Phillies NLCS
Philadelphia Phillies' Trea Turner is congratulated by Bryce Harper after hitting a home run during the sixth inning of Game 3 of a baseball NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Phillies Take Down Braves for Second Straight Year to Advance to NLCS

The Philadelphia Phillies advanced to the National League Championship Series Thursday after winning Game 4 of the NLDS 3-1 against the Atlanta Braves. The Phillies contained a Braves offense that finished first in the regular season in runs and OPS. The series win against the Braves is like a carbon copy of the 2022 NLDS, as the Phillies also advanced to the 2022 NLCS after winning Game 4. As a result, the Phillies will begin the NLCS with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.

Pitching Leads the way for the Phillies

Ranger Suarez got the ball again for the Phillies in Game 4, after pitching 3.2 shutout innings in Game 1. The Braves countered with Spencer Strider, who pitched well in the first game with seven innings, allowing only one earned run. Once again, the Braves struggled to do anything on offense in the first three innings. Suarez started the game with eight straight outs, before a throwing error put a runner at second base in the third. That runner did not faze Suarez, as he got Ronald Acuna Jr. to ground out to end the inning.

On the other side, Strider put together a solid first three innings despite allowing six baserunners. Both Trea Turner and Bryce Harper reached base in the first and third innings, but Strider got the next two hitters out to end the inning both times.

The Braves struck first in the game, as third baseman Austin Riley lined a home run for his second long ball of the series. Up to that point, Suarez had not allowed a hit, but that was the only run Atlanta scored in the game. Suarez pitched five innings and gave up three hits and the lone run from the home run. The Phillies bullpen was responsible for the last four innings of play.

Three Home Runs in Three Innings for Philly

For the second straight game, the Braves had a 1-0 lead but it did not last for long. Nick Castellanos unloaded a hanging slider from Strider to left field to tie the game up at one apiece in the bottom of the fourth.

In the fifth, Turner gave the Phillies the lead with a solo home run to left center. One inning later, Castellanos hammered a fastball down the middle for his second home run of the game to extend Philadelphia’s lead to 3-1. The Phillies hit a home run in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to push Strider out of the game. Strider gave up three runs in 5.2 innings with seven strikeouts.

Braves Threaten, But Can’t Capitalize

The top of the sixth went well for the Phillies bullpen. Seranthony Dominguez came in and got the first two outs but manager Rob Thomson went for a lefty-lefty matchup with Matt Olson due up. Jose Alvarado came in and got Olson to fly out to center. Alvarado continued into the seventh and got the first two outs but struggled with control for the next two hitters.

Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel came in relief for Alvarado. He had to face pinch hitter Travis d’Arnaud, who homered in Game 2 in Atlanta. Kimbrel walked d’Arnaud on six pitches to load up the bases. Acuna Jr. stepped in and hit a fly ball to the left center field warning track that Phillies rookie Johan Rojas tracked down.

In the eighth, Kimbrel got the first two outs and then gave the ball to Gregory Soto, a left-handed pitcher, with Olson due up. Similar to Game 1, Olson did not face a single right-handed pitcher in this game. Soto got Olson to ground out to second.

In the ninth inning, Soto continued but gave up a walk and a single to put runners on first and third with no outs. Another left-hander, Matt Strahm, came in and got the first out on a pop up. The Braves used pinch hitters for their next two at-bats but were unsuccessful. Outfielder Eddie Rosario flew out to shallow left field and Vaughn Grissom struck out to end the game.

Where Both Teams Go From Here

Phillies pitching dominated the Braves the entire series, only allowing eight runs in four games. In addition, Philadelphia’s offense stepped up in a big way. Turner hit .500 in the four games after a four-hit game, and Harper put together a .538 on-base percentage in the series. Castellanos hit two home runs in both Games 3 and 4 to become the first player in MLB Playoff history to have a multi-home run game in back-to-back games. The Phillies expect both the pitching and offense to continue their form into the NLCS.

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As for the Braves, there will be questions in the offseason about certain players. Starter Charlie Morton has an option for next season, though some are curious if this may have been his last season. With Kyle Wright out next season, starting pitching will likely be a topic for the front office. In addition, Rosario, Kirby Yates and Collin McHugh have club options for next season, while Brad Hand has a mutual option. Despite that, the Braves still have seven of their eight position players under control for multiple years, which should keep them in the playoff hunt in the future after a 104-win regular season.

About Matt Rothmann

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