Schwarber propels the Phillies into the playoffs with legendary home runs

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Kyle Schwarber crashed a 98 mph slider past the center field fence and the ball disappeared into a thicket of English ivy, Arborvitae, Holly and other thriving evergreens as the backdrop of greenery at Citizens Bank Park.

Most of Schwarber’s circuits land — and yes, they do land even though some he hits might be better seen through the Hubble once they reach orbit — in easy-to-follow places.

This particular ball, hit against San Diego in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, almost needed a search team to locate it. The area was swept, not by the field crew as one might assume, but by the crew responsible for collecting the memories used in the game. Schwarber isn’t making it easy; he hit two into the bushes in a game this year and it was not possible to verify which ball was which.

The NLCS ball was indeed found (although the authenticator was careful not to disturb a spent ball resting in a bird’s nest).

“Trees and shrubs, you really have to look through,” said John Hollinger, who runs the authentication program. “The bullets are stuck in different places.”

Schwarber will say there’s no spinach fueling his muscles – even though his gigantic shots over the years have sunk into ivy or even shattered car windshields like he did at college – and that he’s just a puncher with a bit more punch. his swing.

Let everyone admire Schwarber’s prodigious outbursts, which include the NL-best 46 he’s hit this season and three more in the NLCS. The Philadelphia Phillies slugger only counts runs each homer scores, not distance away.

“Everybody likes to talk about long home runs,” Schwarber said Wednesday. “I really don’t care how far they go for me. It’s more about getting a run on the board.

Schwarber has battered and crushed baseballs his entire career, and his rise to prominence in the first season of his four-year, $79 million contract with the Phillies fueled their run at the World Series. Schwarber took his hacks during Wednesday’s practice at the stadium before the team departed for Houston. The Phillies will start right-hander Aaron Nola in Game 1 and right-hander ace Zack Wheeler in Game 2.

Schwarber has done most of his damage from first place as the game moves away from the days of fast table setters such as Vince Coleman or Ricky Henderson at the top of the roster. Schwarber hit 200 times and only hit .218 but had a knack for hitting some of the memorable home runs in Philadelphia’s surprising pennant run.

Schwarber homered the front of the second deck on Opening Day in his first game for the Phillies. He led Game 3 of the NLCS with a homer against Padres ace Joe Musgrove. And the cap, so far, of all the Schwarbombs — as they’re affectionately known in Philadelphia — the 488-foot blast in Game 1 against the Padres that had an exit speed of 120 mph.

That homer — the second-longest overall in the playoffs since Statcast began tracking the distance in 2015 — kicked off 1,001 memes thanks to the jaw-dropping reaction of teammate Bryce Harper in the dugout.

“I thought it got pretty small pretty quickly,” Harper said after the game.

Schwarber, 29, simply remembered the homer came in a playoff win. It’s a race, never mind that Schwarber transforms into some kind of mythical Paul Bunyan figure who can scare the leather off the ball with every colossal moonshot.

“Who Cares About Distance?” He asked. “I think it’s more about trying to impact a game in every way possible, especially in the important moments as well.”

Schwarber has made big October games a habit since breaking into the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs in 2015 and hitting five homers in the playoffs. The following year, Schwarber tore two ligaments in his left knee after a frightening collision with outfielder Dexter Fowler while chasing a flyball. It was only the third game of the season and Schwarber thought his year was over.

But 201 days later, and after months of relentless rehabilitation, Schwarber returned to help the Cubs break the curse and win the 2016 World Series. He hit .412 with seven hits, a double and two RBIs in five World Series games.

He had a brief 72-game stint last season with Washington before being traded to Boston. Naturally, Schwarber had a grand slam for the Red Sox in the AL Championship Series.

It’s certainly not his first playoff rodeo — Schwarber’s popularity skyrocketed as one of his homers after riding a mechanical bull at the Phillies’ NLCS party at a bar across from the ballpark.

“He’s done it in a lot of different places, and when it usually happens, it’s usually not an accident,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “Some guys just have that talent. They know what it takes to win. They know how to bring guys together, which I think was probably one of the most important things he did in a Phillies uniform.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson praised Schwarber’s contributions to the clubhouse on Wednesday and noted how the slugger seemed to enjoy holding ground in front of his locker with his younger teammates.

“He’s very outgoing and very honest with people,” Thomson said. “He jokes about himself a lot, which makes people feel comfortable approaching him. He helps veterans, he helps kids. And he also goes through times of crisis or times where he doesn’t particularly swing. batting well. Even if he tries to fix his own stuff, he always tries to help others. That’s a great sign of a great teammate.

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