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Phillies vs. Braves: Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola lead Phils win in NLDS Game 3

With one swing of the bat, Rhys Hoskins went from toast in the town to toast of the town.

Hoskins heard a smattering of boos during introductions and even more after he went down swinging in the first inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Friday.

Two innings later, he became Everybody’s Favorite Phillie when he clubbed a three-run homer into the left-field seats to help lift the Phillies to an emotional 9-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the first postseason game played at Citizens Bank Park in 11 years.

The victory, in front of a roaring, sellout crowd of 45,538, gave the Phillies a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-five series. A win in Game 4 Saturday afternoon would send the Phillies to the NL Championship Series for the first time since 2010. A loss would send them back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5 on Sunday.

Saturday’s win marked the continuation of the Aaron Nola Redemption Tour and the beginning of the Hoskins Redemption Tour.

Nola, who had come under fire for late-season collapses in recent years, pitched his third straight gem in high-intensity conditions. The longest-tenured Phillie went six innings and gave up five hits and just an unearned run. Over his last three starts — the postseason clincher in Houston, the first-round playoff clincher in St. Louis, and this one — he has allowed just an unearned run in 19⅓ innings.

Hoskins’ first trip to the postseason had not been a good one before Friday. He entered the game with just one hit in 18 at-bats over four games and his struggles stretched to the field, where his misplay at first base cost the Phillies three runs in a 3-0 loss in Game 2.

 

Hoskins debuted with the Phillies in 2017. He’s been around long enough to know Philadelphia and know it well. Before Game 1 of the series, he talked about how starved the town was for a winner. He called the city “an honest market,” one that will let you know how you’re performing with its reaction.

The fans let Hoskins know what they were thinking during pre-game introductions when he heard some boos. They voiced their displeasure again in the first inning when he went down swinging against Atlanta fireballer Spencer Strider. Moments later, a fan walked by the press box and shouted, “Trade Hoskins!”

Honest market.

The Braves named Strider their starter on Friday morning. His status had been up in the air because he had not pitched since September 18 due to an oblique strain.

The Braves’ hope was to get two or three good innings out of Strider against a Phillies team that he had dominated during the regular season. In 21⅔ innings against the Phils, Strider had allowed just three runs and struck out 34.

The right-hander came out firing in the first two innings. He struck out three of the first four batters he faced. He threw 29 pitches. His fastball cracked at 99 mph.

In the bottom of the third inning, however, Strider came unglued. He lost his command, his velocity and more. He walked the first batter of the frame, Brandon Marsh, on four pitches, then made an errant pickoff throw to first base, allowing Marsh to scamper to third.

Jean Segura struck out for the first out of the frame, but made Strider throw eight pitches. Number 9 hitter Bryson Stott then battled Strider for nine pitches and capped the showdown by stroking a full-count slider to right field for an RBI double and a 1-0 lead.

With first base open and just one out, the Braves walked leadoff man Kyle Schwarber intentionally. Why not? Set up the double play. Plus, Hoskins was due up. He was 1 for 19 in the postseason and had struck out swinging at a 98.4 mph heater in the first inning.

But by this time, Strider, who had been down for a month, was already running out of gas. He threw Hoskins a first-pitch fastball but this one wasn’t 98.4 mph. It was 93.8 mph. Hoskins did not miss it. He barreled it and drove it over the left-field wall at 107 mph for a 4-0 lead.

Hoskins knew he got it right away. He spiked his bat to the ground in triumph and shouted toward the dugout as he began his trot around the bases. It was his 149th homer in six seasons with the Phillies. It was also his biggest and most important and the huge crowd showed its appreciation with an eruption that rivaled those from the glory days of 2007-2011.

Honest market, right?

 

After Hoskins’ homer, J.T. Realmuto singled and Strider exited. But the Phillies weren’t done creating eruptions in the stands. Bryce Harper unloaded on lefty Dylan Lee’s first pitch and sent it into the right-field seats for a 6-0 lead.

Nola made it all stand up. The Phillies did not play good defense — Alec Bohm was shaky at third and Hoskins muffed a ball at first — and that led to the Braves scoring an unearned run in the sixth. But Nola pitched over the mistakes and all that offense didn’t hurt.

The Phils built their lead to 9-1 with three runs in the seventh. Harper doubled home one of the runs and Nick Castellanos singled home two more.

The Phillies will go with Noah Syndergaard as their starter for Game 4 Saturday. Charlie Morton will start for the Braves. The Phillies beat Morton on September 25, in their final regular-season home game. If they do it again Saturday, they will be heading to either Los Angeles or San Diego for the NLCS.

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