One hundred and four regular season wins mean nothing to the Atlanta Braves.
For the second year in a row, the Philadelphia Phillies beat their NLDS East rivals, winning the series in four games after beating the Braves 3-1 on Thursday.
The Phillies finished 14.0 games behind the Braves, who easily won the division. At one point, Atlanta led by 17.0 games. But for them, everything is out the window, even if their regular season record is the best in the majors.
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Austin Riley and Nick Castellanos traded solo homers in the fourth inning, but with the game tied, Trea Turner reminded everyone why he got $300 million in the offseason with his own solo shot, giving to the Phillies a 2-1 lead. .
Ranger Suarez pitched five one-run innings before Rob Thomson went to the bullpen to face the Braves’ top order. Seranthony Dominguez retired the first two batters, but after Riley singled to bring in 54-homer Matt Olson, Thomson called on Jose Alvarado for the left-left game, and Olson flew out to put end to the threat.
In the bottom of the sixth, Castellanos went deep again, giving the Phils a two-run lead and knocking Spencer Strider out of the game. He became the first person in MLB history to hit multiple home runs in consecutive postseason games.
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In the top of the seventh, the leadoff run came to the plate, forcing Thomson to face former Brave Craig Kimbrel sooner than he probably would have liked. But he walked Travis d’Arnaud, bringing up likely NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. with the bases loaded. Acuña gave one away, but Miguel Rojas made a jumper on the warning track to get the Phillies out of trouble.
Gregory Soto, looking for a four-out save, put the Braves first two to lead off the ninth, and the runners were on the corners with no outs. So, Thomson returned 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 only made two saves during the regular season – of course, he made one in the biggest game of his life.
Turner was a triple away from the cycle on his four-hit night, and he’s hitting .500 in the postseason. Acuña went 0 for 4 and hit just .143 in four games. Philadelphia relievers combined for 4.0 scoreless innings of relief.
Atlanta literally had one of the best offenses of all time. Their 307 home runs and .501 slugging percentage were the most ever in a season, and they led the majors in almost every offensive category, including their 5.85 runs per game. In this series, they have only scored eight, or two per game.
The Houston Astros are the only division winners playing in the League Championship Series this year.
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The Phillies will face the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are playing their first NLCS since 2007 – this series, ranked among the five and six seeds in the NL, respectively, begins Monday in Philadelphia.
If the Phillies win this series, it will be the first time they have won back-to-back pennants since 2008 and 2009.
Oh, and teams that have beaten their opponents in the playoffs are 14-1. So hit home runs.