MLB playoffs: Phillies reach NLCS, Astros gain ALCS and Guardians get edge on Yankees

The Phillies pose in NLCS T-shirts on Oct. 15, 2022, after they defeated Braves to win their NLDS in four games.
The Phillies rejoice after they defeated the defending World Series champion Braves 8-3 on Saturday to win their NLDS in four games. Philadelphia will face San Diego in the NLCS.
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

Ex-Angel Brandon Marsh hit a three-run homer and J.T. Realmuto lined an inside-the-park home run that sent the host Philadelphia Phillies bolting headfirst into the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2010 with an 8-3 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of the NL Division Series on Saturday.

Realmuto became the first catcher to hit an inside-the-parker in postseason history and Bryce Harper punctuated the romp with a clinching home run that helped the Phillies take the NLDS 3-1 over the World Series champion Braves.

“We had ups and downs during the season, just like any other club does, but they knew that they were going to come out of it at some point and start winning again,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “And we did.”


The Phillies will face the San Diego Padres in the NLCS. The Padres stunned the Dodgers in four games in their NLDS.

Atlanta’s loss meant Major League Baseball hasn’t had a repeat champion since the New York Yankees won three straight World Series titles from 1998 to 2000.

“Like I told them, the goal when we leave spring training is to win the division,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Until you win the division, you don’t have a chance to do anything special because you never know what’s going to happen, you don’t know what team’s going to get hot, what things have to go right for you to go deep into the postseason. And we got in. It didn’t happen for us this year.”

Philadelphia finished in third place in the NL East, 14 games behind the 101-win Braves this season, but is hitting on all cylinders under Thomson. He took over for the fired Joe Girardi and transformed a team that was 22-29.

“We just got off to a little bit of a slow start and kind of spiraled, and May was a really tough month. It was a really tough schedule,” Thomson said. “Then once we hit June, the schedule kind of lightened up a little bit and we started winning, and guys started getting confidence and believing that they could win. ... And just kept going.”

And the Phillies used a dose of Marsh Madness to keep the party rolling in October.

Heck, call it Mash Madness, as the Phillies turned Citizens Bank Park into a cozy home bandbox for the second consecutive game — and with another fired-up, towel-waving crowd along for every long ball.


The Dodgers’ World Series hopes were dashed Saturday night in a season-ending loss to the Padres in Game 4 of the National League Division Series in San Diego.

Oct. 16, 2022

After Rhys Hoskins spiked his bat on a three-run shot in a Game 3 win, it was Marsh’s turn in the second inning to hammer his own three-run homer in Game 4.

Braves starter Charlie Morton was hit on his pitching elbow by Alec Bohm’s single traveling 71.9 mph to lead off the inning. After being checked, Morton gave up a single to Jean Segura and hung a 2-2 curveball that Marsh, the No. 9 hitter, launched deep into the right-field seats for a 3-0 lead.

Marsh, 24, is known as much for his stringy hair and ZZ Top-esque beard as he is for being one of the top young players on the Phillies. Marsh, who also doubled in the fourth inning, was acquired from the Angels in August just ahead of this season’s trade deadline. Phillies President Dave Dombrowski swung another deadline deal with the Angels that got them Game 4 starter Noah Syndergaard, also known for his long locks.

The Philadelphia Phillies' Brandon Marsh connects for a three-run homer during Game 4 of the NLDS on Oct. 15, 2022.
The Phillies’ Brandon Marsh hits a three-run homer in the second inning. Philadelphia acquired Marsh from the Angels in August.
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

Hey, it will be easy for the Phillies to let their hair down and party.

Reliever Brad Hand was one of six Philadelphia pitchers and got the win.

Syndergaard, bumped from the rotation at the end of the season, wasn’t asked by Thomson to do much other than keep the Phillies in the game. Maybe go unscathed once around the order. Syndergaard delivered with three strikeouts in three innings in a brief throwback to his commanding “Thor” days with the New York Mets.

Orlando Arcia hit a solo shot off him in the third to make it 3-1.

Realmuto then hustled his way into postseason history.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts doesn’t deserve all the blame for the Dodgers’ season ending in grim fashion. Andrew Friedman also needs to be scrutinized.

Oct. 16, 2022

He connected to lead off the third inning against reliever Collin McHugh. The ball hit the angled portion of the wall beyond the reach of center fielder Michael Harris II, and the carom rolled along the warning track toward right-center field. Ronald Acuna Jr. stood in right field watching the play and didn’t start running toward the ball until Realmuto was well past first base. Realmuto, who runs extremely well for a catcher, made a headfirst slide into the plate, well ahead of the relay.

With that, it was bedlam inside the park, as a sellout crowd of 45,660 was deliriously cheering, every sense tingling that there wasn’t going to be a Game 5.

Philadelphia's J.T. Realmuto is fired up after scoring on his inside-the-park home run Oct. 15, 2022.
Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto is fired up after scoring on his inside-the-park home run during the third inning.
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

Nope. Just Game 3 of the NLCS back in Philadelphia on Friday.

Harper hit a solo homer in the eighth, the second of the series for the reigning NL most valuable player.

It seemed fitting that the trio of Phillies sluggers who form the heart of the franchise put the game away in the sixth. Hoskins, Realmuto and Harper all had RBI singles that made it 7-2 and a series clinch a mere formality.

Morton walked out to the mound for the start of the third inning but could not get loose. He was replaced by McHugh. Morton entered 5-0 with a 0.73 earned-run average in five career elimination games, four starts.

Matt Olson and Travis d’Arnaud hit solo homers for the Braves.

Houston Astros 1, Seattle Mariners 0 (18 inn.)

The Astros' Jeremy Pena rounds the bases after hitting an 18th-inning home run against the Mariners on Oct. 15, 2022.
The Astros’ Jeremy Pena rounds the bases after he hit an 18th-inning home run against the Mariners. Houston swept the ALDS and advanced to a sixth straight ALCS.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Jeremy Pena homered in the 18th inning, and the visiting Astros beat the Mariners to advance to the American League Championship Series for the sixth straight year.

Pena drove a slider from Penn Murfee deep to left-center field for the rookie shortstop’s first playoff homer, proving the only run in an afternoon full of dominant pitching and empty trips to the plate. The 18 innings matched the longest game in playoff history.

“Man, that was a long game. But you still got to lock in, try to put together good at-bats,” Pena said. “I was just trying to stay inside the baseball, drove it in the gap.”

Spoiling Seattle’s first home playoff appearance since 2001, Houston completed a three-game sweep of the AL Division Series. Next up are the New York Yankees or Cleveland Guardians in Game 1 of the ALCS on Wednesday.

While Yordan Alvarez got the big hits in the first two games in Houston, it was Pena who set the table for Alvarez’s opportunities. As Game 3 made its way into its sixth hour, Pena delivered another painful blow to the Mariners that ended their short return to the postseason.

After 21 years, Seattle fans welcomed playoff baseball back inside T-Mobile Park. They got their money’s worth and then some.

Three previous playoff games reached the 18th inning before conclusion, one involving Houston. The Astros beat Atlanta 7-6 in 18 innings in Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS on Chris Burke’s game-ending homer.

Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS between San Francisco and Washington and Game 3 of the 2018 World Series between the Dodgers and Boston also went 18 innings.

But those games had runs. This one failed to produce anything until Pena’s swing on a 3-2 pitch.

Seattle’s best scoring chance was Julio Rodriguez’s line drive that thudded off the wall in the eighth inning. Seattle had runners in scoring position in the 13th and 17th but couldn’t get a key two-out hit against Houston’s superb bullpen.

Barely a week after setting a franchise record with 111 regular-season victories, the Dodgers see their season end in an NLDS loss to the Padres.

Oct. 16, 2022

Luis Garcia worked five innings for the win. The Astros’ bullpen gave up five hits and struck out 15 following six innings from starter Lance McCullers Jr.

“Watching the whole thing, the guys are doing a really good job and I’m really proud of them. I was just trying to help,” Garcia said.

Seattle’s bullpen was nearly just as good. After rookie George Kirby threw seven innings, nine Mariners relievers combined for 11 innings of five-hit ball.

The teams combined to strike out 42 times, topping the postseason record of 39 set by the Guardians and Tampa Bay Rays last week in their AL wild-card matchup that was scoreless before Cleveland won 1-0 in 15 innings.

In completing a stunning NLDS triumph Saturday night, the little-brother San Diego Padres truly became rivals of the big-brother Dodgers.

Oct. 16, 2022

Cleveland Guardians 6, New York Yankees 5

The Guardians' Oscar Gonzalez gestures as he is interviewed after the team's 6-5 win on Oct. 15, 2022.
The Guardians’ Oscar Gonzalez gestures as he is interviewed after his two-run single with two outs in the ninth inning lifted Cleveland.
(Phil Long / Associated Press)

Rookie Oscar Gonzalez hit a two-run single with two outs in the ninth inning, rallying the host Guardians to a win over the Yankees to take a 2-1 lead in their ALDS.

Gonzalez, a hero earlier in the postseason as well, lined a 1-2 pitch from Clarke Schmidt through the middle to score rookie Steven Kwan and Amed Rosario as the young Guardians, who have shown no fear during this storybook season, rallied once again and pushed the Yankees to the brink of elimination.

Aaron Judge hit a two-run homer for New York, which carried a 5-3 lead into the ninth before its bullpen flopped and Cleveland staged yet another comeback win.

As Rosario crossed the plate, Gonzalez flung his helmet high in the air standing near first base as his teammates rushed onto the field to mob him. The 24-year-old hit a walk-off homer in the 15th inning last week to sweep Tampa Bay in the wild-card round.

“We’ve seen it in two series so far from this guy,” Guardians starter Triston McKenzie said. “He comes up in the 15th inning and hits a home run, has a game-winning hit in another game, has the hit tonight.

“There’s a maturity level at the plate you don’t see all the time.”

Game 4 is Sunday night, when the Yankees turn to ace Gerrit Cole to try to prevent an early postseason exit.

“Love that Gerrit’s on the mound,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “Let’s go get it. Tonight obviously was a gut-wrenching ending, but we’ve got to get over it. Now we’re obviously up against it, but I still love our chances.”

Before Cleveland’s comeback, the Yankees were 167-0 in the postseason when entering the ninth inning with a multiple-run lead.