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Phillies rip D-backs to seize series lead in MLB playoffs

Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto homered to lead Philadelphia over Arizona 6-1 on Saturday in the Major League Baseball playoffs, lifting the Phillies one win from the World Series.

Philadelphia seized a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, needing only a home victory in game six on Monday to earn a berth in the World Series.

The American League Championship Series continues Sunday at Houston, with the defending champion Astros leading the Texas Rangers 3-2.

Houston beat the Phillies in last year’s World Series. If they both make it back, it will be the first time the same two clubs play for the crown in consecutive seasons since the 1977 and 1978 New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Phillies matched an MLB record by producing their fifth game of these playoffs with at least three homers. In all, they have 23 homers in 11 playoff games this month.

“Bats stepped up,” winning pitcher Zack Wheeler said. “Harp, Schwarb, we scored some runs. We did it not with just home runs so that’s nice.”

Arizona won its only World Series appearance in 2001 while the Phillies haven’t taken the title since 2008.

“We’ve got to put it on us,” said Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo. “We made some mistakes and we didn’t capitalize in some key situations. That was the difference in the game.”

Wheeler and Arizona’s Zac Gallen, the game one starters, returned to the mound for the pivotal contest at Phoenix.

Wheeler improved to 3-0 in the playoffs, 2-0 against Arizona, going seven innings while striking out eight and allowing only one run off six hits and a walk.

“Just got to stay within myself, not try to do too much,” Wheeler said. “It was a big game for us to try and get that momentum back. That was my goal today, try and go as deep as possible with good quality innings.”

Gallen, a 17-game winner for the Diamondbacks in the regular season, surrendered four runs on six hits over six innings.

The Phillies opened the scoring in the first inning when Schwarber singled, advanced on Harper’s single and scored on Bryson Stott’s single.

Harper, who reached third base on Stott’s hit, then scored on a double steal play, racing home after an Arizona throw tried to deny Stott at second then beating the throw to the plate — stealing home to give Philadelphia a 2-0 edge.

Schwarber led off the sixth with a homer to right-centerfield, his fifth homer of the series, and Harper followed two batters later with his own solo homer to left-center for a 4-0 Phillies lead.

Arizona’s Alek Thomas crushed a solo homer in the seventh but Realmuto answered for the Phillies with a two-run homer in the eighth for a 6-1 Philadelphia advantage.

Phillies reliever Jeff Hoffman blanked the D-backs in the eighth and Seranthony Dominguez allowed two Arizona baserunners in the ninth before left-hander Matt Strahm entered and struck out Corbin Carroll for the final out.

Arizona’s Ketel Marte singled to rightfield in the eighth inning to stretch his playoff hit streak to 14 games, one shy of matching Marquis Grissom for the longest hit streak to start any player’s post-season career.

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