Bryce Harper homered, Ranger Suárez and the Philadelphia bullpen stifled baseball’s most prolific offense, and the Phillies blanked the 104-win Atlanta Braves 3-0 in Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Saturday night.
The Phillies went on to a 3-1 upset of the Braves in 2022 on an improbable run to the World Series. Now, they’re up again heading to Game 2 of the best-of-five series Monday night in Atlanta.
Wild-card series hero Bryson Stott broke a scoreless tie with a run-scoring single in the fourth. Harper padded the lead with a drive over the right-field wall in the sixth off Spencer Strider, baseball’s only 20-game winner.
The Braves, who tied the major league record with 307 homers during the regular season and averaged more than 5.8 runs per game, couldn’t muster anything against a parade of hard-throwing Philadelphia relievers.
It was just the third time all year — and first since May 12 — that Atlanta failed to score a run. It was the first time it was shut out at home all season.
The mood turned ugly in the eighth when the Phillies made it 3-0 on catcher’s interference against Sean Murphy. J.T. Realmuto fouled off a pitch with the bases loaded, but his bat barely nicked Murphy’s mitt to force in a run.
After the call was reviewed and upheld, there was a brief delay when a handful of fans threw trash on the field.
Many in the crowd of 43,689 — the largest turnout in Truist Park’s seven-year history — headed for the exits after Trea Turner’s diving stop on Ozzie Albies’ sharp grounder turned into an inning-ending double play in the bottom half of the inning.
Ranger Suárez allowed just one hit in 3 2/3 innings. Still, with an off day between the first and second games, the Phillies turned quickly to their bullpen at the first sign of trouble.
Jeff Hoffman escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth by striking out Michael Harris II to earn the win. Seranthony Dominguez worked around two hits in the fifth by fanning the side — including a called third strike on MVP favorite Ronald Acuña Jr. with runners at first and third.
Jose Alvarado, rookie Orion Kerkering, Matt Strahm and Craig Kimbrel shut down the Braves the rest of the way, with Kimbrel earning a save against his first big league team.
The Phillies nearly took the lead on the very first pitch of the game from Strider.
Kyle Schwarber drove a 97-mph fastball off the fence in front of the Braves bullpen in deep right-center for a double. But Schwarber was thrown out when he took off for third on a grounder to shortstop Orlando Arcia, and Strider escaped the jam by getting Alec Bohm to hit into a double play.
The Phillies finally broke through in the fourth, taking advantage of a walk to Harper and Strider’s error on a high pickoff throw to first.
Harper scored an unearned run when Stott came through with two outs, lining an opposite-field single to left on an 0-2 fastball.
Suárez breezed through the first three innings, allowing only a walk that was erased when Ozzie Albies was thrown out trying to steal second.
Matt Olson produced Atlanta’s first hit with two outs in the fourth, then beat out the flip to second on a slow grounder to shortstop Turner. Olson was initially ruled out, but the Braves challenged and the replay clearly showed the runner got to the bag ahead of the ball.
That was it for Suárez, who was lifted for Hoffman. Marcell Ozuna walked to load the bases, but Hoffman got Harris swinging to end the threat.
After leaving Kyle Wright off the playoff roster, the Braves announced the injury-plagued right-hander will undergo surgery and likely miss the entire 2024 season.
Wright, a 21-game winner in 2022, missed more than four months this season with lingering shoulder issues. He had returned late in the season, but struggled in two starts and was moved to the bullpen for the final week.
Wright was sent for an MRI on Friday, which showed a more serious issue with the shoulder. He finished this season 1-3 with a 6.97 ERA in just nine appearances.
Left-hander Max Fried (8-1, 2.55 ERA) will get the start for the Braves in Game 2 after dealing with a recurring blister issue late in the season. “Just something you gotta monitor and just kind of pitch through,” Fried said. “Do the best you can to be the same and just make pitches realistically.”
The Phillies will counter with right-hander Zack Wheeler (13-6, 3.61 ERA), who got the win in Game 1 of the wild-card series against Miami by allowing just one run over 6 1/3 innings. Wheeler is a native of Smyrna — not far from the Braves’ stadium. “Coming back here every year is awesome, but especially during the playoffs,” Wheeler said. “It’s definitely going to be fun to pitch here in front of friends and family and hopefully we get a win.”