PHILADELPHIA — Bryce Harper called Alec Bohm back from the on-deck circle in the second inning on Tuesday night and cupped his hand close to his teammates’ ear to offer some instructions before he went to the plate.
Bohm hit the first pitch from Lance McCullers Jr. over the fence in left-center.
Harper was more jubilant than he had been in the first inning when he hit a two-run homer. It was that easy for the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of the World Series as they beat the Houston Astros, 7-0.
That McCullers was either tipping his pitches or the Phillies had identified his sequences seemed evident. But it was more than that.
Much as he did in Game 1 with Justin Verlander, Astros manager Dusty Baker let a struggling starter stay in the game much too long.
“It was my decision,” he said.
In all, McCullers gave up a World Series-record five home runs, three by lefthanded hitters. He had allowed one all season in 79 at-bats against lefties.
Harper’s two-run shot in the first inning had the crowd of 45,712 in a frenzy. Bohm boomed leading off the second. Brandon Marsh connected with two outs later in the inning.
Kyle Schwarber had a 443-foot rocket to center field that landed high in the shrubbery that makes up the batters’ eye.
When Rhys Hoskins went back-to-back with a drive into the left field stands, only then did Baker come out of the dugout to lift McCullers.
The way he was pitching, the Phillies would have probably hit a few more. Harper hit a curveball, Bohm a sinker, Marsh a slider, Schwarber a changeup, and Hoskins a slider.
Everything McCullers threw, the Phillies were on. The five homers tied a Series record and they came in only 4⅓ innings.
McCullers did not think he was tipping pitches. Neither did Baker.
“I got whooped,” McCullers said. “End of story.”
Said Baker: “Guys are always looking for something, always looking to see if they’re tipping their pitches. We didn’t see anything.”
However it happened, no pitcher had allowed even four home runs in a Series game since Dick Hughes of the 1967 Cardinals against the Red Sox in Game 6 at Fenway Park.
Rico Petrocelli had two and Reggie Smith and Carl Yastrzemski one each in an 8-4 victory for the Sox that day (yes, it was a day game). But they were beaten in Game 7 by the great Bob Gibson.
Cristian Javier is no Gibson. But with the Phillies leading the Series, 2-1, the Astros need the 25-year-old righthander to pitch well in Game 4 on Wednesday night or they may never get back to Minute Maid Park.
The Phillies, who had the second-worst record in the 12-team playoff field at 87-75, are 11-3 in the postseason and seemingly gaining confidence with every passing minute.
That they are undefeated in six games at Citizens Bank Park with a run differential of plus-27 has a lot to do with that.
The red-clad crowds here have been deafeningly loud as a franchise without a championship since 2008 moves through October.
It brings to mind the frenzy at Fenway Park in 2013 when an unlikely Red Sox team knocked off the Rays, Tigers, and Cardinals for an unforgettable championship.
“This whole city is so excited to be in this moment and we’re just thrilled to be able to play in front of them and have this opportunity and just be here with them,” said Harper, who has 12 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs in 14 playoff games.
Monday’s rainout will allow the Phillies to bring back Game 1 starter Aaron Nola on Wednesday. Philadelphia also will have a full complement of its best relievers.
After Ranger Suarez went five innings, manager Rob Thomson used Connor Brogdon, Kyle Gibson, Nick Nelson, and Andrew Bellatti.
One positive for the Astros: The Phillies were 1 for 12 and struck out six times once McCullers left the game. But that did little to lessen the sting of this loss.
So pleased were the notoriously grouchy Philly fans that they even cheered a shot of Santa Claus on the scoreboard.
Ho Ho Ho? More like homer, homer, homer.