By DAN GELSTON AP Sports Writer
Rhys Hoskins burst out of his postseason malaise with a three-run homer and spiked his bat in triumph and Bryce Harper hit a two-run shot that sent Philadelphia Phillies fever soaring and helped carry them to a 9-1 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NL Division Series on Friday night.
Harper added an RBI double as Philadelphia took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five matchup against the reigning World Series champs. The Phillies can advance to the NL Championship Series with a Game 4 win at home on Saturday.
The Phillies and a sellout crowd of 45,538 fans waited 11 mostly miserable years — 4,025 days, to be exact — to host a playoff game again at Citizens Bank Park.
Phillies fans should save the rally towels — the Phillies played like a team that wants to keep Red October alive
The bats erupted in a six-run third inning that will forever be stamped on a Philly sports highlight reel. Bryson Stott got the rally going with an RBI double off Braves rookie Spencer Strider. Kyle Schwarber drew an intentional walk to set the stage for Hoskins.
Hoskins, mired in a 1-for-19 postseason slump, crushed a 94 mph fastball into the left field seats for a 4-0 lead. Hoskins raised his arms in celebration, slammed his bat into the grass and he skipped his way to first base.
The exit velocity? It took about 2 seconds for Harper to bounce out of the dugout and toss his helmet in the air. Hoskins leapt into a violent elbow forearm exchange — think, Bash Brothers — with Stott as he crossed the plate.
“I don’t know if my feet touched the ground,” Hoskins said.
Strider, who pitched the first time in almost a month because of a strained left oblique, gave up one more single before he was lifted for Dylan Lee.
Playing his first playoff home game with the Phillies, Harper hammered the ball into the twilight for his second postseason homer and a 6-0 lead. Phillies fans that held hand-cut letters that spelled out “Harper” bounced in delight in stands that absolutely rocked. Harper, who embraced Philly and the Phanatic and the fans from the moment he signed a $330 million, 13-year deal in 2019, pointed to a fan that held a “Hit That Jawn” sign behind the dugout.
Jawn is a Philly noun used to describe anything.
Harper’s shot made Philly feel everything.
“I was just fired up, ready to go,” the two-time NL MVP said.
Aaron Nola, pitching the best baseball of his career, was an October ace again in shutting down a Braves team that won 101 games and the NL East. He gave up five hits, walked two and struck out six in six-plus innings.
Nola, the longest-tenured Phillie, was on it from the jump. He needed only 10 pitches in the second inning to strike out the side. The Braves touched him for only an unearned run in the sixth. He left the game in the seventh to a tremendous standing ovation.
The Phillies played their first postseason home game since a 1-0 loss in the 2011 NLDS to Chris Carpenter and the eventual champion St. Louis Cardinals. They waited 11 years — and a whopping 14 straight road games since September — to get back. The Phillies ended the season on a 10-game road trip and then played their first four playoff games on the road.
Phillies fans — and the Phanatic from atop the dugout — mocked Atlanta’s tomahawk chop, and red rally towels spun like helicopter rotor blades from the moment they snagged them off the seats. As Strider trudged off the mound in the third, one Phillies fan gleefully wagged his middle finger toward the pitcher for his entire walk to the dugout.
Strider could only shake his head as the shortest start of his brief career was over in just 2 1/3 innings.
The Phillies had never scored five runs in a postseason inning before 2022. They’ve done it twice now, the first time, of course, the six-run rally in the ninth inning to beat the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NL wild-card series.
Harper rocked an RBI double to center in the seventh and Game 1 star Nick Castellanos drove in two runs in the inning for a 9-1 lead.
The Phillies held a moment of silence for Corey Phelan, a 20-year-old minor league pitcher who died Wednesday of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He last pitched in the minors in 2021.
“We got to know him. Got to meet him, got to meet the family. Tremendous family,” manager Rob Thomson said. “And you just see the strength he had, the confidence he had to be able to get through this. It was tough to take because we got to know Corey a little bit and really liked him and liked his character and liked everything about him. So it’s tough.”
First, a goose was on the loose in LA. In Game 3, a squirrel was briefly trapped near the Braves dugout before it was released and it, well, squirreled away.