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Phillies beat Braves for first NL Championship Series since 2010 | MLB


Bryce Harper stood in the clubhouse as still as he does when he’s admiring a home run, taking a beer bath from the bottles his Phillies teammates happily poured over him.

Harper’s glasses didn’t protect against the waterfall of booze running down his cheeks.

“It’s so cold! But it’s so good!” – defensive tackle Rhys Hoskins barked in Harper’s face.

Then it’s time for Phyllis to sing, “I’m going, I’m going back, to Kali Kali!” they shouted in unison to Notorious BIG’s classic. That’s right, the next stop for the Fightins is a trip out west for the NLCS, as a team that looked completely lost in May suddenly looks like a World Series contender in October.

Brandon Marsh hit a three-run homer and JT Realmuto hit an inside-the-park home run to send Philadelphia into the NDS Championship Series for the first time since 2010 with an 8-3 victory over Atlanta Braves in Game 4 on Saturday.

Realmuto became the first catcher to hit an infield hit in postseason history, and Harper capped the flurry with a game-tying home run to help the Phillies win the NL Division Series 3-1 against the World Series champion Braves.

The Phillies will face either San Diego or the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. The Padres held a 2-1 lead over the Dodgers entering Game 4 of the NLDS on Saturday night.

Atlanta’s loss meant the Major Leagues Baseball there hasn’t been a repeat champion since the New York Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000.

“As I told them, the goal when we leave spring training is to win the division. Until you win the division, you don’t have a chance to do anything special because you never know what’s going to happen, you don’t know which team is going to be hot, what has to go right for you to go deep into the postseason,” the manager said Braves Brian Snitker.

“And we entered. It did not happen to us this year,” he said.

Philadelphia sits in third place in the NL East at 87-75, trailing the Braves, who have won 101 this season, by a full 14 games but playing like a contender under manager Rob Thomson. Thomson, who was a career manager with the Yankees and Phillies, turned the team around nicely from a 23-29 mark when they fired Joe Girardi on June 3.

“We just started off a little slow and kind of spiraled. And May was a really difficult month. It was a really tough schedule,” Thomson said.

“Then once we got into June, the schedule eased up a little bit and we started to win and the guys started to gain confidence and believe that they could win and believe that, OK, now this is the team that we thought we were. And just continued,” he said.

After beating NL Central champion St. Louis 2-0 in MLB’s newly created wild-card round, the Phillies used a dose of Marsh Madness to keep the party going in October.

Hell, call it Mash Madness as the Phillies turned Citizens Bank Park into a cozy home ballpark for the second game in a row – and another fired-up crowd waving towels at every long ball.

“I feel like I’m with them,” Harper said. “I feel that they are with us every day. It seems to me that I am hand in hand with them. That’s all they want to see. They just want you to play hard. That’s all. They want you to go out there and break your (back) every day. There can be no excuses.”

After Hoskins hit his bat with a three-run shot in the Game 3 win, it was Marsh’s turn in the second inning to hit a three-run homer of his own in Game 4.

Braves starter Charlie Morton was hit in the elbow by 71.9 mph Alec Bohm to lead off the inning. After checking out, Morton allowed a single to Jean Segura and hung a 2-2 curveball that the No. 9 hitter Marsh launched deep into right field for a 3-0 lead.

Marsh, 24, is known for his shaggy hair and ZZ Top-style beard, as well as being one of the Phillies’ best young players. Marsh, who also doubled in the fourth, was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in August just before this season’s trade deadline. Phillies president Dave Dombrowski made another deadline deal with the Angels in which they acquired Game 4 starter Noah Syndergaard, also known for his long locks.

Hey, it’ll be easy for the Phyllis to let their hair down and play.

Reliever Brad Hand was one of six Philadelphia pitchers to get the win.

Thomson asked Syndergaard, who was cut from the rotation at the end of the season, nothing more than to keep the Phillies in the game. Maybe bypass the order once whole. Syndergaard had three strikeouts in three innings in a brief return to his bullpen days with the New York Mets.

Orlando Arcia knocked him in with a solo shot in the third to make it 3-1.

Realmuto then quickly made postseason history.

He connected to lead off the third innings against Colin McHugh, who was shooting for a boundary. The ball hit the slanted part of the wall beyond the reach of center fielder Michael Harris II and the carom rolled down the warning track to right-center. Ronald Acuña Jr. stood in right field watching the play and didn’t start running toward the ball until Realmuta was well past first base. Realmuta, who runs very well for a catcher, made a head slide at the plate well ahead of the bat.

Meanwhile, the park was in a frenzy as the sold-out crowd of 45,660 cheered wildly, all senses tingling that there would be no Game 5.

No. Just the third game of the NLCS in Philly on Friday.

Harper hit a solo homer in the eighth, the second of the series for the reigning NL MVP.

The Phillies’ trio of hitters, the heart of the franchise, appeared to have put the game away in the sixth. Hoskins-Realmuth-Harper all had RBI singles to make it 7-2, and the series clincher was a mere formality.

“They are hitting on all cylinders at the right time. It’s a good club,” Snitker said. “They’ve got some really good players and they’re starting to work at the right time.”

The Phillies walked 2008 World Series champion Pat Burrell to lead off the first inning after his 2008 teammate Shane Victorino did the same before Game 3.

The Phillies’ streak of five straight postseason appearances — including the 2009 NL pennant and a 2010 NLCS loss to San Francisco — stretched from 2007 to 2011 before the franchise was saddled with too many dry years without hope.

They no longer need to look to Burrell, Victorino, others in this run as the only reminder of the stars of the postseason — Harper, Hoskins, Realmuth, Marsh set their own marks in October, and at least one more streak lies ahead.


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