PHILADELPHIA — Rhys Hoskins raised his arms above his head, together with his bat in his right hand, took two steps out of the batters’ box and fired the bat into the dirt in one among the more emphatic gestures a batter could make.
A number of seconds earlier, Hoskins had launched a three-run home run into the left field stands to get the homecoming party underway. The Philadelphia Phillies had not hosted a postseason game at their home ballpark in over a decade, and the playoff-starved fans were able to erupt. Hoskins simply lit the primary candle.
“We’re just looking forward to this experience,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto, who joined the team in 2019, said before the sport. “Looking forward to the Phillies fans this red October that we’ve all heard about that we haven’t got to experience. It’s been an extended time coming.”
With that sea of red-clad fans cheering them on, the Phillies celebrated a breezy 9-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of their National League division series. With yet another win, in either Game 4 on Saturday or Game 5 Sunday in Atlanta, the underdog Phillies can earn their first appearance within the N.L. Championship Series since 2010.
Hoskins’ third inning home run, followed by a two-run blast from Bryce Harper just two batters later, spurred the Phillies offense, while Aaron Nola pitched six strong innings, allowing just one unearned run. On a warm, brilliantly sunny October day, it was precisely the form of performance the Phillies fans had hoped to see for a very long time.
The last playoff game here was 11 years ago, when Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Hall of Famer Roy Halladay staged an old-fashioned, postseason pitching duel for the ages. Halladay, who the 12 months before had thrown a no-hitter within the divisional round here against the Cincinnati Reds, allowed just one run and 6 hits in eight innings against St. Louis that day. But Carpenter threw a three-hit shutout.
What followed was 10 barren years, with the Phillies ending under .500 in nine of them, a mean of 18 games out of first place. This 12 months, the Phillies didn’t start significantly better, scratching out a 22-29 record until Dave Dombrowski, the overall manager, replaced Joe Girardi with Rob Thomson as manager. The Phillies won their next eight games, 14 of their next 16 and went 65-46 to finish the season with a postseason berth.
But a house playoff date was still not ensured until the Phillies shocked the Cardinals in two games in St. Louis of their best-of-three wild-card series, with all of the games scheduled for St. Louis.
After these teams split the primary two games of their division series in Atlanta, the Phillies arrived back in Philadelphia able to reintroduce the local fans to playoff baseball. But it surely had also been an extended time — since Sept. 25 — that the Phillies were at home in a game of any kind.
They ended the regular season on the road after which went St. Louis for the wild-card series after which straight to Atlanta — 14 consecutive games on the road. Their little odyssey was prolonged a day longer when the team decided to stay in Atlanta for the night after Game 2, when normally teams fly overnight.
But during a three-hour rain delay in Atlanta on Wednesday, Dombrowski met with the players after consulting with the training and conditioning staffs. He suggested it could be higher to spend yet another night in Atlanta and fly the subsequent day — Thursday — and the players agreed. Once they finally got home, it was a joy, especially for individuals who have children.
“The very first thing I did was give them a hug, took a shower after which took a nap,” Realmuto said. “It was nice to get in my very own bed for once.”
The last time Atlanta played here within the postseason was the 1993 National League Championship Series, which the Phillies won in six games. In line with John Smoltz, the Hall of Fame pitcher who starred for Atlanta and was broadcasting Friday’s game for FOX, the gang on the old Veterans Stadium was loud and intimidating.
“We got on the bus after the sport and the fans surrounded it and commenced pushing backward and forward,” Smoltz said. “You can feel it moving forwards and backwards.”
Times have modified and Residents Bank Park, with its sleek design, picturesque view of downtown Philadelphia and planted trees and flowers adorning the bullpens and center field batter’s eye, is much less rowdy than the old Veterans Stadium. But it could actually still get loud.
After the Hoskins home run, the playoff-starved fans stood and roared through the subsequent two at-bats — a single by J.T. Realmuto and Harper’s smash to right field on the primary pitch he saw from left-handed pitcher Dylan Lee. In a short time, the homecoming celebration became a raucous party.