SAN DIEGO — There are only so many ways human beings can describe an event that occupies fewer than three seconds of their lives, a fact that was put to the test repeatedly after Kyle Schwarber hit a 488-foot home run in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday night at Petco Park.
Schwarber’s sixth-inning solo homer — the longest in the 18-year history of Petco Park — in the Philadelphia Phillies‘ 2-0 win over the San Diego Padres provided a brief but stunning moment of energy on a night that was defined by a distinct lack of activity.
The combined totals: four hits, eight baserunners, 20 strikeouts.
The Phillies won because two of the hits were solo homers — Bryce Harper‘s in the fourth, then Schwarber’s — and because Phillies starter Zack Wheeler ground the Padres lineup into a fine paste over seven innings of one-hit, 8-strikeout mastery.
Wheeler, who has allowed just three earned runs in 19 1/3 postseason innings this October, came out with a show of dominance in the first inning, putting together a string of 98 and 99 mph fastballs with late movement. Once that was implanted in the minds of the Padres hitters, he was free to use his breaking pitches to induce soft — or no — contact. He threw just 83 pitches and was removed after his velocity ticked down in his final inning, but he allowed just two baserunners, a walk to Juan Soto in the first and a single up the middle by Wil Myers in the fifth.
For the Padres, a 2-0 count constituted a rally.
“Seemed like the curveball was the equalizer for him,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “Obviously it’s a good fastball always with him, but he threw a ton of good breaking balls to their guys, and you saw some awkward swings and weird swings.”
But it was Schwarber who captured the imagination, in a way only tape-measure homers seem capable of doing. He sent a Yu Darvish breaking ball into the second deck in right field, far above and beyond the playing surface and into a section of the ballpark nobody could remember being reached — even in batting practice. When the ball hit the bat, it sounded like a tree split in the batter’s box. The ball dissolved into the distance at 119.7 mph and pulled the air out of a raucous crowd. Harper’s stunned reaction in the dugout — eyes wide as basketballs, jaw slack — spoke for everyone.
The only semi-recent postseason comparison came in the 2002 World Series, when Barry Bonds hit a ball 485 feet off Angels reliever Troy Percival.
“It looked like somebody on the driving range,” Hoskins said. “It got so small so fast. One of those that you don’t really need to look at; you can just hear it.”
Darvish, who allowed three hits and struck out seven in seven innings, said of his former Cubs teammate: “Schwarb, he’s a friend of mine. Every time we meet we greet each other and all that, but next time I meet him, I might have to punch him.”
The homer was important, too, and went a long way toward erasing the Padres’ home-field advantage and giving Philadelphia a boost of confidence with co-ace Aaron Nola pitching in Game 2 on Wednesday. The way Wheeler, Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alvarado lasered through the Padres lineup, the extra run, in Hoskins’ words, “Felt like a lot more than one run.”
The person who seemed least impressed by the feat was Schwarber himself, who had two of the Phillies’ three hits to hoist his postseason average to .130. He left the batter’s box reasonably quickly and watched the ball’s flight path with only passing interest. He accurately described the homer as “just a point,” and stressed repeatedly that he would have accepted it had it barely cleared the wall.
In the endless search for the insider-y detail, he was asked to recount the reactions of his teammates when he returned to the dugout.
“A lot of people just looked at me weird,” he said, refusing to give the people what they want.
That left it to everyone else, and once the obligatory expressions of shock were relayed — “jaw-dropping,” according to outfielder Brandon Marsh — there wasn’t much else left to say. The moment was more visceral than anecdotal, at least for now. As Phillies outfielder Matt Vierling said, “When it happened, I kept trying to think about how I would describe it. I’ve just never seen anything like that. It’s hard, though, because it happened so quick; 120 miles an hour doesn’t give you much time to think.”
Harper was asked to describe Schwarber’s homer three or four different times in three or four different ways, and he finally said, “Yeah, it was just really far. That’s it — plain and simple. It was just really far.”