Dominant Braves Season Highlighted by Ronald Acuna Jr.’s Historic Performance
Ronald Acuna Jr. put up stats unlike anything we’ve ever seen from a baseball player in 2023, but will that be enough to offset some other issues with some guts entering the playoffs?
The game is serious
Wednesday is a big day for the 2023 Major League Baseball playoffs, with the all-important Game 3 between the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves; and a chance for the Houston Astros (vs. Twins) and Arizona Diamondbacks (vs. Dodgers) to punch their tickets to the LCS.
After Atlanta’s stunning comeback victory in Game 2 on Monday, the Phillies and Braves (5:07 pm ET) tied the series at 1-1 on Wednesday. In the second game of the day, the Astros (up 2-1) can make a seventh straight trip to the ALCS with another win over the Twins (7:07 pm ET). In the nightcap, the surprising Diamondbacks (up 2-0) look to complete a sweep of the heavily favored Dodgers (9:07 p.m. ET).
Stay tuned throughout the evening for updates on the MLB playoff triple-header:
Philadelphia’s $300 million shortstop Trey Turner had fun at Citizens Bank Park when AJ Smith-Shawer hit a two-out solo home run in the top of the sixth to extend the lead to 8-2.
Turner, 30, had a rough start to his first year in Philadelphia, but turned it on in the second half, batting .292 with 16 homers and a .902 OPS after the break.
After hitting the go-ahead homer in the third inning, Bryce Harper led off the fifth with a solo shot off Braves lefty Brad Hand to extend the Phillies’ advantage to 7-1.
It marked Harper’s first career multi-homer game in the postseason and the seventh game in Phillies history, accomplished by Rhys Hoskins in Game 4 of the 2022 NLCS against the Padres.
Twins rookie Royce Lewis hit a solo homer in the first inning off Astros starter Jose Urqudi to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead early in Game 4 of the ALDS at Target Field. It was Lewis’ fourth home run of the postseason, hitting two in the Twins’ wild-card series-opening win over the Blue Jays and two in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Astros.
The Astros responded immediately with Michael Brantley sitting out Game 3 of the ALDS and returning to the lineup, hitting a solo home run off Minnesota Twins starter Joe Ryan in the top of the second inning.
PHILADELPHIA — It took two strong swings for the Phillies to get back in this National League Division Series.
Bryce Elder, Atlanta’s Game 3 starter, with command and a single that tops out at 89 mph, allowed a game-tying solo homer to Nick Castellanos and then a three-run homer to Bryce Harper as the Phillies took a 4-1 lead. in the bottom of the third inning at Citizens Bank Park.
But his mess is still not cleaned up. Catcher JD Realmudo hit a double to left center field off reliever Michael Tonkin to make it 6-1. The one blow the Phillies missed in Monday’s Game 2 was a win by Realmuto, who jumped out to an early lead but never added to a 4-1 lead and eventually lost 5-4.
Elder, who had a 2.97 ERA in the first half and a 5.11 ERA in the second, gave up a sky-high home run down the left field line to Castellanos and a solid single to Brandon Marsh. And Elder’s problem is that he doesn’t miss many at-bats.
So when Trey Turner dribbled a grounder between third and short, it was dropped into the infield, extending the inning to Harper. He responded with a 408-foot homer to right.
After Elder allowed a single and a walk, he was done after 2 ⅔ innings.
— Cape Locks
PHILADELPHIA – Atlanta took the lead for the first time in the series.
MVP candidate Ronald Acuna Jr.’s one-out double preceded Ozzie Albies’ RBI single and Atlanta took a 1-0 lead in the third. The Braves didn’t take a series lead until Austin Riley’s two-run, eighth-inning homer in Game 2 pulled them out of a 2-0 series hole and squared up this NLDS for Game 3 on Wednesday.
— Cape Locks
PHILADELPHIA — So far, it looks like a get-through game for the Atlanta Braves.
Score after two innings: 0-0.
Starter Bryce Elder, freshman A.J. Game 3 nod over Smith-Shawer, tossing two perfect innings to start Game 3 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. Elder struck out four and allowed just one ball out of the outfield, needing 29 pitches to complete two innings.
Phillies starter Aaron Nola gave up a pair of hits in the first inning, but struck out four others, including Orlando Arcia, to the delight of the partisan crowd. Arcia raised eyebrows with his postgame jab at Bryce Harper after Game 2 in Atlanta.
— Cape Locks
PHILADELPHIA – As postgame controversies go, it’s not exactly combustible material to throw on this Braves-Phillies bonfire.
But Orlando Arcia’s spontaneous reaction to Bryce Harper’s baserunning misfortune will add some spice to this National League Division Series.
After Monday’s Game 2 ended in an unprecedented 8-5-2 double play made possible by Harper’s aggressive (or, in perspective, stupid) base running, a Fox Sports reporter asked Arcia while watching a replay in the Atlanta clubhouse.
“Haha, attaboy, Harper!” Arcia said, and reveling in an opponent’s misfortune isn’t the greatest look, and it doesn’t sound right on live television.
However, Phyllis noticed. No word on whether they blew the words into blaring type for distribution in the Citizens Bank Park clubhouse.
“Yeah, you don’t need anything to motivate him,” Thompson told Harper before Game 3 on Wednesday. But I know what you’re talking about.
“If that adds to his motivation, thank you.”
Harper hit a home run in Game 1 to give the Phillies a 1.757 OPS and seven playoff home runs in Game 3. He is known to be a bit extreme
So maybe the goal is to not make the two-time MVP too confusing.
“We don’t really pay much,” says outfielder Brandon Marsh. “We know it’s a good joke. It’s two NL East teams.
— Cape Locks
No one will have better home field advantage in the playoffs than Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park.
Expect a frenzied crowd of 45,000 to be electrified in Game 3 of the NL Division Series between the Phillies and Atlanta Braves, tied 1-1.
The Phillies went 49-32 at CBP this season with a +83 margin — their best mark since they were +114 at home in 2011.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, in the postseason, the Phillies are 24-11 all-time in the CBP, and their .686 winning percentage is the best in MLB history for 30+ postseason games played on their home field.
“I think we have the best home-field advantage in the league,” said the Phillies’ Aaron Nola, who will start Game 3. “I think our crowd is very rowdy and we love playing in front of it. I feel like it’s tough for opposing teams to play on this field at times, but we love it. We feed off of it.”
Even Braves reliever AJ Minter acknowledged the effect of the crowd on Tuesday: “I told everybody last season. We know Philly fans — we know them well — are passionate about their team, and so are we. But it sure would be confusing.
– Scott Bock
Braves manager Brian Snitker said he decided to start Bryce Elder after the right-hander’s performance in intrasquad games the Braves played to keep him sharp during their bye week.
“The way he threw intrasquad and after the layoff, I think we felt he was the guy,” Snitker said. “He’s been a starter for us all year. He was a big reason we won the division. We liked what we saw.”
Aaron Nola’s Career Vs. Braves
Game 3 starter Aaron Nola made three starts against the Braves during the 2023 regular season, posting a 3.50 ERA with 20 strikeouts and four walks in 18 innings.
Nola won Game 3 of the NLDS last season against Atlanta, giving up one earned run over six innings of work.
Here are the regular season numbers of the Braves’ best hitters over the years against Nola:
- Austin Riley: .389 average (21-for-54), 5 HR, 9 RBI, 5 doubles, 1.180 OPS
- Ronald Acuna Jr: .327 average (16-for-49), 4 HR, 9 RBI, 5 doubles, 1.084 OPS
- Ozzy Albies: .254 average (15-for-59), 4 XBH, .641 OPS
- Travis d’Arnaud .167 average (6-for-36), 2 HR, .606 OPS
- Michael Harris II: .200 average (4-for-20), 2 HR, 5 RBI, .740 OPS
Again, the Braves’ regular season dominance was no match for the Phillies’ playoff brilliance.
Yet down to their last four outs, before falling into a hole that could have derailed their record-breaking year, Braves slugger Austin Riley saved their season and Michael Harris Jr. sent them to Philadelphia with a game-saving play.
Riley lifted a two-run homer off Phillies reliever Jeff Hoffman with two outs in the eighth inning. Atlanta won Game 2 5-4 In their best-of-five National League Division Series, their outlook looked bleak just moments ago.
After Nick Castellanos drove a ball to the fence in right-center field, Atlanta center fielder Harris made a leaping catch against the fence and reeled in the ball.
He spun around and fired toward the Bryce Harbor infield — understandably thinking he could score on an apparent extra-base hit — trying to repeat first. But the man relay suggested, cut off Harris’ throw and fired to first baseman Matt Olsen to end the game.
— Cape Locks
The Minnesota Twins added outfielder Byron Buxton to their playoff roster, MLB announced Wednesday afternoon. First baseman/outfielder Alex Grilloff suffered an unspecified injury in Game 3 and was replaced. If the team advances in the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, Grilloff will not be able to return to the roster before the World Series.
Buxton has not played since Aug. 1 after going on the injury list with a right hamstring injury.
– Scott Bock