PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Take the results at face value and maybe there’s enough reason for the Phillies to believe they’re in the same encouraging spot as a year ago. They won an opener in Atlanta, then lost a second game.
Philadelphia returned home tied 1-1 in the 2022 National League Division Series — just like this season — then won two at home behind a thunderous Philly crowd.
But if you are a believer in momentum heading into Game 3 Wednesday, then the Braves just might be the team to beat.
A day removed from Game 2’s meltdown, when just a few Phillies stragglers worked out at Citizens Bank Park, the inconceivable series of events that turned the team from the brink of a series sweep was still being unraveled.
— How did ace Zack Wheeler take a no-hit bid and a 4-0 lead into the sixth, only to start the collapse when he gave up Travis d’Arnaud’s two-run homer in the seventh?
— How could the Phillies have left 11 runners on base?
— And what about Bryce Harper’s baserunning? The two-time NL MVP committed a baserunning blunder when he rounded second base and was doubled up. A great catch by Michael Harris II and an alert backup and throw by Austin Riley sealed the Braves’ 5-4 win that evened the series at one each.
Those were just the main talking points.
Trea Turner’s defense, manager Rob Thomson’s handling of his pitchers and more were all packed inside the postseason powder keg that went off in the late innings in Atlanta.
Philadelphia said all the right things in the clubhouse after Game 2. Nick Castellanos said the Phillies “thrive after we get punched in the face, man.” Thomson and Game 3 starter Aaron Nola said vibes were good in Philly, especially with a needed day off to regroup.
“This is a tough team, resilient team,” Thomson said Tuesday. “I expect nothing less than these guys coming in here tomorrow and getting after it.”
With good reason, of course.
The Phillies are 24-11 in the postseason at Citizens Bank, the top postseason winning percentage for any team in any park with a minimum 20 games. The Phillies lost 3-0 at Atlanta in Game 2 last season, then won Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS at home in front of a raucous home crowd that rattled the the Braves.
“It’s as nuts of place as I’ve ever been, that’s for sure,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “There may be a few guys that have not experienced that until they get there. I’m sure these guys are talking about it. But I think for the most part, when you’ve been through what these guys have been through, you know what, it kind of jacks them up, too.”
Last season’s results are a nice memory for the Phillies
The Braves — who did not announce a Game 3 starter — are coming to Philly this week to finish the job.
“I think the momentum came back onto our side,” Braves reliever A.J. Minter said. “But with that being said, I mean, we have to continue to play really good baseball. And I don’t think we’ve, we came in obviously slow the past two games, and we can’t afford to keep doing that and relying on coming back in the later innings. So there’s definitely some stuff we need to clean up, on both sides, pitching and hitting, because this team is not going to give in, and they’re at home in Philly. You know they’re going to be excited.”
Nola, eligible for free agency after the World Series, tossed seven shutout innings against the Marlins in a Game 2 win of their NL Wild Card Series. Nola gave up five hits, walked two and struck out six in six-plus innings against the Braves in a Game 3 NLDS win last season.
Nola pitched six shutout innings against the Braves in June in his only start this season.
“It’s just good to be back home with our home crowd,” Nola said. “We got three games left to do something. So we just got to take it game by game. It’s going to be a tough one, but it starts tomorrow.”
Not like the Phillies need any motivation to squash Atlanta’s good-will as it boarded a plane, but stories that Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia cackled in the clubhouse over Harper’s baserunning blunder quickly surfaced after Game 2. Arcia cracked, “ha-ha, atta-boy, Harper ” in the celebratory moments after the win, Fox reported.
Just what Harper needs, a little extra poke to stir the usually sensational postseason star.
“I don’t think anybody needs any motivation right now,” Thomson said. “But if that adds to our motivation, that’s great.”
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