It’s unfortunate that even during this hard-fought, must-watch series between two of the league’s offensive juggernauts, off field drama detracted from the spectacle on the field. FOX News journalist Jake Mintz received a wave of both backlash and support over his reporting on comments overheard in the Braves clubhouse following their Game 2 victory to level the series, comments which were brought into the national focus following Bryce Harper’s celebration toward Orlando Arcia while rounding the bases following the two-time MVP’s second home run of the night in Game 3. With all the pregame furor surrounding this contest, it is perhaps a bit surprising that the series wrapped up in a rather quiet fashion, with the Phillies hanging on to a 3-1 victory to eliminate the Braves and advance to the NLCS where they’ll meet the Diamondbacks, fresh off their sweep of the Dodgers.
NLDS Game 4
Philadelphia Phillies 3, Atlanta Braves 1
(Phillies win series, 3-1)
From the get-go, it became immediately apparent that the entire Phillies lineup would put up a battle against Atlanta ace Spencer Strider. A Trea Turner one-out double got things started in the first, forcing Strider to intentionally walk Bryce Harper. Strider would escape the inning unscathed, but it would prove a harbinger of things to come.
Michael Harris II made an astonishing catch at the wall and throw back to the infield to seal the Braves’ Game 2 victory with a game-ending double play, and we didn’t have to wait long for his second web gem of the series. Following a Nick Castellanos walk and Brandon Marsh single with one out in the second, Johan Rojas smacked a humpback liner to second that looked certain to plate a run. However, Harris made a diving catch and threw back to second to double off Castellanos and end the inning.
The Phillies again put a pair on in the third on back-to-back one-out singles from Turner and Harper and against Strider navigated around the traffic. This allowed the Braves to actually open the scoring in the fourth on a wall-scraping solo shot from Austin Riley.
Castellanos answered right back with a solo shot of his own in the bottom-half of the frame.
An inning later it was Turner’s turn to leave the yard, launching his own solo shot to deep left, his second long ball in as many games. The star shortstop endured an awful start to his season after signing a ten-year, $300 million contract last winter, but turned things around at the end of the regular season and has been on a red-hot run in the playoffs, batting .500 with a 1.455 OPS, two home runs and three RBI.
Keeping the pattern going, Castellanos clubbed his second solo shot in the sixth to give him four home runs across the last two games. He too has been on a searing streak in the playoffs, batting .391 with a 1.440 OPS, four home runs and five RBI. It extended his team’s lead to 3-1 and knocked Strider from the contest.
Strider will likely finish in the top-three in NL Cy Young balloting after leading MLB in strikeouts (281) and the NL in FIP (2.85), but he was far from his best in this do-or-die game for the Braves. He finished his night having surrendered three runs on three solo shots, along with four more hits and three walks with seven strikeouts in 5.2 innings.
Phillies starter Rander Suárez meanwhile was on his A-game, holding the Braves to a run on three hits and no walks in five innings, with a quintet of relievers combining for four scoreless innings of two-hit ball to seal the victory behind him. The nerviest moment of the game for the Phillies came in the seventh, with the Braves drawing three-straight two-out walks to load the bases for Ronald Acuña. The presumptive NL MVP smacked a flyball to deep center, but Rojas chased it down to make a jumping catch at the wall to strand all three ducks on the pond.
There was still time for a last bit of drama, as Harper was helped off the field after Matt Olson collided at first with the surgically-repaired elbow that caused Harper to miss the first month of the season. Thankfully, Harper returned to field first base the following inning, though this is still one worth monitoring.
Neither team scored in the final three innings as the Phillies clinched the 3-1 victory in the game and the series to advance past the Braves — who scored just three runs combined across their three losses — to face the Diamondbacks in the NLCS. Thus, the two 100-win teams in the NL (Braves and Dodgers) find themselves eliminated in the NLDS, setting up a matchup of Wild Card teams to determine the NL’s entrant into the World Series.