Legends On Deck

The Phillies March to the World Series – Who Saw That Coming?

I have to admit, as a die-hard Mets fan myself and witnessing a season that I and many other Mets faithful assumed it was our own march to the World Series, never did I even think that the Philadelphia Phillies were on the same path. But this game is very hard to predict, and as we all have witnessed, the Phils were hot at the right time and won the big games when it mattered the most.

The Phillies, who were the least likely team team to advance in the postseason, won the NL Pennant on Sunday, beating the San Diego Padres in five games and are now headed to the World Series.  Did anyone see that coming?, Well yes, like most fans that believe in their teams did, but probably not many others. A Cinderella team in the making.

Lets think about the one thing that all fans know, if a team starts to play their best baseball when the games really matter, they have the opportunity to make big things happen. And that’s exactly what the Phillies did, they started to play winning baseball down the stretch, gelling as a team, while putting themselves in a position to take down the favored teams to reach the World Series for the first time since they won it all in 2008.

In the beginning of the season, like all other 29 teams, the goal is to start off strong and hope to make an impact early on, but it didn’t go as planned. At the end of April, the Phillies were 11-11, and in 3rd place behind the surging New York Mets. As another month rolled around, the Phillies found themselves still in 3rd place but now eight games under .500 at 21-29 and 12.5 games behind the 1st place Mets, who led the division by 10.5 games. The Phillies went from a .500 month in April to a 10-18 month in May, which had them on the wrong path to start the season.

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The start of June saw the Phils end a five game losing streak, with a 6-5 opening month victory over the San Francisco Giants. But that was not enough to save the skippers job, as Joe Girardi was fired on June 3rd, ending his nearly two and half season run as the Phillies Manager. The former New York Yankees skipper and the three-time World Series champ on the field and one as a manager, couldn’t muster more than one winning season for the NL East club. Management would replace Girardi with bench coach, Rob Thomson, and the Phillies were back to square one and trying to save a season that was gearing towards being lost.

But what seemed to be an obvious result after their skipper was fired, actually turned the tide and the team started to win some ball games. On skipper Thomson’s first night as the head guy, the Phills went out and blanked the Los Angeles Angels 10-0. No one really knows what goes on in a clubhouse unless they are on the squad, but the ripple affect of the firing woke up a team that some considered to have one of the best lineups in the league.

The Phils went on a nine game winning streak, by sweeping the Angels, Milwaukee Brewers and taking the first two from the Arizona Diamnondbacks, before not showing up for a 13-1 shellacking to end their streak. But they went on to finish the month 10-7, while going 7-4 against NL East foes. The Phillies finished the month of June still in third place, but now three games over .500 (40-37) after a 19-8 June, that may have singled a turning point in their season.

By the All Star break, the Phillies were hanging close to the division leaders at 49-43, with a chance to maybe get on a roll in the second half. But right after the break, they came out the gates flat, as they were swept by the Chicago Cubs in a three game set, but then turned it around by finishing strong after taking two out of the three from the Atlanta Braves, and sweeping the Pittsburg Pirates in a four game set. They finished the month of July, in third place and eight games over .500 at 55-47 (15-10 for month of July).

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Down the stretch and into the heart of the season (August), when most teams either fall away or get hot for the final push, the Phils ended the month of August at 73-58, 15 games over .500, still in 3rd place and still in double digits behind the Mets. But what mattered at that point was that they held a potential playoff spot in the Wild Card.  An 18-11 month of August did the trick.

A team that is vying and hoping to keep a playoff spot when entering September, the key is to stay hot, but the Phillies started to succumb to the long season as they finished September at 84-72 and barely were holding on to a Wild Card spot. The 11-14 month of September, still owners of 3rd place, and even though there was never a chance that they would overcome such a great deficit that the Mets held on the NL East, the Phillies really needed a better month to secure the postseason.

What saved the Phillies season was the MLB’s expansion that added a third Wild Card spot and Milwaukee Brewers second half collapse that assured the Phillies would secure the Wild Card and first playoff berth since 2011. Now they just needed a few breaks in the postseason.

That break came on the heels of Zack Wheelers‘ 6.1 shutout innings of the St Louis Cardinals offense and timely hitting allowing the Phils to jump out to a 1-0 Wild Card lead in the best of 3 game series. in Game 2, the Phils starter Aaron Nola threw his own gem, as he went 6.2 innings of shutout baseball and Bryce Harper‘s second inning home run was enough to put Philadelphia over the top and into the NLDS against their division rivals, the Braves.

In Game 1 of the NLDS, the Phillies attacked early and often and found themselves up 7-3 through five innings, and held off a late inning drive by the powerful Braves lineup and held on to a 7-6 victory. Entering the series the Braves held an 11-8 advantage over the Phillies, but at this point of the season, this was a very different Phillies team.

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In Game 2, Atlanta showed their strength as Kyle Wright outpitched Wheeler by tossing six shutout innings to earn his second postseason victory of his career. With the win, the Braves tied the series at 1-1, shifting some momentum back their way.

The 2022 Postseason Philadelphia Phillies just took down the mighty Cardinals, and after being shutout by the Braves in Game 2, that did not sway them away from their ultimate goal.

Game 3 saw the Phillies showoff their muscle as they put up six runs in the bottom of the third and didn’t look back, handing the Braves a tough blow with a 9-1 thrashing. Aaron Nola continued his dominance as he tossed six innings, allowed just five hits, one unearned run to push the Phillies to one game of advancing on.

With the momentum back with Philadelphia, the Braves were just no match as the Phillies jumped out to a 4-1 lead after three and extended to 7-2 after six. They would win the game 8-3 to advance to the NLCS to face off against the Padres, who themselves shocked the world by taking down the 111 win Los Angeles Dodgers.

If you watch sports in general, you know that it is very difficult for any team to keep the momentum going for the full season and then turn it up a notch higher in the postseason, but that is the thing with the Phillies, they only needed to really turn it up a notch higher now in October. And that recipe allowed them to take down the high powered teams with just four more wins to reach the World Series.

Now they had to face a Padres team who also took down two giants to reach this point, with their high flying offense.

The Phillies started the series as they did in the NLDS, with a victory. Then the Padres battled back into the series with an 8-5 victory in Game 2. The Padres did it in comeback fashion, taking the air out of the balloon by stealing a game at home. Momentum shift again? Well if you have been watching the Phillies postseason, you knew that the one setback was not going to derail this team.

In Game 3, the Phillies jumped out to an early lead again and this time held on to a 4-2 victory. Game 4 saw the Phils outlast a potent Padres offense and scored just enough runs to win 10-6 and take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

The Game of the series, which will go down in the history books as one of the most exciting games in Phillies postseason history, saw Philadelphia down 3-2 after seven and a half innings.

Then one swing off the bat of lefty Bryce Harper, a two run shot that sored over the left field fence, sent the Phillies faithful in to pandemonium. The shot heard around the world, came off the Padres right handed relief pitcher Robert Suarez, who had not allowed a home run to a lefty all season and postseason.

And now the job is complete, as the Phillies advanced to the World Series by posting a 9-2 record to win the NL Pennant.

The team from the City of Brotherly Love proved that they didn’t have to win a division crown to earn their chance of winning a World Series ring, they just needed to play their best baseball when it mattered the most and so far that’s all they have been doing.

So now they take on an even bigger foe in the Houston Astros. Can the Phils overtake the Goliath of Baseball and secure the ultimate prize? That battle begins on Friday Oct 28th in Houston and it’s definitely going to be a series to remember, no matter who ends up on top.

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