Phillies tie World Series mark with five home runs in Game 3 win over Astros

Phillies tie World Series mark with five home runs in Game 3 win over Astros

The Philadelphia Phillies are two wins from the most improbable of titles after matching a World Series record with five home runs in a 7-0 battering of the favored Houston Astros on Tuesday night in Game 3.

Bryce Harper hit a two-run home run off the first pitch he faced in the bottom of the first inning, Alec Bohm and Brandon Marsh added solo shots in the second, then Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins went back to back in the fifth. All of the long balls came off Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr, who became the first pitcher to surrender five home runs in a World Series game.

That was more than enough for Ranger Suarez, the Phillies’ unheralded left-handed starter who scattered three hits over five scoreless innings against the Astros’ potent lineup. From there Connor Brogdon, Kyle Gibson, Nick Nelson and Andrew Bellatti added one scoreless frame apiece to complete the five-hitter and the Phillies’ first shutout in Fall Classic play since 1993.

“He’s just a guy with no heartbeat,” Philadelphia catcher JT Realmuto said of Suarez, a longtime Phillie who signed with the club as a teenager back in 2012. “It looks like he’s playing a child’s game.”

The Astros’ best opportunity came with two outs in the top of the fifth when Chas McCormick and Martin Maldonado reached base, but Suarez coaxed a pop-up from Jose Altuve to retire the side. Moments later, Schwarber and Hoskins went yard on consecutive plate appearances to chase McCullers from the game while sending the sellout crowd of 45,712 fans into pandemonium.

“It was kind of mind-boggling because he doesn’t give up homers,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said of McCullers. “He usually keeps the ball in the ballpark. He wasn’t satisfied with it. We were very surprised by it.”

The Phillies’ long-suffering fans had waited 4,746 days for the return of World Series baseball to South Philadelphia – then one day more after Game 3 was postponed 24 hours due to heavy rainfall on Monday night – and gave the American League champions an earful from the first at-bat. Roaring chants of “Cheaters! Cheaters!” cascaded down from the upper deck throughout the night, a nod to the Houston sign-stealing scandal that tainted their first and only World Series title in 2017.

“Just walking into the ballpark, just being back home, is such a momentum swing for us just for the pure fact of our fan base,” said Harper, making his World Series debut three years after joining the Phillies on a then-record $330m, 13-year contract. “We all come in here and we’re ready to go and we’re excited to get on the field because we know they’re going to show up and there’s going to be 46,000 people here screaming and yelling and going crazy.

“This whole city is so excited to be in this moment and we’re just thrilled to be able to play in front of them and have this opportunity and just be here with them.”

On paper this year’s Fall Classic appeared to be a historic mismatch. Houston won 19 more games than Philadelphia during the regular season, the largest disparity between World Series opponents in all but one of 118 editions: when the 116-win Cubs were beaten by the 93-win White Sox in 1906.

But the Phillies, the last team to qualify for the playoffs and the first third-place club ever to reach the World Series, have caught fire at the right time. They improved to six wins from six at home in the postseason, with a total 17 home runs in those games, and appear hell-bent on finishing matters here rather than returning to Houston for the final two scheduled contests of the best-of-seven encounter.

“The only thing I can compare it to really is a European soccer game,” said Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos said of the team’s home-field advantage, likening it to a trip he made to Anfield to watch Liverpool. “It’s tough to play here, even as a home player but I can’t imagine what it’s like for the Astros right now. They just really have zero breathing room. And that’s a good thing.”

The Phillies’ five homers in a single World Series game matched a record set on three previous occasions: by the 1928 New York Yankees, the 1989 Oakland A’s and the 2017 Astros, who were found to be using cameras and video monitors to steal the signs of opposing catchers.

Over history, when the World Series has been tied at one game apiece, the Game 3 winner has gone on to win the title more than two-thirds of the time (41 of 61 overall).

The series resumes with Game 4 on Wednesday night, when Houston will send Cristian Javier to the mound against Phillies ace Aaron Nola, who will be working on normal rest due to Monday’s postponement.