Everyone in Philadelphia calls this month “Red October.”
Although there is some ambiguity in the definition, let’s agree on this one: It translates to lots and lots of home runs. Many booming home runs that get louder when the home crowd realizes the ball is going over the outfield fence.
In the Philadelphia Phillies’ 10-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday, Kyle Schwarber blasted two of those home missiles. Trea Turner added a third, and the Phillies added a bunch of runs in the later innings to go within two victories of making it back to the World Series. With his first multi-home run game of the postseason, Schwarber tied Reggie Jackson for the most postseason home runs ever by a left-handed batter with 18.
The Phillies’ October explosion has continued as they have blasted 15 home runs in four games, which is a record for the most in a four-game stretch in postseason history.
They were feasting on four-seam fastballs once more. Turner’s first-inning home shot off Merrill Lynch came after the Phillies hit three home runs off fastballs from Zac Gallen in Game 1. Both Kelly and Schwarber’s third-inning homer, which ended up in the first row of seats above the right-field scoreboard, were off of four-seam fastballs. Using a Kelly changeup, he launched his second home run, a more traditional Schwarbomb that traveled 427 feet to the right center and reached an exit velocity of 108.5 mph.
One of the most peculiar leadoff hitters in major league history is Schwarber. This season, he batted.197. In strikeouts, he led the major leagues. No base was stolen by him. However, since he took over as leadoff player in early June, the Phillies have prospered because he hits home runs (47 of them during the regular season) and draws walks.
On June 2, with the Phillies at 25-31, manager Rob Thomson inserted Schwarber, who was hitting.160 at the time, in the leadoff position. Schwarber would start in that position in every game for the remainder of the season. With the change, the Phillies, who were ranked 24th in the majors until June 1 in terms of scoring, rose to fifth. With Schwarber at the leadoff spot, the Phillies are 70-42 (postseason included) since June 2.
Thomson’s decision brought the Phillies back to October of last year, when Schwarber led off every game and blasted six home runs, three of which came in the World Series and three in the NLCS. Even though he is unusual, it works.
Schwarber discovered he had to use his strategy.
Schwarber had an advantage with an extra playoff round to tie Jackson’s record. However, in 60 games, he has hit his 18; Jackson required 77.
As a club, the Phillies are currently hitting.284/.366/.575 in the postseason, and they aren’t adding many cheap home runs to their total either. Turner’s 421-foot home run in the first inning and 13 of their 19 home runs have been longer than 400 feet.
Alec Bohm flew out to the wall in deep center field on Tuesday, Bryce Harper flew out to the wall in left, and Jake Cave singled off the wall in center as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. They just missed three other opportunities. The Phillies hit nine balls at 100 mph or more and 14 balls in play at 95 mph or more overall, which is among their highest totals of 2023.
This postseason, teams that outscore their rivals 17-2. The Diamondbacks will need to figure out how to find their slug like they did during a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers, when they blasted nine home runs.