One hundred and four wins in the regular season mean nothing for the Atlanta Braves.
For the second year in a row, the Philadelphia Phillies took down their NL East rivals in the NLDS, winning the series in four games after beating the Braves on Thursday, 3-1.
The Phillies finished 14.0 games back of the Braves, who won the division easily. At one point, Atlanta led it by 17.0 games. But for them, it’s all out the window, despite their regular season record being the best in the majors.
Austin Riley and Nick Castellanos exchanged solo home runs in the fourth inning, but with the game tied at one, Trea Turner reminded everyone why he got $300 million in the offseason with a solo shot of his own, giving the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
Ranger Suarez tossed five innings of one-run ball before Rob Thomson went to the bullpen to face the top of the Braves’ order. Seranthony Dominguez got the first two batters out, but after Riley singled to bring up 54-homer-hitter Matt Olson, Thomson brought in Jose Alvarado for the lefty-lefty matchup, and Olson flied out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the sixth, Castellanos went deep again, making it a two-run Phils lead and knocking Spencer Strider out of the game. He became the first person in MLB history to multiple home runs in back-to-back games in postseason history.
In the top of the seventh, the lead run came to the plate, which forced Thomson to go with former Brave Craig Kimbrel earlier than he probably would’ve like. But he walked Travis d’Arnaud, bringing up the likely NL MVP in Ronald Acuña Jr. with the bases loaded. Acuña gave one a ride, but Miguel Rojas made a leaping catch on the warning track to get the Phillies out of the jam.
Gregory Soto, going for the four-out save, put the two first Braves on to lead off the ninth, and runners were at the corners with none out. So, Thomson went back to his bullpen to bring in Matt Strahm, and with ease, he retired all three batters he faced, leaving Acuña on deck to end the game. Strahm had just two saves during the regular season – of course, he gets one in the biggest game of his life.
Turner was a triple away from the cycle in his four-hit night, and he’s hitting .500 in this postseason. Acuña went 0-for-4 and hit just .143 in the four games. Philly relievers combined for 4.0 innings of scoreless relief.
Atlanta had one of the best offenses, literally, ever. Their 307 home runs and .501 slugging percentage were the most ever in a season, and they led the majors in just about every offensive category, including their 5.85 runs per game. In this series, they scored just eight, or two per game.
The Houston Astros are the only division winners to be playing in the League Championship Series this year.
The Phillies will face the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are in their first NLCS since 2007 – that series, between the five and six seeds in the NL, respectively, begins Monday in Philadelphia.
If the Phillies win that series, it will be the first time they will have won back-to-back pennants since 2008 and 2009.
Oh, and teams to out-homer their opponents this postseason are 14-1. So, hit home runs.