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October 07, 2023

Instant observations: Trea Turner's glove, clutch bullpen propel Phillies to NLDS lead

A Bryce Harper homer and savvy managerial moves highlight a memorable victory.

The Phillies more than held their own in Game 1 Saturday, taking a 1-0 lead over the juggernaut Braves in Atlanta, 3-0, thanks to heroics on the mound, at the plate and in the field.

It was an impressive display, as the Phillies basically flashed every tool needed to potentially win a World Series in what will no doubt go down as one of the more memorable victories among some memorable postseason wins these last two seasons.

Whether you're a Trea Turner purist, a Bryce Harper stan, a fan of the daycare and Bryson Stott or a believer in the bullpen, Game 1 had a little of everything. With a day off Sunday, here's a look at what we saw in Philadelphia's most recent win:

The good

• Did this play win the game for the Phillies? Trea Turner made as clutch a play as you will ever see at shortstop, turning two with runners at the corners, the tying run at the plate and one out. My goodness:

It really can't be overstated the upgrade a revitalized Turner has meant to this baseball team.

• Bryson Stott, with two strikes and two outs, stayed red hot Saturday night driving in Bryce Harper — who was standing on second base in the fourth inning after a walk and throwing error. His single got the Phillies on the board first, with a 1-0 lead. Opportunistic run creation will be a huge bonus for the Phillies in a series between two offenses more well known for hitting bombs than playing small ball.

• Not more than one minute after the TBS announcing team talked about how good Spencer Strider has been against the Phillies (8-0, 1.90 ERA over the last two seasons), Harper blasted the first home run of the playoffs to right field, doubling the Philadelphia lead and silencing a rowdy Atlanta crowd.

• The Phillies scored again via small ball in the most unusual way you'll ever see. Three stolen bases led to a bases loaded chance for J.T. Realmuto late in the game, and the backstop drew a rare catcher's interference and drove in a run. Fans started throwing beer cans and objects on the field in protest of the admittedly spotty call. But the Phillies gladly took it and a 3-0 lead.

• A hat tip to the great throw and great challenge by Realmuto and Phillies' manager Rob Thomson in the second inning after Ozzie Albies stole a base that was overturned by a review. 

• It's worth using a bullet point here to mention how well the bullpen pitched, staring down an offense that set an MLB record for home runs and slugging percentage in a season. They didn't blink, as every hurler did his job including Craig Kimbrel, who earned the save against his old team. More on the bullpen in a minute.

• The Phillies have now won seven consecutive Game 1's in the postseason dating back to 2011. 

The bad

• Kyle Schwarber isn't the most deft guy on the base paths, and he really hurt the Phillies trying to do his best Trea Turner impression. After blasting a leadoff double to start the game, a weak grounder in between short and third sent Schwarber barreling toward third, a rare base-running blunder for a veteran squad. The instant momentum boost for the Braves also robbed Philadelphia of an opportunity to score first. Ironically, Turner stole second a few pitches later but was stranded at third on a double play.

An inning later Realmuto was the next victim of a base running setback, getting caught trying to take second after drawing a hit by pitch. The Phillies are an aggressive team by nature and Thomson stresses that all cross the roster. But when it fails, it fuels the opposition.

• Not much else to nit pick about, the Phillies did it all Saturday.

The bold

• Ranger Suarez was not happy after being lifted following 3.2 innings, 52 pitches and 10 of the first 11 batters retired in his first postseason start of 2023. He got in a bit of a jam with two runners on base and Thomson elected to go to the righty Jeff Hoffman out of the pen, quite early in the game.

Hoffman got out of the dicy spot with a bases loaded strikeout. The decision would eventually prove to be correct, as the Phillies' bullpen contingent helped preserve the shutout.

The decision to go heavy bullpen makes sense with regard to the schedule. Every pitcher was rested and ready to go following two days off between games, and with Sunday off too, the staff will have that extra day of rest as well.

• Another big move in the bullpen by Thomson was his decision to go with Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alvarado before handing the ball to rookie Orion Kerkering — a flame-throwing prospect who has a total of three innings of experience under his belt in the majors. The 22-year-old is fearless, just like his manager, and he elicited a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh. Against the 104-win Braves. Who have one of the best offenses in history. On the road. In the playoffs.

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