By: Will Cunningham
A miracle is happening in the baseball world. The city of Philadelphia is experiencing joy and success they haven’t experienced in over a decade. After years of rebuilding, mediocrity and disappointing finishes, they have overcome odds and shocked the baseball world. The Phillies will be playing for a World Series Championship.
If you had told any Phillies fan, or baseball fan for that matter, that they would make it this far six months ago, they would have called you delusional. They started the year 21-29 and were a whopping seven games behind for a playoff spot at the beginning of June. The pitching staff was inconsistent. The offense couldn’t get anything going. A shaky bullpen was mismanaged. Manager Joe Girardi was even fired shortly after for that disastrous start.
But then, something clicked. The Phillies started to win. They kept winning. Even as they suffered injuries to key players, they kept winning. They won a whopping 66 games during that stretch, allowing them to secure a playoff spot as the sixth and final seed in the National League.
The winning didn’t stop there. The red-hot Phillies proceeded to shock and defeat the division winning St. Louis Cardinals, the defending champion Atlanta Braves and the star-studded San Diego Padres to win their first pennant since 2009.
For Bryce Harper, this is what he dreamed of when signing with the club. Though the reigning National League MVP missed some time this season due to injuries, his performance at the dish remains a sight to behold. He had the performance of his life in the National League Championship Series, in which he hit over .400 with three home runs, including the go-ahead blast in the eighth inning of Game 5 that ultimately sent the Phillies to the World Series.
Also stepping up in the NLCS is first-baseman Rhys Hoskins, who smashed four home runs, including three in eight at-bats. Kyle Schwarber was a juggernaut in his first year in red pinstripes, hitting a career high 46 home runs in the leadoff spot in the regular season before adding three more this postseason. This included a 488 foot moonshot in Game 1 of the NLCS, the second longest homerun in postseason history.
The pitching staff has also stepped up tremendously this year. The rotation has long been known as a strength, led by aces Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, youngster Ranger Suárez and recent trade acquisition Noah Syndergaard. However, it’s the bullpen that has stepped up in big moments after being considered the worst bullpen in baseball over some two years ago. The headliners are righty Seranthony Domínguez and José Alvarado, who have only given up a combined two runs this entire postseason.
Of course, I cannot talk about this playoff run without mentioning new manager Rob Thomson. After taking over for Joe Girardi mid-season, he became a favorite of the Philly faithful for the success he experienced. He is credited for reshaping the culture of the Phillies and promoting on-field success, and his success was rewarded with a two-year extension with the team.
To complete their title quest, they must first conquer a baseball juggernaut. The Houston Astros finished with the best record in the American League and have yet to lose a playoff game. Even with the sign stealing scandal still lingering in the hearts of fans and losses of key players through free agency, this team continues to find ways to win, as they have now won four pennants in six years. Their previous two trips to the fall classic did not end in their favor, losing to the Nationals and Braves, both of whom are division rivals of the Phillies.
Is the Astros talent too much to not win a ring, or are the stars aligned for the Phillies to win a magical World Series title? Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain from all of this: it has truly been a Red October to remember.