Zack Wheeler trades as Phillies beat D-backs 6-1 and lead NL Championship Series 3-2

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By David Brandt

Kyle Schwarber took a breaking ball at the top of the strike zone in the sixth inning and did what he does so well in the postseason: smash a baseball deep into the seats for another home run.

The formidable Philadelphia Phillies looked mortal for a couple of days during a pair of frustrating one-run losses. Their response Saturday night showed they are far from done.

Zack Wheeler delivered another postseason gem with seven close innings, Schwarber, Bryce Harper and JT Realmulto homered and the Phillies beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-1 to take a 3-2 lead in the National League Championship Series .

“Everything was fantastic,” Schwarber said. “It was a great response. Obviously last night didn’t work out the way we wanted, but it was great that we were able to turn the page and really put our focus and effort into this.”

Philadelphia moved within one win of its second straight World Series appearance, regaining control after blowing late leads in back-to-back losses at Chase Field.

Bryson Stott had an RBI single and Harper slid home in a collision with catcher Gabriel Moreno as part of a double steal that built a 2-0 lead in the first against Zac Gallen. It was part of a big game for Harper, 30, who had two hits, three runs, a diving defensive play and his own long home run.

“It’s the best thing ever,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “He might be the best I’ve ever been around, just watching him every day.”

Harper, who returned from Tommy John surgery in May, is hitting .343 with five home runs, eight RBIs and 12 walks in 11 postseason games.

“I just want to win. That’s all. Whatever it takes, whatever it takes, whatever it looks like,” he said. “That was a big game for us. To come here and get one is huge. There’s a good team there. “We took advantage of everything we could.”

Schwarber’s home run was the fifth in the National League Championship Series and the 20th of his postseason career, as Philadelphia’s lineup hit Gallen for the second time in this series. Schwarber’s sixth-inning drive traveled 461 feet over the pool beyond the right-center fence, silencing a crowd of 47,897. Two batters later, Harper hit a 444-foot home run into the right field stands.

Realmuto added a two-run homer in the eighth against Luis Frias to take a 6-1 lead.

The series resumes Monday in Philadelphia, where the Phillies are 6-0 this postseason with 17 home runs.

Wheeler, a 33-year-old right-hander, allowed one run on five hits with one walk and struck out eight. He is 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four postseason starts this year, striking out 34 and walking two in 26 innings.

“He gave us exactly what we needed,” Thomson said.

Philadelphia’s starting pitchers have a 1.48 ERA this postseason with 67 strikeouts and just seven walks in 61 innings.

Gallen allowed four runs and six hits in six innings, falling to 2-2 with a 5.24 ERA in four playoff outings. He allowed five runs in five innings to take the Game 1 loss to Wheeler.

Alek Thomas homered in the seventh for the Diamondbacks, a day after his tying homer in the eighth propelled Arizona to a series-night win. Thomas has a team-high four home runs this postseason.

Schwarber, who hit .412 with five solo home runs in the series, reached for an infield single to start the game and scored on Stott’s two-out single. Stott’s run for second on a steal led to a throw from Moreno to second baseman Ketel Marte, who stepped in front of the bag and made an errant return throw that bounced past Moreno.

Harper collided with Moreno at the plate, stunning the catcher, but he remained in the game. The umpires ruled that Harper could not have avoided the collision because Marte’s throw carried Moreno all the way to the third base line.

“We made some mistakes today,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “We didn’t take advantage of some key situations and that was the difference in the game.”

SLUG MASTER

Schwarber reached 20 postseason home runs in 63 games, an all-time low. The previous mark was held by José Altuve of Houston with 68 games.

RARE THEFT

Harper’s steal of home was the first in Phillies postseason history and just the 22nd in MLB postseason history. It was the ninth home steal since the playoffs began in 1969 and the first since Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena in 2021.

CHANGES IN THE ALIGNMENT

Pavin Smith went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his first postseason start, hitting fifth as a designated hitter. Tommy Pham was benched after going 1 for 13 in the first four games of the National League Championship Series. Smith went 3 for 4 this postseason.

CLOSED ROOF

Temperatures hovered around 100 degrees in Phoenix, so Chase Field’s retractable roof was closed for the third straight game. … Michael Phelps, 28-time Olympic swimming medalist, threw out the ceremonial first throw.

UNTIL NEXT TIME

RHP Aaron Nola (3-0, 0.96 postseason ERA) starts Monday for the Phillies and RHP Merrill Kelly (1-1, 3.00 ERA) for the Diamondbacks.

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