PHILADELPHIA — Game 3 of the World Series was well worth the wait for Phillies fans.
From the moment the home plate umpire said “play ball” on Tuesday, Philadelphia fans were on their A-game for the first World Series contest in the city since 2009, drowning Citizens Bank Park in a chorus of boos and “cheater” chants for Astros players, especially those involved in the sign-stealing scandal.
Turns out, Bryce Harper and the Phillies also had some pent-up excitement, releasing it in the form of five long balls from five different players en route to a 7-0 win over Houston.
“Just walking into the ballpark, just being back home, I think is such a momentum swing for us just for the pure fact of our fanbase,” Harper said after the victory. “We all come in here and we’re ready to go and we’re excited to get on the field because we know they’re going to show up and there’s going to be 46,000 people here screaming and yelling and going crazy.”
The five home runs tied the record for most in a World Series game, joining the 1928 Yankees, 1989 Athletics and 2017 Astros. The Yankees, Athletics and Astros all went on to win those World Series.
The Phillies now hold a 2-1 series lead over the Astros with two more games in the City of Brotherly Love.
Harper, naturally, started the home run party for the Phillies in the first inning. On the first pitch he saw, the former Washington Nationals superstar gave Philadelphia a 2-0 lead by blasting a hanging breaking ball from Astros starter Lance McCullers 402 feet to right field. The swing was the second straight at Citizens Bank Park that resulted in a homer for Harper, whose previous swing in front of Philadelphia fans was the game-winner in the Phillies’ series-clinching win over the Padres in Game 5 of the NLCS.
“It gets the offense going, energizes the whole building,” third baseman Alec Bohm said about Harper’s first-inning shot. “Defensively, it gets Ranger a lead and he gets to go do what he does best — fill up the zone, get ground balls, pitch to contact and get quick outs.”
Bohm and center fielder Brandon Marsh then followed Harper’s lead by smacking solo shots in the second inning to give Philadelphia a 4-0 advantage. Bohm’s homer was a 109.2 mph frozen rope that barely cleared the left field fence, while Marsh’s narrowly made it over the right-field fence.
“Tonight we were locked in and collectively we got a few mistakes and we didn’t miss them,” said Bohm, whose homer was the 1,000th in World Series history. “Any given night you can get those mistakes and maybe foul it off or miss it or whatever. But tonight we had a couple homers that didn’t really go out by much and a couple that went out by a lot. So I think it’s a game of inches, and there were a couple mistakes and we got ‘em.”
McCullers, whose start was exactly five years since his win in Game 7 of Houston’s 2017 World Series championship, settled down after the rough start, retiring his next eight batters after Marsh’s home run. That is, until Philadelphia’s order turned over for a third time in the fifth inning, and Kyle Schwarber made McCullers — and Astros manager Dusty Baker for leaving McCullers in — pay with a towering blast.
Schwarber, a National for the first half of the 2021 season, annihilated a changeup 443 feet to dead center field. No one was warming up in the Astros’ bullpen before Schwarber’s jack, so McCullers stayed in to face Rhys Hoskins, who deposited a slider over the left field fence for his sixth homer of the postseason. With Hoskins’ long ball, the Phillies joined the 2020 Dodgers (in Game 3 of the NLCS) as the only clubs in MLB history to hit five home runs in the first five innings of a playoff game.
McCullers, who many on Twitter suspected could have been tipping his pitches, is the first pitcher in MLB history to allow five home runs in a postseason game. McCullers and Baker both denied that being a factor after the game.
“The thought process was the fact that he had had two good innings, two real good innings,” Baker said when asked why he kept McCullers in to face the top of Philadelphia’s order a third time. “Then they hit a blooper, a homer, and then I couldn’t get anybody loose. It was my decision.”
It wasn’t just the bats that were sharp for the Phillies, as starter Ranger Suarez tossed five shutout innings for the win. The southpaw allowed just three hits and walked one, improving his postseason earned-run average to a crisp 1.23.
“I just thought Ranger really pitched well,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “I mean, the poise is through the roof. Nothing really bothers him. He just executed all night long.”
Connor Brogdon, Kyle Gibson, Nick Nelson and Andrew Bellatti relieved Suarez and held onto the shutout with scoreless frames of their own. The Astros collected only five hits in the loss.
First pitch for Game 4 in Philadelphia on Wednesday is scheduled for 8:03 p.m.