Spike This! Hoskins, Harper homer, Phillies rout Braves in NLDS

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PHILADELPHIA — Rhys Hoskins burst out of his postseason malaise with a three-run homer and spiked his bat in triumph and Bryce Harper hit a two-run shot that sent Philadelphia Phillies fever soaring and helped carry them to a 9-1 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NL Division Series on Friday night.

Harper added an RBI double as Philadelphia took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five matchup against the reigning World Series champs. The Phillies can advance to the NL Championship Series with a Game 4 win at home on Saturday.

The Phillies and a sellout crowd of 45,538 fans waited 11 mostly miserable years — 4,025 days, to be exact — to host a playoff game again at Citizens Bank Park.

Phillies fans should save the rally towels — the Phillies played like a team that wants to keep Red October alive

The bats erupted in a six-run third inning that will forever be stamped on a Philly sports highlight reel. Bryson Stott got the rally going with an RBI double off Braves rookie Spencer Strider. Kyle Schwarber drew an intentional walk to set the stage for Hoskins.

Hoskins, mired in a 1-for-19 postseason slump, crushed a 94 mph fastball into the left field seats for a 4-0 lead. Hoskins raised his arms in celebration, slammed his bat into the grass and he skipped his way to first base.

The exit velocity? It took about 2 seconds for Harper to bounce out of the dugout and toss his helmet in the air. Hoskins leapt into a violent elbow forearm exchange — think, Bash Brothers — with Stott as he crossed the plate.

“I don’t know if my feet touched the ground,” Hoskins said.

Strider, who pitched the first time in almost a month because of a strained left oblique, gave up one more single before he was lifted for Dylan Lee.

Playing his first playoff home game with the Phillies, Harper hammered the ball into the twilight for his second postseason homer and a 6-0 lead. Phillies fans that held hand-cut letters that spelled out “Harper” bounced in delight in stands that absolutely rocked. Harper, who embraced Philly and the Phanatic and the fans from the moment he signed a $330 million, 13-year deal in 2019, pointed to a fan that held a “Hit That Jawn” sign behind the dugout.

Jawn is a Philly noun used to describe anything.

Harper’s shot made Philly feel everything.

“I was just fired up, ready to go,” the two-time NL MVP said.

Aaron Nola, pitching the best baseball of his career, was an October ace again in shutting down a Braves team that won 101 games and the NL East. He gave up five hits, walked two and struck out six in six-plus innings.

Nola, the longest-tenured Phillie, was on it from the jump. He needed only 10 pitches in the second inning to strike out the side. The Braves touched him for only an unearned run in the sixth. He left the game in the seventh to a tremendous standing ovation.

The Phillies played their first postseason home game since a 1-0 loss in the 2011 NLDS to Chris Carpenter and the eventual champion St. Louis Cardinals. They waited 11 years — and a whopping 14 straight road games since September — to get back. The Phillies ended the season on a 10-game road trip and then played their first four playoff games on the road.

Phillies fans — and the Phanatic from atop the dugout — mocked Atlanta’s tomahawk chop, and red rally towels spun like helicopter rotor blades from the moment they snagged them off the seats. As Strider trudged off the mound in the third, one Phillies fan gleefully wagged his middle finger toward the pitcher for his entire walk to the dugout.

Strider could only shake his head as the shortest start of his brief career was over in just 2 1/3 innings.

The Phillies had never scored five runs in a postseason inning before 2022. They’ve done it twice now, the first time, of course, the six-run rally in the ninth inning to beat the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NL wild-card series.

Harper rocked an RBI double to center in the seventh and Game 1 star Nick Castellanos drove in two runs in the inning for a 9-1 lead.

PHELAN HONORED

The Phillies held a moment of silence for Corey Phelan, a 20-year-old minor league pitcher who died Wednesday of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He last pitched in the minors in 2021.

“We got to know him. Got to meet him, got to meet the family. Tremendous family,” manager Rob Thomson said. “And you just see the strength he had, the confidence he had to be able to get through this. It was tough to take because we got to know Corey a little bit and really liked him and liked his character and liked everything about him. So it’s tough.”

CAPTURED CRITTER

First, a goose was on the loose in LA. In Game 3, a squirrel was briefly trapped near the Braves dugout before it was released and it, well, squirreled away.

UP NEXT

The Braves send RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.34 ERA) to the mound for Game 4. The Phillies have yet to name a starter.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.