December 2, 2023

Phillies shutout Braves to take Game 1 of NLDS


Philadelphia Phillies designated hitter Bryce Harper (3) celebrates his solo homer against the Atlanta Braves as third base coach Dusty Wathan (62) reacts during the sixth inning of Game 1 of a baseball NL Division Series, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

104 wins, tied the major-league record with 307 home runs, 947 runs, and home-field advantage throughout the postseason, no big deal for the Fightins.

The Phillies went into Truist Park Saturday night and took Game 1, just like a year ago, taking down the Atlanta Braves’ best shot in Spencer Strider and winning, 3-0, to hold their momentum.

Just like that, there is no more home-field advantage for the Braves. If the series goes the full five games, each team would have two more in its home park, and even better for the Phils, they will be able to use Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola in three of the remaining four.

This is the first time the Braves have been shut out in any game since losing 3-0 to the Toronto Blue Jays on May 12. The streak of 124 games with at least one run was the 2nd-longest in team history, shorter only than a 160-game streak from 1893-95, per ESPN Stats and Info.

The Phillies have won Game 1 of all six postseason rounds they’ve played over the last year, constantly putting themselves in the front seat in a series they entered as underdogs.

Ranger Suarez, who started for the Phils, kept the crowd quiet by keeping Atlanta’s offense quiet, as well, early. He retired 10 of the first 11 hitters he faced with the only baserunner quickly obliterated trying to steal second on J.T. Realmuto.

Suarez had his changeup and curveball working and painted the corners. The Braves put six balls in play against him and all were weakly hit.

However, manager Rob Thomson went to the bullpen debatably early. Suarez was visibly upset. He was pitching very well, as well.

Thomson turned to Jeff Hoffman with two on and two outs in the fourth inning. Hoffman walked Marcell Ozuna to load the bases but struck out lefty Michael Harris II to end the Braves’ threat. Hoffman has come up huge for the Phils all season, and did once again Saturday night.

Some were surprised by the early turn from Suarez, but Thomson said he was going to manage aggressively with days off in between Games 1 and 2 and Games 2 and 3. The Phillies feel they have as many as eight high-leverage relievers in Craig Kimbrel, Jose Alvarado, Hoffman, Seranthony Dominguez, Gregory Soto, Matt Strahm, Orion Kerkering, and Cristopher Sanchez, and they used all but Soto and Sanchez in Game 1. And they all came up huge.

Dominguez put runners on the corners in the bottom of the fifth with the top of the Braves’ order due up and the Phillies leading by a run. In a tremendous situation, he shocked the sold-out crowd in Atlanta and struck out MVP frontrunner Ronald Acuna Jr. looking, then challenged Austin Riley with a 99 mph fastball right down the pipe and got him.

Kerkering, who was called up to the MLB just three weeks ago, threw an eight-pitch 1-2-3 seventh

Strahm pitched a scoreless eighth. The Braves put their first two men on base but Strahm got Matt Olson to fly out to deep left and Ozzie Albies to hit a one-hop missile that Trea Turner grabbed on a dive which he flipped a long way to Bryson Stott, who rocketed one to first for the inning-ending double play. It was the defensive highlight of the season.

The three runs only helped, as one of those came 115.3 mph off the bat of Harper. It was the hardest hit ball Strider had ever allowed.

Thanks to Stott’s 0-2 RBI single in the fourth and a Sean Murphy catcher’s interference in the eighth which led to Braves fans throwing trash on the field, the Phils got the victory 3-0 as Kimbrel shut the door in the ninth.

The Phillies seem to be peaking at the right time, again.

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