He crushed a first-pitch fastball from D-back Zach Gallen for a leadoff home run in the first inning of Monday night’s 5-3 win over Arizona in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. It was a 117.1 mph missile that slammed into the video board hanging from the second deck in right field, throwing an already raucous crowd of 45,396 into a frenzy. The blast was Schwarber’s career-record fourth homer in the postseason and served as a tone-setter as the Phillies continued to cement Citizens Bank Park’s reputation as baseball’s best home-field advantage in the playoffs.
“It’s fun when you step up to the plate and the next thing you know is 46,000 people are on their feet and ready to rock ‘n’ roll,” Schwarber said. “You’re looking to set the tone. If it’s a home run, walk-on, solo, whatever it is, to try to get on base with these guys behind me. It’s something really special.”
“These are the things I’ll never forget, when I’m done playing… when I walk onto the field for these playoff games and hear the roar of these fans.”
Two batters after Schwarber had done the damage, Bryce Harper belted a home run to right-center field to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.
One inning later, Nick Castellanos hit an opposite-run home run to give the Phils a 3-0 lead.
Harper celebrated his 31st birthday on Monday with his third homer in three games. He raised three fingers on his left hand and one finger on his right hand as he crossed home plate. He blew out the makeshift birthday candles.
“Sometimes I just do things and it just feels right,” Harper said. “I thought about it while I was running around third base that I would do that.”
Castellanos has homered five times in his past three games, joining Reggie Jackson (1977 World Series) as the only players to have five homers in a three-game span in one postseason.
“If we don’t win another seven games, it doesn’t mean much to me,” Castellanos said.
Phillies starter Zack Wheeler allowed two runs on three hits in six innings, while the bullpen allowed one unearned run over three innings to save it. The Phils have trailed just two full runs in their first seven postseason games, the second-fewest of any team in the postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They outscored the opposition by 12 (16-4), the best home-court margin of any seven-game stretch in any postseason.
Schwarber’s homer kept it all rolling.
“When he does that, it puts the whole night in our favor,” Castellanos said. “All the momentum, the whole stadium, the atmosphere, everything is leaning toward the Phillies. I haven’t played in a lot of postseason games, but I’m learning that momentum is very important.”
Phillies fans had barely touched their crab fries when Schwarber called on Gallen’s first pitch. They were not alone.
“I barely crashed my Red Bull,” reliever Matt Strahm said.
“Anytime he steps up, you would think it would be 1-0,” second baseman Bryson Stott said. “That’s why we told him: 1-0.” Yes, that was crazy. I wasn’t even standing yet. I was still putting my stuff away. He hit it too fast. [Jake] “Kev still keeps his coffee in his hand, so you know it’s early.”
“I was putting my contact lenses in the bathroom when it happened,” Jeff Hoffman said. “I was on my way out and the ball was in the air. So I heard the roar and I was already on my way out.
The funny thing is that Hoffman predicted this would happen. Phillies relievers play a game in the bullpen where when they think one of their teammates is going to go for a homer, they throw their hat in front of them. If they guess correctly, they win a prize.
“As soon as Wheels was over, I hung up my hat,” Hoffman said. “I knew Jalen was a big first-pitch fastball guy, and we have a guy who really likes to hit first-pitch fastballs. So it was a perfect storm. Schwarber is your best prospect in a lot of different scenarios. Even if it’s later in the game, I high-five Schwarz all the time, because he’s just lightning in a bottle.
Schwarber’s homer had an exit velocity of 117.1 mph, making it the fourth-most hit by a home run in the postseason since Statcast began tracking in 2015, and the second-most hit by a Philly hit in the Statcast era. The hardest-hit homer in the postseason and the hardest-hit ball in Phillies history, according to Statcast? Schwarber’s homer against Padres’ Yu Darvish in Game 1 of the 2022 NLCS. He hit that ball into the second deck in right field at Petco Park at 119.7 mph.
“It was 117?” Stott said of Schwarber’s latest accomplishment on Monday.
“Is this how hard it is?” Castellanos said. “Awesome. That was really hard.
It was a great way to open a series. The Phillies are 22-7 (.759) all-time in Game 1, the best winning percentage of any team in MLB history (minimum 20 games). In all best-of-seven postseason series, teams winning the first game have won the series 121 of 188 times (64 percent). In the series with the current 2-3-2 format, teams that go 1-0 at home have won the series 65 of 97 times (67 percent).
“I feel like my favorite part of every home game is throwing the first pitch,” JT Realmuto said of Schwarber. “Because you can see that he’s either right about something or the pitcher is afraid to throw the ball in the strike zone. Either way, it sets the tone.”
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