The Atlanta Braves in 2021 played 16 playoff games and never faced elimination. In 2022, they played four and are going home for the winter.
The Philadelphia Phillies, the six seed in the NL in the first-ever full season with six seeds in the playoffs, took down the defending champs in Game 4 Saturday, 8-3, clinching the best-of-five NLDS with a 3- 1 series win.
Here’s how it happened on Saturday in a raucous Citizens Bank Park.
Marsh, Realmuto spark offense
The Phillies had runners on first and third in the first inning before an out was recorded, but Braves starter Charlie Morton got two strikeouts and a harmless fly out to end the threat. In the second, an Alec Bohm single off Morton — we’ll get back to that in a second — and a Jean Segura one-out single meant the Phillies had runners at the corners again. This time around, they made sure to get the runners home by putting the bat on the ball. Brandon Marsh, take it away.
The three-run shot sent the park into a frenzy.
The next run the Phillies scored was historic. JT Realmuto hit an inside-the-park home run (), the first inside-the-park home run in Phillies playoff history and the first by a catcher in playoff history.
As the late, great Mel Allen would’ve said, “how about that?”
Realmuto would add an RBI single in the sixth — it was an infield single, so he kept flashing those wheels — during a rally in which the Phillies put the Braves away. It was only a 4-2 Phillies lead before that half inning, but three runs with two outs from the Phillies essentially iced it. Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper also had RBI singles and Harper doubled down with a solo home run in the eighth.
Segura also deserves mention for his two-hit, two-run effort from the eight-hole.
Morton leaves with injury after comebacker
Remember above when I said we’ll get back to Morton? Also, remember when he got hit with a line drive in Game 1 of the World Series last year? He stayed in the game in both instances before having to be removed. It turned out it was a broken fibula in the World Series. This time around, it seems like his elbow was hit with the liner ().
Keep in mind Segura’s single and Marsh’s home run off Morton came after he was hit with a line drive. He did finish the second inning and then came back out for the third, but after a few warmup tosses essentially pulled himself from the game.
Morton ended up allowing three runs on four hits in two innings of work.
Syndergaard, bullpen piece it together
Since coming over from the Angels at the trade deadline, Noah Syndergaard has been mediocre at best. He also got an inning of work in relief in Game 2, so it might’ve been a bit head-scratching for some people when the Phillies tabbed him as the Game 4 starter. The plan heading into the game, however, was just for Syndergaard to get through the Braves’ lineup one time.
He did just that. In three innings of work, he allowed just a solo homer (one run on one hit) while striking out three, all on just 35 pitches. Basically, he did his job and left with the Phillies leading. Now they needed six more innings.
Andrew Bellatti went an inning, giving up a solo homer and avoiding a meltdown. Veteran lefty Brad Hand went a scoreless fifth while striking out two. José Alvarado got a 1-2-3 sixth with two strikeouts, then stuck around and allowed a solo homer before getting the first two outs in the seventh. Former starter Zach Eflin was next and he got through 1 1/3 innings clean and with three strikeouts. For the ninth, it was Seranthony Domínguez.
Take note of the Braves’ runs being solo home runs. This was the best power-hitting team in the league all season. The Phillies pitchers made sure to keep the bases clear for most of the game, meaning all that damage was limited.
For the Phillies, they’ll move on to await the winner of the other NLDS. Perhaps it’s the Padres with a Game 4 win or they wait on the Dodgers or Padres after Game 5. Regardless, Games 1 and 2 will be in Southern California before the Phillies return home to what will obviously be a hero’s welcome in Citizens Bank Park. Boy, was it rocking in Games 3 and 4 of this series.
What a journey for the Phillies. They were 21-29 through May. They fired their manager. They lost 2021 MVP Bryce Harper to a broken thumb in late June. They were only three games over .500 until a winning streak in late July. They lost 10 of 13 at one point in late September and had to fight almost to the end of the regular season just to make the playoffs. They trailed 2-0 going into the ninth inning of Game 1 of the Wild Card Series. And now they are in the NLCS for the first time since 2010.
On the flip side, the Braves had one of the greatest extended runs in regular-season history. They went 78-34 after the calendar turned to June. They ran down the Mets to win the NL East despite facing a 10 1/2 game deficit. Now, the defending champions caught a glimpse into what a fickle mistress postseason baseball can be. They won 88 games and the World Series last year. This year, they won 101 games and nary a postseason series.