At their practice on Saturday, the Arizona Diamondbacks used artificial crowd noise to simulate what they would hear at Citizens Bank Park during the National League Championship Series. It would be hard to replicate what they heard Monday night during game one of the series as the Philadelphia Phillies jumped on D’Backs starting pitcher Zac Gallen for three home runs in the first two innings of the game on the way to a 5-3 win and an all-important 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Phillies take game 1 of the NLCS.
Game 1 in the Books
Zack Wheeler pitched six innings and was, as he’s been this postseason – excellent. He allowed two runs on three hits with eight strikeouts and no walks. In 19 innings in the playoffs, he has a 2.37 ERA and has given up 11 hits and just one walk for a .63 WHIP while striking out 26 batters.
Kyle Schwarber’s home run – his first of the postseason – on the first pitch of the bottom of the first wasn’t a bomb as much as a missile – it smashed off the video board in right field with an exit velocity of 117.1 MPH, which is tied for the ninth-highest mark in the Majors in 2023. One batter later, Bryce Harper celebrated his 31st birthday with his own blast, which went just to the right of the bullpens. With one out in the second inning, Nick Castellanos made it 3-0 with his fifth long ball of the playoffs.
Importantly, the Phillies continued to add runs. In the third, Harper singled home Trea Turner, who had doubled. The Phils would load the bases in the frame but failed to do more damage when J.T. Realmuto hit into a double play. It was 5-0 in the fifth when Harper walked, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Realmuto’s single to left.
Not Letting the DBacks In It
The Diamondbacks showed life in the sixth. Evan Longoria singled, then Geraldo Perdomo hit a fly ball down the right-field line, but he got enough of it for a two-run home run.
Seranthony Dominguez came in for the seventh inning, walked the first hitter, and threw away a ball that was hit back to him but managed to get out of the jam by allowing just one run. Jose Alvarado was very good in an inning and a third, while Craig Kimbrel was a little wild in the ninth but induced an around-the-horn double play to end the game.
Since the NLCS went to a seven-game format in 1985, the team that won the first contest has been victorious in 26 of the 37 series for a 70.3 winning percentage.
From the Skip
“His stuff was really good tonight,” said Phillies manager Rob Thomson about Wheeler, “especially early in the game. I thought he started losing a little bit in the fifth and sixth innings, but he was dynamite early. It’s command. It’s stuff. It is power. It’s competitive nature. It’s everything. He is complete.”
“For me as a starter,” said Wheeler, who got his third career postseason win, “go out there, game one, set the tone. [In the] playoffs, everything is amplified.”
“That’s a really good team over there,” said Harper. “When you get into the postseason, everything starts over. It doesn’t matter if you are a Wild Card team or if you are this, that, or the other. Anybody can win. That’s the great thing about baseball. Anything can happen at any spot. We just have to keep playing our game, worry about us, and understand they’re not going to lay down.”
Kyle Schwarber Words
“I think the biggest thing is obviously Wheels went out there,” said Schwarber, “[and] great first inning. Fans were into it. We were wanting to kind of hop right on Gallen there. I’m sure he didn’t mean to throw where the location was, but I was able to put a good swing on it. It just gets the crowd — you know, wow. Talk about a fun crowd where you round the bases, you are looking around, and you are seeing a frenzy.
So can’t say enough about what the crowd was tonight. They were with us the whole entire night and looking forward to getting back here tomorrow.”
Rock Hoffman has been covering sports in the Philadelphia region for over 30 years. He’s been the co-host of a radio show – SportsPage – on the Delaware Valley Radio Network (WRDV.org) in the time. He’s reported on games involving all the Philadelphia teams at the profession and collegiate levels. During his career he’s provided coverage for a Super Bowl, an All-Star Game, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games as well NFL, MLB and NHL playoff games. Additionally, he’s the College Football Editor for Football Stories Magazine (FootballStories.com).