Phils knock out reigning-champ Braves, reach 1st NLCS since '10

October 16th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies just wanted to get in.

Just make the playoffs. Then see what happens.

See what happened? The Phillies beat the Braves in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Saturday afternoon, 8-3, to clinch their first trip to the NL Championship Series since 2010. They blasted “Going Back to Cali” in the clubhouse as champagne sprayed everywhere, because they know they will fly to California on Sunday. They sang “Dancing on My Own” after that, because that’s just what they do when they win.

The Phillies will now head to San Diego for an NLCS date with the Padres, who stunned the 111-win Dodgers with a four-game triumph in their NLDS. Game 1 is Tuesday night, and the first game in Philadelphia will be Friday.

“What a place to be this weekend,” Rhys Hoskins said. “What a place to be.”

Fourteen days ago, Philadelphia fell into a tie with Milwaukee for the third NL Wild Card after getting clobbered by nine runs in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Nationals Park. It might have been one of the Phillies’ worst losses of the season.

Nobody said anything before Game 2 of that twin bill at Nationals Park. They understood the stakes.

“Just make it,” Kyle Schwarber said. “I’ve always said it, if you can just make it in, anything can happen. That’s what this whole group believed. If you can make it, anything can happen. That was what we held on to.”

Two days later, the Phillies clinched the NL Wild Card in Houston. Five days after that, they swept the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Series. Then they dispatched the defending World Series champions a week after that in the NLDS. That’s three champagne celebrations in 13 days.

Looking ahead to the NLCS, the Phillies will return home for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) on Oct. 21-23. It will be their first time facing the Padres in the NLCS.

“I just feel like we keep inching closer to one of the biggest stages in sports,” Zack Wheeler said. “It’s really cool.”

The Phillies beat the Braves in Game 4 because two midseason acquisitions in Brandon Marsh and Noah Syndergaard came up big. Marsh hit a three-run home run in the second inning to give Philadelphia a 3-0 lead. Syndergaard started for the first time since Oct. 1. He struck out three and allowed one run in three innings.

J.T. Realmuto’s inside-the-park homer in the third inning electrified the crowd and made it 4-1. Then Andrew Bellatti, Brad Hand, José Alvarado, Zach Eflin and Seranthony Domínguez recorded the team’s final 18 outs. Domínguez struck out Dansby Swanson, Matt Olson and Travis d’Arnaud swinging to end the game.

He got d’Arnaud to swing over a 99.7 mph sinker.

“I’m back,” Domínguez said. “I’m definitely back.”

The Phillies won 87 games to clinch MLB’s 12th and final postseason berth. It was not easy. But they upset a Braves team that won 101 games, making this the fifth-largest regular-season wins upset in postseason history.

It did not surprise the Phillies. Maybe it didn’t surprise the Braves, either. Atlanta upset the Dodgers in the 2021 NLCS on its way to the World Series.

“I said it last year when we were making our run,” Braves third baseman Austin Riley said. “It doesn't matter on paper who's the best team, it's the team that gets hot at the right time. They're hot right now.”

The Phillies learned that the hard way in 2010, when they lost to the Giants in the NLCS, and ‘11, when they lost to the Cardinals in the NLDS. But this team keeps winning. The Phils had the miraculous ninth-inning comeback following Wheeler’s gem in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series in St. Louis. They had Bryce Harper’s homer and Aaron Nola’s dominance in Game 2 to sweep St. Louis. They beat up Atlanta’s Max Fried in Game 1 of the NLDS. There was Hoskins’ bat spike, Harper’s bomb and another masterful performance from Nola in Game 3.

The crowds at Citizens Bank Park were insanely loud.

“This is incredible, it's insane, it's electric,” said Harper, who will be playing in his first NLCS. “Jayson Werth said, ‘There's nothing like Philly when it's winning.’ It's what it's all about. When you see the [Phillies] alumni coming back and they all talk about it, from the '80 and '93 team, they talk about what this city does and how they get behind you, how fiery and passionate they are. I think every single night we see that. The last two days, it's so much fun. I've never heard a stadium louder than that. It's incredible to see.”

“They’ve been waiting 11 years,” Hoskins said. “I was just happy to be a part of it, try to soak it all in. I get the chills just thinking about it. I can’t even imagine what the LCS is going to be like.”

It is not over yet. There will be more. The fans will be back on Friday for Game 3 of the NLCS.

“This is exactly where we want to be,” Eflin said. “We’re just getting started. We’ve got a long road ahead of us, but eight more wins and we’re World Series champions.”