason.

Philadelphia Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto reacts after hitting a home run against Miami Marlins pitcher David Robertson during the fourth inning of Game 2 in an NL wild-card baseball playoff series, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia shined with their bats and Bryson Stott, the man of the hour in Game 2 in the NL Wild Card, got things cooking again. The Phils’ first run off Spencer Strider was unearned. Stott singled on an 0-2 count to produce the game’s first run.

Then it was the House of Harper at the plate. The 30-year-old smashed a first-pitch slider from Strider into the right-field stands for a solo home run in the sixth inning to make it 2-0.

There was one save, one moment that is easily the moment of the game. Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies smashed a hard grounder up the middle. Phillies shortstop Trea Turner dove to his left, caught it, scrambled to his knees, and flipped the ball to the second baseman Stott. It was the double play of the game and potentially the series.

Philadelphia added an insurance run in the eighth when Sean Murphy committed catcher’s interference on Realmuto with two outs, two strikes, and the bases loaded. Now Atlanta challenged the call and after review, it stood to the ire of Braves fans. 3-0 held and Philadelphia took the opening game of the contest.

What went wrong for the Braves

Having Strider on the mound was a pitching duel from the get-go. MLB’s leader in wins (he’s got 20) with 281 strikeouts allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits, two walks and one hit batsman across seven innings. Yet two costly mistakes doomed Atlanta.

In the fourth inning, he earned the second error of his career on a pickoff attempt to first base. With two outs and an 0-2 count against Bryson Stott, Strider tried to pick off Bryce Harper, but he overthrew first baseman Matt Olson, allowing the Phillies star to advance to second.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Alec Bohm, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Bryson Stott, from left, celebrate the team’s win over the Miami Marlins in Game 2 of an NL wild-card baseball playoff series Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Phillies swept the series, and move on to face the Atlanta Braves. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

He was seen having a heated conversation with pitching coach Rick Kranitz about not wanting to be taken out of the game.

Batting also wasn’t the strong suit for the Braves all evening with dormant likely being the right world. Mr. 40-70 Ronald Acuña Jr. He went hitless in his first three at-bats, including the crucial strikeout against Dominguez on a perfect fastball on the inside corner. The Braves star reached base with a walk leading off the eighth, but it failed to spark the Atlanta offense.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said that Philly just brought the heat:

“Obviously there was a bunch of big outs. Probably none bigger than Ozzie’s that Turner dove and turned the double play. He hit that ball really well. It’s one of those things that happen sometimes. The pitching shut us down.”

Brian Snitker, 10/7/23

What’s up next

Game 2 will see Philadelphia start with righty Zack Wheeler (13-6, 3.61 ERA) battle against lefty Max Fried (8-1, 2.55 ERA). Wheeler pitched Game 1 of the wild-card series against Miami by allowing just one run over 6 1/3 innings and earning the win.

First pitch is at 6:07 pm at Truist Park.

AP Photo/Chris Szagola