The crowd, J.T.'s mad dash, the pitching plan — scenes from another Phillies clincher


The Phillies popped champagne corks for the third time in 13 days on Saturday afternoon.

They are headed to the National League Championship Series after bouncing the defending World Series Champion Atlanta Braves from the NL Division Series in four games.

From the action on the field to the celebration afterward, there were so many memorable moments Saturday. 

Let's relive a few.

The pitching plan

The Phils hit three home runs in the 8-3 clinching victory. Brandon Marsh's three-run shot in the second inning was the big one.

But what made the day work was the pitching plan. And the execution of it.

After losing Game 2, Phillies officials knew they'd have to come up with a pitcher for Game 4. With no obvious candidate, they met after Friday's win and came up with six of them.

In what was essentially a bullpen game, a relay race to 27 outs, Noah Syndergaard, Andrew Bellatti, Brad Hand, Jose Alvarado, Zach Eflin and Seranthony Dominguez combined to get those 27 outs. They held the Braves' offense to four hits and three runs, struck out 15 and walked none.

"We mapped it out and it all just went the way we planned," manager Rob Thomson said. "Of course, they all pitched well. We gave up three solo home runs, but we didn't walk a guy all day. That's how you've got to get it done. If they don't pitch well, then it doesn't work out the way you want it to work out."

Phillies officials liked Syndergaard against Atlanta's right-handed bats, but only one time through the lineup. He got nine outs and allowed just a run. There was no thought of sending him out for the fourth inning.

"We had it lined up for Bellatti to take the top of the lineup the second time through," Thomson said. 

Pitching coach Caleb Cotham praised the pitchers for carrying out the plan.

"Fifteen strikeouts, no walks," he said. "It's awesome. I'm so happy for the guys. They laid it on the line, gave it everything they had, and it worked out. We have a lot of good pitchers and there's a lot of trust. They went out and did what they're capable of doing and it worked out."

Seranthony is back

Dominguez struggled with his command when he came off the injured list in September. He closed out the clincher with three strikeouts in the ninth. His fastball hummed at 100 mph. In 3 2/3 scoreless innings this postseason, he's given up one hit and walked none while striking out eight.

"We're seeing more consistency in how his body is moving," bullpen coach Dave Lundquist said. "The command is better, the velo is there. I think he has peace of mind that everything is good and he's healthy and he can just go at it."

History maker

J.T. Realmuto's inside-the-park home run in the third inning was the 18th in postseason history but the first ever by a catcher. It was also the first by a Phillie.

Realmuto hit a tracer off the angular wall in deep center field. It caromed toward right field and he was long gone before the Braves could make a play.

When Citizens Bank Park was in the design stage, club president David Montgomery pushed for the high, angular wall in center field.

"I remember him showing me the design," managing partner John Middleton said after Saturday's game. "I said, 'What's this notch in center field and why is the wall so high?' David said he thought it would create excitement. He thought we'd see some inside-the-park home runs."

Montgomery passed away in May 2019.

"He's smiling today," Middleton said. "That's exactly what he designed it for."

The crowds

For two days, Citizens Bank Park shook like the old days. Two sellouts totaling 91,198 -- during Dallas Week, no less!

Syndergaard described the crowds as "pretty hostile." 

But in a good way.

"We're pretty lethal when we have them on our side," he said. "I wouldn't like to have them against me."

Middleton tipped his hat to the crowds.

"I don't think there's any question they gave us a lift," he said. "It matters. It matters a lot."

Rhys Hoskins couldn't remember who it was but a Braves' runner at first base turned to him and said, "This place." The guy paused as he looked around. "Wow."

The comparison

Syndergaard pitched for a Mets team that made the World Series in 2015.

"This Phillies team is light years better," he said. "Way more team chemistry, a lot more grit and tenacity. They just have that dog in 'em and I love to be able to help out any way I can."

The chemistry

They squeaked into the playoffs, the last team in the NL to make it, on 87 wins.

It felt like something special was brewing last weekend in St. Louis. 

Still does.

"They're tough, they're resilient, they play unselfishly and they're really talented," Thomson said. "That's a great combination."

Hoskins said, "Whether it starts with Topper, Dave (Dombrowski), John (Middleton), the biggest thing we've tried to create is a space for people to just be themselves. If you're able to be yourself, we're going to get the best version of you out there."

The Phillies were seven games under .500 when Thomson took over for Joe Girardi in June. At 59, he'd never managed a big-league club. The team has responded to him. It almost feels like it's his time.

"It does," Hoskins said. "Call it a feeling but I'm following it."

Following tradition

Before the first champagne cork was popped in the winning clubhouse, Thomson addressed the team. He then handed off to Realmuto, official announcer of magic numbers, for the second week in a row.

"We got eight more, Topper!" Realmuto announced.

Eight more wins and the Phillies are World Champs.

But first, of course, a big challenge awaits. The San Diego Padres and the NLCS.

"We've got more to do," Thomson, dripping wet with champagne, said. "We'll enjoy this now, but we've got more work to do."

A few feet away, Jose Alvarado swigged bubbly and made a promise.

"This team is going to the World Series," he said. "I promise."

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