Barrage of Homers Puts Phillies in Control of World Series

Barrage of Homers Puts Phillies in Control of World Series

PHILADELPHIA — It had been more than a week since fans in Philadelphia had seen their team in person, plenty of time to savor the lasting image from that game: A dramatic eighth-inning, go-ahead home run by Bryce Harper. It was a defining two-run blast that all but clinched the National League pennant for the surprising Phillies.

It took nine days for them to come back home, but on the very next pitch Harper saw at Citizens Bank Park, in the first inning of Tuesday’s game, he rocketed a drive deep into the right field bleachers for another two-run home run.

It was a breathtaking way to welcome the World Series back to Philadelphia after a 12-year absence, and it did more than just set a thunderous tone. It lit the fuse for a barrage of home runs for the home team — five in all — as the Phillies hammered the Houston Astros, 7-0, in Game 3 of the World Series.

After Harper rounded the bases amid an ear-shattering roar from his jubilant supporters, he appeared to whisper instructions to his teammate, Alec Bohm. An inning later Bohm hit a homer that happened to be the 1,000th in World Series history.

The 1,001st homer came two outs after that, off the bat of Brandon Marsh, and Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins followed suit in consecutive at-bats in the fifth inning.

The right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., the Astros’ starter, became the first pitcher to surrender five home runs in a World Series game, and the Phillies became the fourth team to hit five in a World Series game. They joined the 2017 Astros, the 1989 Athletics and the 1928 Yankees, all of whom went on to win the World Series.

The Phillies are halfway there. They took a two-games-to-one lead in the series, with Game 4 set for Wednesday. Aaron Nola of the Phillies will face Houston’s Cristian Javier, with a chance to lead Philadelphia to a two-game lead. Of the previous 61 times a Fall Classic was tied by 1-1, the team that won Game 3 went on to win the series 41 times, or 67 percent of the time.

The Astros, who were favored to win the championship, looked overwhelmed at times and are in jeopardy of losing their third chance at a title in the last four years, all of which came after revelations that they had used illicit means to steal opposing teams’ signs during their 2017 championship season.

Tuesday’s game, which was postponed a day because of rain, marked the first time the Astros had played in Philadelphia since those revelations, the first chance for the fans to unleash their venomous boos and chants of “Cheater, cheater.”

They booed when the Astros took the field for batting practice two hours before the first pitch, they booed when the Astros came off the field, when their names were announced during pregame introductions and when each one came to bat. The loudest boos and chants were reserved for Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, the infielders who were as important to the 2017 team as they are to the current group.

But the fans had only so limited time to boo, so busy were they cheering their own team’s home runs.

It was a nightmarish game for McCullers, who seemed to be battling with his own mechanics from the outset, as he walked Schwarber, Philadelphia’s leadoff batter, and had trouble commanding his pitches throughout the game.

Astros Manager Dusty Baker had several opportunities to remove McCullers, but left him in to suffer more torment under the weight of the Phillies’ lumber. But finally, after Schwarber and Hoskins went deep in back-to-back at-bats in the fifth, Baker trudged from the dugout to offer a lifeline.

Harper’s home run was his sixth of the postseason as he pounced on a curveball. McCullers knew it was gone immediately, and did a pirouette of distress, hopping off the mound with his arms waving in frustration. Harper rounded the bases, accepted the congratulations of his teammate, then called Bohm, the third baseman, back to the dugout from the on-deck circle. Harper whispered something in his ear for several seconds.

Bohm did not get to bat that inning, as Nick Castellanos made the final out. But leading off the second, Bohm blasted a sinker into the stands in left field. Whatever Harper saw from McCullers, or whatever advice he passed on to his teammates, was, at the very least, not unhelpful.

But the Astros did not seem outwardly concerned that McCullers might possibly be tipping his pitchers — doing something inadvertently to signal to the opposition what pitch he was about to throw — because they did not remove him from the game.

Marsh’s home run in the same inning barely cleared the wall. It bounced off the mitt of a boy in the front row and bounced back onto the field. When Marsh, the No. 9 hitter, saw the ball rolling around in the outfield, he put on the brakes for an instant while rounding second base, only to see that he could keep running. The umpires reviewed the play, and the home run was upheld, giving the fans another opportunity to cheer.

Schwarber’s two-run home run was a majestic, towering drive that bounced off the ivy-covered wall in center field, 443 feet from home plate.

While McCullers struggled, Ranger Suárez, the Phillies starter, soared. Making his first World Series start, the unflappable lefty threw five shutout innings and allowed only three singles, two of which were on ground balls.

Like Harper, his previous pitches in a game at home came in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series with the San Diego Padres. Harper’s two-run homer gave the Phillies the lead, and Suárez got the final two outs for the save, then opened Tuesday’s game with the same kind of resolve.

“Ranger doesn’t get nervous,” Rob Thomson, the Phillies’ manager, said before the game. “He’s a pretty calm character. You saw what he did in Game 5 of the Padres series. It doesn’t matter the game state, the inning, what the score is, what his role is, he just goes out and pitches.”

Of course, it is a lot easier to pitch when your teammates are mercilessly pounding the opponent’s pitcher. It was a perfect way for Philadelphia to welcome its team, and the World Series, back to town.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *