PHILADELPHIA—Bryce Harper hammered his sixth postseason home run, whispered an assist to Alec Bohm before his solo shot and the Philadelphia Phillies tied a World Series record with five homers to rout the Houston Astros, 7-0, Tuesday night and take a 2-1 series lead.
Brandon Marsh also homered, and Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins hit back-to-back shots in the fifth inning to chase Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. Philadelphia used the long ball to end the long wait for its first World Series home win since Game 5 of the 2009 World Series.
Those Phillies couldn’t finish the job.
Ranger Suárez tossed three-hit ball over five shutout innings and inched this year’s team closer to getting it done.
Harper, Bohm, Marsh and the rest of the Phillies on the last team to qualify for the playoffs are two wins away from ending the season as the last team standing. With a sparkling 6-0 record at Citizens Bank Park this postseason, the Phillies just may not return to Texas.
“It’s our fan base. I mean, plain and simple.” Harper said. “They keep us going, keep us fired up.”
Another red, raucous, resolute crowd of 45,712 let the Astros have it from the first pitch with chants of “Cheater! Cheater!” for Jose Altuve and “Check the Bat! Check the Bat!” for Martin Maldonado.
The fans—already amped from the jump after another sliding catch by right fielder Nick Castellanos in the first—didn’t wait long to go wild for the home run barrage.
With leadoff hitter Schwarber on first base, Harper repeated his flair for playoff power when he ripped a two-run shot off McCullers into the right field seats for the fast lead. That made Harper 2 for 2 on home run swings in Philly—he sent the Phillies to the World Series with a two-run drive in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series to beat San Diego.
Harper crossed the plate and again exclaimed “This is my house!” before he ripped off his helmet, exposed his Phillie Phanatic headband and was mobbed by teammates in the dugout.
Harper’s homers shook the stadium to the point they should be measured on the Richter scale rather in feet—and they seem as automatic these days as a Phillie Phanatic spin on his ATV.
Harper has hit four postseason homers that gave the Phillies the lead and showed that, yes, Bryce Bombs do go off in November, the first time more World Series games will be played in this month than October.
Oh, and Harper might have a second career as a homer whisperer.
Harper beckoned Bohm from the on-deck circle and back to the dugout for a quick word of advice.
Maybe Harper saw McCullers tipping his pitches?
“I think that’s just general conversation,” Harper said. “Trying to get as much information as we can from each other. We just tried to have the best at-bats we could.”
Whatever the quiet counseling was, it worked, and Bohm lined his first postseason homer leading off the second inning and the 1,000th in World Series history into the left field seats for 3-0 lead.
So c’mon, Alec, fess up, what did Bryce tell you?
“That’s between us,” Bohm said on TV with a shrug and a big smile.
Marsh took the baton on the long-ball relay and knocked one into the right field seats that was dropped by a young kid from Delaware. The home run stood after a brief review—as it seems nothing can interfere with Philadelphia’s playoff push—and it was 4-0.
With that, McCullers had allowed four homers to his first nine batters. The right-hander who got his left triceps inked with nods to Houston got absolutely tattooed by the Phillies.
Schwarber, the NL home run champion, again dumped a two-run shot into a thicket of English ivy, Arborvitae and Holly beyond center field, and Hoskins connected on solo shot for a 7-0 lead that ended McCullers’ night.
McCullers became the first pitcher to give up five home runs in a World Series game.
“We talked about it before the game, just trying to get on him early, trying to get on him often,” Harper said.
Suarez, the scheduled Game 4 starter before Game 3 was postponed a day by rain, delivered with the performance of his career and shut down the big bats in the AL champs’ lineup.
He needed only two pitches to get the first two outs of the game and struck out Yordan Alvarez to end the first. The few jams he got into, Suarez worked his way out, notably in the second when he whiffed Chas McCormick and left two runners stranded. He retired Altuve to end the fifth on a soft foul pop with two runners on base.
Four relievers each tossed a scoreless inning to finish the five-hitter.
Image credits: AP