Phils on cusp of NLCS after raucous victory: ‘It was whoa’

Six-run 3rd, Nola’s strong start fuel first playoff game in Philadelphia since 2011

PHILADELPHIA — This is what 11 years of waiting looks and sounds like.

It is Rhys Hoskins crushing a baseball, raising his arms, spiking his bat and racing around the bases as a sellout crowd loses its mind. It is fans cheering so loudly after a Bryce Harper homer that ears started to ring on the field. It is Aaron Nola looking cooler than ever as he entrenches himself as a big-game pitcher. It is a ballpark that rocked and rolled for hours because it had waited forever for this.

The Phillies beat the Braves on Friday in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park, 9-1, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. The Phils need one more victory to punch their ticket to the NL Championship Series.

“God, it was loud,” Hoskins said.

“So loud,” Harper said. “Absolutely insane. Electric. Nothing that I could have ever dreamed. It was whoa. It was chills again, because that was unbelievably cool. I hope it’s like that for the next two weeks.”

The Phillies’ first postseason game at home since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS lived up to the hype. It got as loud as Doc’s no-hitter in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS, J-Roll’s walk-off in Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS, Lidge’s strikeout in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, the Flyin’ Hawaiian’s grand slam in Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS and Tug’s strikeout to finish Game 6 of the 1980 World Series.

“It’s obviously something that I’ve heard about for a long time,” Hoskins said about postseason baseball in Philadelphia. “Debuting in 2017, seeing pictures, hearing stories, being around guys that were there, Spring Training.”

Nola got them to their breakout moment on Friday. He allowed one unearned run in six-plus innings, the only one he has allowed in 12 2/3 innings in the postseason. He sent the Phillies into the bottom of the third with a scoreless tie. Brandon Marsh worked a leadoff walk against Braves right-hander Spencer Strider, who was making his first start since Sept. 18.

Marsh raced to third on an errant pickoff throw.

Strider’s fastball averaged 98.4 mph in his first two innings, but it dropped to 96.4 in the third.

The Phillies noticed immediately. The dugout buzzed.

“I peeped the board and saw 5s and 6s,” Marsh said. “The first couple innings, he was pumping 8s, 9s, maybe 100.”

Bryson Stott fouled off four pitches in a nine-pitch at-bat that ended with a double to right field to score Marsh to make it 1-0. The crowd roared. The Braves’ bullpen remained quiet.

Atlanta was sticking with Strider.

“In hindsight, he was so good the first two that, I don’t know, maybe we got kind of … I don’t know,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Strider intentionally walked Kyle Schwarber, who later snapped a postseason hitless streak that spanned 35 plate appearances (2021-22) with a single in the seventh. The Braves wanted to face Hoskins, who was 0-for-10 with seven strikeouts in his career against Strider. Hoskins was 1-for-19 with seven strikeouts in the postseason. He also made a costly error in Atlanta’s 3-0 victory in Game 2.

Hoskins heard some boos during pregame introductions. He heard more after a first-inning strikeout. But then Strider threw him a first-pitch fastball at 93.8 mph. Hoskins crushed it at 107.3 mph for a three-run homer that made it 4-0.

Hoskins turned to the Phillies’ dugout, raised his arms and spiked his bat. He touched first base then sprinted around the bases.

“They’re digging up the bat,” Matt Vierling said.

Hoskins said afterward in the clubhouse that he did not even realize what he did until Schwarber showed him a couple innings later on an iPad.

“That’s what I did?” Hoskins said.

“It blew the roof off of our park, metaphorically,” catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “It was incredible. The stadium went wild. That’s what he’s here to do. He’s our guy who comes up big in spots like that, and he did tonight.”

Realmuto singled against Strider, who finally left the game. Dylan Lee entered to face Harper, who crushed a first-pitch fastball for a two-run homer to make it 6-0. The crowd went wild again.

“We’ve got to get a decibel count,” Garrett Stubbs said. “Rhys, straight homer, bat spike, looked at the stands. Blacked out from watching. And then Dylan Lee comes in to get Harper out, and first pitch, wham-o.”

“I can finally hear,” Stott said. “My PitchCom was at 20, and I still had to cover it to hear what pitch was coming. It’s usually at 8. It was at 20. I don’t like the yelling in my ear, so I just keep it low. I couldn’t keep it low today.”

The party was on. It could pick up as early as Saturday afternoon in Game 4. Teams with a 2-1 lead in a best-of-five series have gone on to win the series 67 of 93 times (72 percent). In Division Series with the 2-2-1 format, teams up 2-1 and playing Game 4 at home have advanced 21 of 26 times (81 percent).

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“One game away,” Harper said. “This is what it’s all about. We have an opportunity to clinch at home. And we have an opportunity to come out and hopefully strike first.”