Philadelphia's J.T. Realmuto, right, who hit an inside-the-park home run, congratulates Seranthony Dominguez as their teammates begin to celebrate an 8-3 victory over Atlanta that advanced the Phillies in the Major League Baseball playoffs
Washington (AFP) - Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto hit an inside-the-park home run and the Phillies beat Atlanta 8-3 on Saturday, eliminating the defending champion Braves from the Major League Baseball playoffs.
Brandon Marsh smacked a three-run homer and Bryce Harper added a solo homer for the Phillies, who defeated the Braves 3-1 in their best-of-five National League division series.
The Phillies advanced to the best-of-seven NL championship series, where they will play either the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Diego Padres for a berth in the World Series.
“What an opportunity,” Harper said.
“You’ve got to beat the champs to be the champs. I get chills, man. We’ve got two more. We’ve got (to win) eight more games.”
The Phillies reached the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and made the NL final for the first time since 2010. They last reached the World Series in 2009 and last won the crown in 2008.
The Braves failed in their bid to become the first MLB repeat champion since the New York Yankees from 1998-2000.
Realmuto became the first catcher to hit an MLB playoff inside-the-park homer and only the 18th player in all to manage the feat. It was the first such homer in the playoffs since 2017.
Marsh gave the Phillies the lead by hitting a three-run homer in the second inning off Braves pitcher Charlie Morton, making his first playoff start since suffering a broken right leg last October.
Morton left the game after a batted ball struck his right elbow in the second inning was replaced by Collin McHugh, who surrendered Realmuto’s inside-the-park homer in the third.
The ball went over Atlanta’s Michael Harris and bounced off the centerfield wall, rolling away from Harris.
By the time he retrieved the ball and threw it to the infield, Realmuto was racing home in a 15.4-second circuit of the bases to give Philadelphia a 4-1 lead.
The Braves, who got a solo homer from Orlando Arcia in the third inning, added another from Matt Olson in the fourth to pull within 4-2.
But the Phillies added three insurance runs in the sixth on run-scoring singles by Rhys Hoskins, Realmuto and Harper.
Atlanta climbed within 7-3 on Travis d’Arnaud’s solo homer in the seventh but Harper answered with a solo homer for the Phillies in the eighth.
In a later NL game, the Dodgers, who won an MLB-best 111 games this season, faced elimination at San Diego.
In the American League, the Houston Astros tried to complete a sweep at Seattle and the Yankees were at Cleveland with the series level 1-1.