The Phillies had been struggling for a month. On Sept. 20, the Phillies lost 18-11 to the Blue Jays, and Bryson Stott threw a ball so poorly that it hit a cameraman in the face. At that moment, they’d lost five in a row. Things got worse later in the month: At one point, the Phillies had fallen into a tie with the Brewers for the final playoff spot. “The Phillies are authoring the club’s worst collapse since 1964,” read a story by Matt Gelb in The Athletic. A day later, Chris Thompson wrote here: “September Is Once Again Destroying The Phillies.”
Now, less than a month after that headline, the Phillies are one win away from a trip to the World Series.
The Phillies went on a run after firing manager Joe Girardi. But that was back in June and, a month ago, the Phillies did not seem like a team heading for a deep postseason run. Sure, they made the playoffs. They stumbled into them, though. They won just 87 games—right in the range of those early 2000s teams that just missed the playoffs each year before the 2007 season. Here is what is so odd about this: The last great Phillies run came after a long stretch of building up. Following the chaos of the late 1990s, the team had been moving in the right direction for a while. They moved into a new stadium, they and got a bunch of young players who’d already had a few good seasons before leading the team to the playoffs. The team’s 2008 World Series win came after a stretch of better play. OK, the Phillies finally had their first winning record since 2011 last season, but they still only won 82 games. The current Phillies run began this year with a fired manager and, a bit later, a long stretch where the team played pretty bad.
Now they are a game away. Bailey Falter gave up four runs in the first inning last night, and it didn’t matter. The Phillies got three for themselves in the bottom of first, before making an out, then tied it in the fourth and took the lead for good in the fifth. They crushed four homers, two of them by Rhys Hoskins—a guy who has been booed all series despite, just one series ago, hitting one of the most exciting Phillies homers that I can remember. Whatever. Maybe that’s working. My uncle texted me this morning and said that he‘s going to keep hating on Hoskins, so as not to jinx him.
It was Bryce Harper—the big signing, last year’s MVP—who gave the Phillies the lead. He doubled in J.T. Realmuto, jumped on second base, and very clearly screamed “This is my fucking house!” Is Harper even allowed to curse? That’s a clown question, bro. The next batter, Nick Castellanos, dribbled one up the middle, it hit the second base bag, then bounced into right field. Harper scored. Like I said, after that first inning, it was the Phillies’ night.
There was no build-up for this. The Phillies were an also-ran this season, the wild-card team who sneaked in only because MLB added postseason teams this year. People say the Phillies are lucky that they even made the playoffs; it was unfair to the teams that won many more games than them. To that I say: No shit. Too bad. The Phillies are one win away from the World Series. If you blinked, you might’ve missed it.