Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber launch Phillies to 3-2 NLCS lead

ByJesse Rogers ESPN logo
Sunday, October 22, 2023

PHOENIX -- Slugging and running their way to within one victory of a return trip to the World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-1 on Saturday night in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series to take a 3-2 series lead.

Game 6 is scheduled for Monday night in Philadelphia, where the Phillies are 6-0 this postseason.

"I think we'll be in a good position," Phillies starter Zack Wheeler, Saturday's winning pitcher, said after the game. "But we can't think ahead too much. We have to play the game on Monday and get back to Philly, where we like to play."

Philadelphia slugger Bryce Harper set the tone for Game 5, stealing home in the first inning then hitting a 444-foot home run in the sixth. He joined Randy Arozarena as the only players in postseason history to steal home and hit a home run in the same game.

"We're going to be aggressive right here," Harper said. "Bryson [Stott]had the green light. He went, and I just tried to make the best decision to get there and make it happen to score that run."

Harper's steal came after Kyle Schwarber had already crossed the plate with the game's first run. Arizona starter Zac Gallen was more careful in the opening inning Saturday than he was in Game 1, when Schwarber and Harper homered off him. This time, Schwarber got to first on an infield single before Harper singled him to second and Stott's single brought Schwarber home. That put runners on first and third withJ.T. Realmutoat the plate.

That's when Harper took off.

"I knew he was going to go," Stott said of Harper. "It's the postseason, and Gallen is really good over there, and you don't know how many chances you're going to get."

Diamondbacks catcher Gabriel Moreno threw down to second as Harper took off for home. Shortstop Geraldo Perdomo short-hopped the throw to Moreno, who got barreled by Harper at the plate.

"Baseball play," Harper said. "Big collision at the plate. I was making sure he was OK. Kind of the way he went down, I was making sure he was good and stable. Never want those moments or anybody to get hurt. But just a good position to put us in and be able to get up in that situation."

Moreno stayed in the game after being attended to by the Diamondbacks' training staff.

With the finesse part of their game over, the Phillies went to work on the slugging. Gallen kept them in the park until the sixth, when Schwarber destroyed a baseball, sending it 461 feet into the right-field stands. Two batters later, Harper's blast also left the yard, as he belted it 444 feet from home plate. The rout was on as Realmuto added a home run one inning later.

The homers helped trigger a bunch of milestones:

  • The Phillies are the sixth team all time with at least 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases in a single postseason.
  • With three home runs in Game 5, the Phillies have 23 home runs this postseason, the second most all time through 11 games of a postseason (24 by the 2004Houston Astros).
  • Schwarber is just the fifth player to reach 20 career postseason home runs. He got there in 63 games, the fastest in history.
  • Harper and Schwarber have combined for 22 home runs during the past two postseasons (11 each), the most by a duo over a two-year span in playoff history.

The Philadelphia offense backed Wheeler, who once again dominated his postseason opposition. On a night when the Phillies' bullpen wasn't fully available, Wheeler pitched seven innings, giving up six hits while striking out eight and yielding one run (a solo shot by Alek Thomas).

Wheeler helped bring down his team's starter ERA this postseason to 1.48, lowest all time out of a rotation through the first 11 playoff games.

"I told him after the game, 'You're one of the best pitchers I've ever played with,'" Harper said of Wheeler. "I've played with a lot of good ones, and he's easily top three."

Wheeler appreciated the sentiment as well as the offensive support.

Meanwhile, Schwarber downplayed his accomplishments, claiming he'll "appreciate it" when he's done playing baseball. That doesn't mean his teammates can't enjoy his superhuman strength.

"He's country strong," Harper said of Schwarber. "It's incredible. Just the way he goes and the way he swings. He uses that lower half so well. He drives through the ground. Whenever you're able to put your feet in the ground and stay grounded, it's incredible."

Gallen was left wondering how exactly to shut down these Phillies. He challenged them early in Game 1, and that didn't work out. On Saturday, Gallen went more off-speed in the first inning and they still scored two runs. Later, he went back to the fastball, and two of them were blasted into the Chase Field crowd, who were subdued after two nights of exhilarating wins by the home team.

"The thing about Harper and Schwarber is those guys are so intelligent," Gallen said. "They've been around. You've got to hope you're one step ahead of them. It's hard. And them being able to leave the yard at any point is what makes it even harder.

"It's wild. Solo homers don't beat you, but a team that hits solo homers a lot, they tend to add up after a while."

The Phillies have hit 10 home runs in this series, and they return home with a one-game cushion. Coming off losses in Games 3 and 4, Philadelphia got everything it wanted in a Game 5 win. Now it is one game away from the Fall Classic.

"It was a great response," Schwarber said.

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