Harper reminds Braves why they shouldn’t poke the bear as Phillies tie playoff HR record

Harper reminds Braves why they shouldn’t poke the bear as Phillies tie playoff HR record originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Once again, Bryce Harper didn’t stop at second base.

This time, Orlando Arcia didn’t find it so funny.

After making the final out of Game 2 of the NLDS on the basepaths, Harper was reportedly the subject of ridicule in the Braves’ clubhouse postgame. Arcia was observed repeating, “Atta-boy Harper” after reporters entered, referencing Harper being doubled off of first base after Michael Harris II’s spectacular catch on Nick Castellanos with two outs in the ninth inning Monday night.

There was a good bit of chatter about the comment in the Phillies’ clubhouse pregame, manager Rob Thomson said, without offering judgment one way or the other.

Harper responded the way Harper tends to respond — with the violent, loud swing that will send him to the Hall of Fame someday. He took Bryce Elder deep to right for a three-run home run in a game-changing third inning Wednesday night, then went out to center field in the fifth.

Harper made sure to shoot Arcia a glare as he rounded second base … and then again after his second homer two innings later.

The Phillies hung six runs on Elder and the Braves in the third inning of Game 3 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park, just as they did to Spencer Strider in this same spot, the third inning of Game 3 of the NLDS, a year ago.

That rally was capped by Rhys Hoskins’ bat-slam three-run homer. This October, it was Harper’s turn in a 10-2 win.

Castellanos opened the Phillies’ massive third inning with a game-tying home run, his third off Elder in the last three weeks. The Phillies batted around. After Harper cleared the bases, Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott reached base and scored on a two-run double by J.T. Realmuto.

Every bit of insurance is necessary this time of year, as the Phillies saw in Game 2, which they led by four runs in the sixth inning. They kept tacking on with solo shots by Trea Turner, Brandon Marsh and a second from Castellanos. It was a six-homer night, just the second by any team in MLB playoff history.

“We thrive after we get punched in the face,” Castellanos said Monday night, about 48 hours before delivering their first run.

Aaron Nola allowed two runs over 5⅔ innings, one of which came around to score on Matt Strahm. The third and fourth innings were his most important. Nola allowed a run in the third after Ronald Acuña Jr. doubled and Ozzie Albies singled, and with the middle of the Braves’ order due up, he retired Austin Riley, walked Matt Olson and struck out Marcell Ozuna to escape with minimal damage.

In the fourth, after the Phillies had just scored six times, Nola retired the Braves 1-2-3 for the oft-discussed shutdown inning.

Since making a mechanical adjustment to keep his shoulders more square to the plate four starts ago, Nola has a 1.78 ERA and has avoided the blow-up inning in each game.

In four career postseason starts at Citizens Bank Park, Nola has allowed just five earned runs. He walked off to what had to be the loudest standing ovation he’s ever received.

The Phillies lead the Braves in the Best-of-5 Divisional Series 2-1 and would advance to the NLCS with another win. They have two chances, Game 4 at home Thursday night, or Game 5 (if necessary) with Zack Wheeler on the mound in Atlanta Saturday.

The lingering fear since Monday night of the Braves seizing momentum with their late comeback in Game 2 was squashed with one big inning by the Phillies’ offense.

Harper, who’s hit .354 with nine homers, eight doubles and 18 RBI in 22 playoff games as a Phillie, has been one of the most clutch athletes in the history of Philadelphia sports. There are better ways to track such things these days, with stats like Win Probability Added, which measures how much better or worse a player performs in high-leverage spots as opposed to normal situations. Harper ranked second in the majors this season.

Arcia probably could have picked a better bear to poke.

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