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The Phillies Didn’t Unravel

A Phillies employee pours beer over Bryce Harper's head
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Did you watch the Phillies game yesterday? Did you think they possibly were going to win? How could you? Bryce Harper ran himself out on the basepaths. A tricky double steal attempt to score a run didn’t work. The Phillies bunted for the 9-hole hitter; that didn’t work either. And once Aaron Nola came out of the game, that left the Phillies bullpen, which in recent memory has literally been one of the worst in baseball history. They were only up 1-0 in the series because the previous day’s flukey six-run ninth inning.

I was too pessimistic. I was wrong. The Phillies did indeed win, 2-0, eliminating the St. Louis Cardinals in a two-game sweep in the wild card round. Both games were excruciating. In the first game, both teams combined for just 10 hits. The lone scoring play before the ninth was a two-run pinch hit homer by Juan Yepez. The Phillies then won the game with a hit, two walks, a hit batsman, a weak single through the middle, a fielder’s choice, a single on a play Nolan Arenado should’ve made at third, and a sacrifice fly.

As a Phillies fan, last night’s game was worse, even in victory. Bryce Harper hit a moonshot in the second inning to give the Phillies the lead for good. The Phillies then managed to screw up almost every other time they had a chance to score runs, pulling in only one more run in an incredibly tense night. There were multiple times in the game yesterday where it seemed like the Cardinals were about to take control. Let's review:

    • Aaron Nola, pitching in the sixth inning, gave up a one-out single to Albert Pujols. Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado, the Cardinals’ pair of MVP candidates, had a chance to make it a game. He struck both of them out.
    • Nola came out of the game in the seventh after giving up a two-out single to Corey Dickerson. José Alvarado, who gave up a homer the day before, came in. He got Yadier Molina to foul out.
    • Alvarado himself was removed when he walked Lars Nootbaar in the eighth. Seranthony Domínguez came in. He gave up a single to Albert Pujols. Again, Goldschmidt and Arenado were up. Again, they struck out swinging. They wouldn’t bat again this season.
    • In the ninth, Zach Eflin, a player the Phillies traded Jimmy Rollins for, came in to close. He was a starter most of the year. He had pitched on no days rest only once before in his career—two weeks ago. He had given up a run pitching the ninth the day before. On Saturday he gave up singles to Dickerson and Molina. This was the Cardinals’ chance to do to the Phillies what the Phillies had done the day before. Eflin got Tommy Edman to foul out.

I was ready, at all of these situations, for the Phillies to choke. And, of course, I love this feeling. There’s always a part of me that watches postseason baseball, or any sport, just to see how my team is going to blow it. I live to watch my team, up several points or runs or goals, and dream up ways they’re going to end up losing. I do this for the Eagles. I do this for the Penn Quakers. I do this for basically every sport I watch where I have some sort of rooting interest. I have a lot of them. They’re all doing pretty well right now. My Kensington Tigers football team is 4-3! That does not stop me from predicting doom for all of them when it suits me.

Maybe it’s a type of exposure therapy. I am squeamish around blood and needles. Yet I attend hardcore wrestling matches and I give blood multiple times a year. When I was 10, I attended a World Series game where the Phillies lost 15-14. Since then, my brain has been preparing me for inevitable collapses by visualizing that moment. And maybe nowhere is this worse than playoff baseball. It’s not like other sports, where you can wish for a steal or an interception and a long run down the other end. When the other team is at bat, only they can score. It seemed like the Cardinals were going to score a bunch of times last night. They didn’t. But I was ready if they did.

There was one little hiccup by the Phillies last night. Upon winning, the team celebrated with a clubhouse playlist that included “My Dick” and “Dancing On My Own.”

Ignore the typo in the tweet. The version of the song the Phillies were singing along to was by Calum Scott, who sang it on Britain’s Got Talent a few years back. I had never heard of this cover. I got through 44 seconds of it before turning it off. It is clearly inferior to the original by Robyn. But whatever. The Isley Brothers' “Twist and Shout” puts The Beatles’ version to shame, but people can listen to the inferior one if they want.

No, the real hiccup here is again personal. The Phillies are young; I am old. They have a different version of “Dancing On My Own.” They probably only know “Teenage Dirtbag” from TikTok. Now I have another worry to think about when I’m pondering my team’s fate.

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