The Phillies win Game 3 over the Astros, starting against Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr.

The Philadelphia Phillies came out strong in Game 3 of the World Series, and they didn’t stop until the game was out of reach. They smashed five home runs against Houston Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr., starting with a first shot by Bryce Harper, to take a 2-1 series lead in front of the Philadelphia crowd.

The Phillies took the win 7-0 with all seven home runs. Harper, Alec Bohm, Brandon Marsh, Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins have each gone deep once.

Phillies starter Ranger Suarez, brought back into the picture for Game 3 by the postponement of Monday’s rain, threw five frames without a score. By the time manager Rob Thomson turned to the bullpen, he had the luxury of a huge cushion.

Astros skipper Dusty Baker raised his eyebrows by not turning to his well-stocked and well-rested bullpen sooner. McCullers liquidated allowing an MLB postseason record five home runs — a stat that reflects how well he pitched, yes, but also how long he was left there when he clearly wasn’t cheating on the Phillies’ roster. Even if he had been retired before facing the lineup a third time – conventional even in the regular season now – he would have allowed only three homers.

Bryce Harper leads the charge against Lance McCullers Jr.

The Philadelphia fireworks began almost immediately. After a walk at Kyle Schwarber, Harper completely demolished the first World Series pitch he saw at Citizens Bank Park.

In the second inning, the Phillies smoked two more homers to put the Astros in a demoralizing 4-0 hole. The final flurry left McCullers with all seven points on his tab, most races allowed by a World Series starter since 2004.

Still, McCullers could have been on the hook for the loss with just one homer given the Astros’ punchless offense performance. They haven’t had a single extra hit, even against the second tier of the Phillies’ bullpen.

Was McCullers tipping his pitches?

If the quick home runs didn’t raise suspicion that McCullers was tipping the scales, then Harper’s whisper before the bat to Bohm – who immediately spun – did.

Internet detectives and broadcaster John Smoltz was quick to explain how the Astros starter may have told the Phillies what was to come.

Notably, McCullers was refusing to throw his fastball, especially to southpaws, so they already had a bit of a head start to sit on his usually dynamic breaking balls. He threw just 14 pellets (his primary fastball) on 78 pitches.

He calmed down a bit after the first flurry of long balls, at one point he retired eight times in a row.

But Baker did him a disservice by allowing him to face the top of the order a third time. He allowed the homers of Schwarber and Hoskins to do some questionable history before finally getting the hook.

The Phillies now have a clear goal: try to put the series aside without returning to Houston. To do that, they will first need to win Game 4 on Wednesday night. Co-ace Aaron Nola, after a tough outing in Game 1, wins the ball for the Phillies. The Astros will pitch Cristian Javier, who was truly their third-best starter all season and one of the best batting pitchers in baseball.

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