PHILADELPHIA — The National League Championship Series returned to Philadelphia for the first time in 12 years on Friday, and many older stars from that era were on hand to watch. Slugger Ryan Howard was there with his kids, as were former manager Charlie Manuel and JC Romero, who played in the Phillies’ last NLCS victory in 2010.
They all received loud ovations when played on the giant video screen, but the biggest cheers of the night were reserved for the current squad, who captivated this city by coming within two wins. of the World Series.
The current Phillies beat the San Diego Padres, 4-2, in Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park on Friday and now lead the series, two games to one. The game started with a pitcher named Ranger and ended with another named Seranthony, but the player whose name will be etched in it forever is Jean Segura.
The exuberant Phillies second baseman played 11 seasons and appeared in 1,328 games before finally getting a chance to play in the playoffs. It was the longest streak of any active player, and Segura seemed determined to catch up, all of a sudden.
Whether at the plate or on the field, Segura was at the center of many of the game’s most decisive plays and impressed as much with his emphatic celebrations as the critical plays he made that helped the Phillies to the victoire.
He also drew attention to a few errors that could have been costly. Wherever the ball was, Segura always seemed within reach.
“I waited 11 years for this opportunity,” he said. “I’m not going back there.”
It started in the top of the fourth inning, when Segura looked away from a returned pitch by shortstop Bryson Stott on what could have been an easy double play late in the frame. Instead, Segura dropped the ball, all runners were safe, and the Padres eventually scored to make it 1-1.
“But he turned around and basically won the game for us with his bat and his glove,” Phillies catcher JT Realmuto said.
The game opened to a buzz of anticipation from the eager crowd as Ranger Suárez, the Phillies’ starting pitcher, put the Padres in order. Kyle Schwarber then ignited the announced crowd of 45,279 with a first home run against Joe Musgrove.
Segura’s big entrance into the thick of the action came with his error at the top of the fourth, but he blasted the Phillies head-first down the frame.
With runners at second and third and two out, Musgrove threw a slider at Segura who was down and barely inches off the ground. Segura came down and crushed him safely in the outfield, tackling two runs. He celebrated by taking his bat to the ground, as if he had hit a towering home run.
It was reminiscent of a similar at-bat from teammate Rhys Hoskins, who did the same after hitting a three-run homer in Game 3 of Philadelphia’s Division Series against the Atlanta Braves.
Soon Segura was the center of attention again as Musgrove pulled him out of first base, allowing for a calmer return to the dugout.
But his two defensive gems drew as much attention as the big hit. With two runners on base in the sixth and the Phillies clinging to a one-run lead, Segura caught a sizzling ground ball from Josh Bell’s bat. He made it a double play and celebrated it with a leg kick and a punch. He did the same after another late-inning defensive play in the seventh.
An error, a two-run single, a pickoff and two terrific defensive plays added to a notable effort under intense playoff pressure. But Segura, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, said he faced more day-to-day pressure growing up playing in his home country, both in the backyard, as he has said, and in professional winter ball, where the stakes can be very high.
“Compared to here, when you come here, man, it’s a completely different type of game,” he said. “I think the pressure, when you come from DR, it’s nothing.”
For Segura and the Phillies, their chances of advancing to the World Series have improved dramatically. In the previous 97 times that a seven-game series was tied 1-1, the team that won Game 3 won 67 times, or 69.1%.
It was also an important win as they handed Musgrove his first loss of the playoffs, knocking him out of the game on Alec Bohm’s brace in the sixth.
“You never know what you’re going to get when you go out there,” Musgrove said, “but today was the worst I’ve felt in a while.”
After Bohm provided the insurance run, the Philadelphia bullpen held everything together, especially Seranthony Domínguez, who became Phillie’s first relief pitcher to complete a two-inning stoppage in the playoffs since Tug McGraw closed the World Series in 1980.
But there were still tensions to be resolved. In the ninth, Bell chose to open the frame for San Diego. The next batter was Jurickson Profar, who checked his momentum on a full pitch and began trotting toward first base, thinking he had drawn a walk that would have put the runners at first and second with no one on.
But on appeal, third base umpire Todd Tichenor ruled it was a hit, saying Profar failed to hold up his momentum. Profar was furious and threw his helmet to the ground and kicked it, only to be ejected by plate umpire Ted Barrett.
After the game, Profar insisted he wasn’t swinging, but added that he hoped that if the same situation happened again, he wouldn’t react the same way.
“We play a game and we play with emotion,” he said. “I play with emotion. But then, I did. I learn from it.”
Helmet kicks, leg kicks, bat slams and cheers. It was a game that stirred strong emotions from teams and fans alike. And that was only game 3.
Tyler Kepner contributed report.
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