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Phillies, Once Again, Show They Are For Real In Dominant Game 3 Win

Both the usual suspects and some budding youngsters went deep for the Phillies, who matched a World Series record with five home runs in a Game 3 rout. (Chris Szagola/AP)

Phillies, Once Again, Show They Are For Real In Dominant Game 3 Win

Ever since his first game with the Phillies on March 28, 2019, the fans have stood when Bryce Harper bats for the first time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a dime-a-dozen game in June or lead-shifting one in the World Series. Their appreciation for their biggest star has always been visible.

But it meant a little bit more on Tuesday night. They have always appreciated Harper — how could they not after so many names came and went during Philadelphia’s postseason-less decade. But there was more than excitement in their cheers before Harper’s first at-bat in Game 3 of this World Series. It was his first in Philadelphia since The Swing, which capatulted the Phillies to this moment, their first World Series home game since Nov. 2, 2009. As Harper stepped into the batter’s box, the 45,712 fanatics that packed the Bank could not have been for thankful for Harper, who dunked on a Phillies team beginning its downfall with a home-plate steal as a rookie in 2012, to be one of theirs.

They felt the same way as Harper stepped out of the batter’s box in awe of the 402-foot blast he launched on the first pitch Lance McCullers Jr. threw his way. The Phillies are now 6-0 at home in the postseason. In hindsight, Harper’s bomb was all they needed to extend their streak. Ranger Suárez led the way on the mound before the bullpen finished Philadelphia’s third shutout win of the postseason.

But it wasn’t all they would get. The Phillies have scored in the first three innings of all of their home postseason games. All of them have become parties that raged throughout the day and night. Harper and the Phillies were locked in from the start. Nick Castellanos and Bryson Stott made fantastic plays in the field on the first two pitches of the game. Harper gave Alec Bohm some advice before his first at-bat of the game. Bohm promptly laced the 1,000th World Series home run of all-time over the left field wall on the first pitch he saw. The Phillies would tack on another home run that inning and launch two more in the fifth. The night was theirs.

The night before belonged to the rain. Game 3 in a 1-1 series is massive. After all, it is one of just four possible “swing games” in a best-of-seven series. Before the seemingly inevitable downpour, the Phillies planned to have Noah Syndergaard start Game 3. Syndergaard is more than capable. He was excellent in Game 4 of the NLDS, retiring nine of 10 hitters. He will likely be called upon to start Game 5, so he might start a swing game after all.

But maintaining their home bravado was and is crucial to the Phillies’ chances of pulling this off. The days of empty seats dotting every section at Citizens Bank Park seem about as foreign as days like this did only a month ago. Everyone knows the massive advantage the Phillies have at their home ballpark. But it’s one thing for visitors to hear about, and another to experience it. Just 32 days after he allowed one run in six innings against them, the Phillies expertly picked their spots against the usually nasty offspeed stuff of McCullers. Maybe he was tipping his pitches. Maybe he wasn’t. Either way, the Phillies mashed and mashed until the outcome basically became a sure thing by the fifth.

For the second consecutive series, the Phillies found a way to not just rise to the moment, but beyond it. By winning in such dominant fashion, Rob Thomson saved his three most trusted relievers. All of José Alvarado, Seranthony Domínguez, and Zach Eflin have had the last three days off. It’s not unreasonable to think they could be available in every game for the rest of the series. Suárez was efficient early and worked around some two-out trouble, navigating five frames on just 76 pitches. He threw 68 in the same amount of innings in Game 3 of the NLCS, then recorded the final two outs of the series just two days later.

Even in past years when they threatened for a postseason spot, the Phillies always found themselves backed into a corner when it mattered most. This time around, they have options. Good ones. They received home runs from their sixth and ninth hitters. The extra day off means Aaron Nola will start Game 4 with a chance to put the Phillies in the driver’s seat. Since August 25, Nola has allowed one earned run in 29.2 innings at home. He knows he is capable of brilliance against Houston’s potent lineup after taking a perfect game into the seventh against them in the Phillies’ postseason clincher. It is just another layer to the bubbling confidence that seemingly occupies everyone wearing red the moment they arrive at the ballpark.

At this point, it feels like there is so little that can phase the Phillies. If they start Game 4 on a high note, they know they can ride the wave. If they struggle early, they know they can handle it. What they lack in postseason experience they make up for in experience of some of the wackiest moments baseball can offer over the years. Even those who didn’t arrive in Philadelphia until this blissful season felt it as pressure mounted late in September. The agony of their past still remains, but the Phillies have found a way to load it into a spring that has lifted them to almost unfathomable heights.

Here’s a light-hearted break from the tension of this exciting World Series.

One swing, pitch, and pop of the glove at a time, the Phillies just keep flipping the script. Now, back ahead in the series, they turn to their new-found familarity of thriving in the spotlight, the precipice of greatness within reach.

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