PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies are going to the World Series. That sentence was unfathomable five months ago and would have been hard to fathom at the start of the 2022 MLB playoffs barely two weeks ago (who could have predicted this?). But that is the truth. Brice Harper hit the biggest home run of his life on a rainy Sunday afternoon in South Philly and Philly shut out the Padres in Game 5 of the NLCS.
It was a magical road to the NL pennant for a team that was eight games under .500 when the calendar flipped to June. So, in honor of the Phillies’ first trip to the World Series in 13 years, let’s go through 13 reasons why they’re here.
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1. Brice Harper
This list can only start at one place. Brice Harper is the biggest reason the Phillies are where they are as a team and as a franchise. Harper steered the Phillies off the path of a failed rebuild when he signed a $330 million deal 42 months ago, and led them to the Fall Classic in his first playoff series with the team.
Harper has been the best hitter on any team in the 2022 playoffs. He proved he’s fully recovered from a broken thumb he suffered in June when he went deep in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against the Cardinals, and he hasn’t looked back. He entered Sunday’s game hitting .410/.439/.872 with four home runs and nine RBIs in the Phillies’ first 10 playoff games. He then added two more hits, including the biggest home run of his career.
Reese Hoskins has eight hits in the 2022 MLB playoffs. Five were home runs. Three of them presented a beautiful spin of the bats.
Let’s first go back to NLDS Game 3, when Braves rookie Spencer Strider picked the wrong time to throw his slowest fastball of the year. Hoskins knew it was gone before he finished his swing and then released the Bat Spike™. See it in all its glory:
Then, in Saturday night’s Game 4 win over the Padres, Hoskins took Sean Manaea deep for his second hit of the game. That answered Juan Soto’s two-run homer earlier in the inning, and two batters later, the Phillies had the lead. Hoskins took a gentler approach to his celebration.
It ended Sunday, when Hoskins started hitting against Padres starter Yu Darvish:
Variety, they say, is the spice of the bats’ postseason layup.
3. Kyle Schwarber hits titanic blasts
Would you like to read more words? Or would you like to watch a replay of Kyle Schwarber hitting the ball 488 feet?
If you enjoyed that, may I also recommend this tall beauty from Game 4:
Schwarber hit three homers in the NLCS against San Diego after hitting none in the first six games of the playoffs. And yes, of course, we have a sandwich-related explanation for that power surge that comes immediately.
4. Wava presented ‘Schwarberfest’
Wawa, the supplier of the best gas stations in the country, has played a role in this race for the World Championship. Obvious. The Philly-area institution introduced “Schwarberfest” during the NLCS, and the results speak for themselves.
Some background: Every summer, Wawa has a “Hoagiefest.” It’s the best fiesta in the country, this writer says, and the convenience store sells its hoagies at discounted prices. During Hoagiefest 2022, Schwarber was a homer hitting machine. Schwarber hit 15 of his NL-leading 46 home runs in 34 games during Hoagiefest (June 20-July 31). That’s a 162 game pace of 71 dingers.
After his struggles in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Wawa introduced Schwarberfest (which means $5 Shorties and $6 Classics). Schwarber then hit three home runs in five games.
It takes a village. And he also gets discounts from his favorite gas station in the village.
Yes, we are partially discussing Jean Segura’s defensive range at second base. That was on full display in Friday night’s NLCS Game 3.
But mostly we’re talking about Segura’s range at the plate. The veteran infielder had two go-ahead hits at key moments in the Phillies’ run to the pennant. The first came during a six-run ninth inning against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series. Check out where this pitch was:
Not to be outdone, Segura hit another pitch against Joe Musgrove in Game 3 of the NLCS.
Segura has waited longer than any other active MLB player to make his postseason debut, and he’s making the most of October no matter where he plays.
Welcome to the advertising section of this list. Wheeler was absolutely the star in this run. The right-hander was winless in Sunday’s finale, but pitched six strong innings, allowing just two earned runs. In his three playoff starts before Sunday, Wheeler had a 1.40 ERA and a .109 batting average against.
Nola followed Wheeler in the Phillies’ playoff rotation, and he does so on this list. The longest-tenured Phillie has been mostly excellent since the calendar flipped to October. Since his start against the Astros in the Phillies’ playoff victory on Oct. 3, Nola has a 2.25 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 24 innings. In fact, all of the earned runs Nola allowed in October came in his NLCS Game 2 loss to the Padres. Otherwise, he’s shut down and could face the Astros again in the Fall Classic.
8. Two (bullpen) aces
Jose Alvarado and Serantoni Dominguez have made for quite a 1-2 punch in the Phillies. Playoff numbers:
- Alvarado: 8 IP, 3.38 ERA, 9 K, 1.13 WHIP, 1 SV
- Dominguez: 7 2/3 IP, 1.17 ERA, 15 K, 0.39 WHIP, 1 SV
Like the Phillies as a whole, it was far from certain that these two relievers would be in this position. Alvarado was sent to the minors for a stint earlier in the season, then it was lights out when he was recalled. It even has its own catchphrase and t-shirts.
Meanwhile, Dominguez has been busy (despite throwing three wild pitches in the rain on Sunday) since the playoffs began after returning from a late-season injury. In NLCS Game 3, Dominguez recorded the Phillies’ first save in six postseason games since Tag McGraw shut out the Royals in the World Series exactly 42 years earlier.
9. Rob Thomson
Virtually no one knew who Rob Thomson was in Philly on opening day. The bench coach was named interim manager when Joe Girardi was fired on June 3. One hundred and forty-three days later, Thomson’s temporary tag was gone and he led the Phillies to the pennant. Along the way, he became a cult hero of Philadelphia. During introductions at Citizens Bank Park during these playoffs, cheering for Thomson rivaled Harper.
10. Long-haired guys from Angelo
The Phillies didn’t have the busiest trade deadline, but they did address areas of weakness. Two of their biggest acquisitions were long-haired football players from the Los Angeles Angels: Brandon Marsh and Noah Syndergaard.
Syndergaard isn’t the same flamethrower he was earlier in his career with the Mets, but he was a key part of the Phillies’ two Game 4 wins. He’s allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings so far in the postseason.
Another import from the West Coast is Brandon Marsh, who notably gave the Phillies’ shaky defense some stability in center field. He had a moment offensively against the Braves as well.
11. Energy of Eagles
Welcome to the Vibes section of this list. It’s a good time to be a Philly sports fan (as long as you don’t care about the 76ers’ early season results). The Eagles are the only undefeated team left in the NFL, and the Phillies’ run as the No. 6 seed in the NL is similar to the run the underdog Eagles made to their first Super Bowl title in 2018.
Need more proof? Here’s legendary Eagles center Jason Kelce hugging a Fanatic and drinking a beer on the court during NLCS Game 3.
12. They have a theme song
The Phillies have adopted “Dancing on My Own” (Dough’s remix of Calum Scott’s Robin cover) as their October theme song. It was played at Citizens Bank Park after wins, in the clubhouse during celebrations and even at Lincoln Financial Field after the Eagles beat the Cowboys last week.
13. The Fans
Dozens of paragraphs could be written trying to explain the atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park, where over 45,000 playoff-hungry fans have been as loud as they can be from the first inning to the end of their first five postseason games since 2011. They have given the Phillies unparalleled home field advantage. field in this playoff, and they are 5-0 at home.
Here’s a look at things at the stadium on Sunday:
And outside the stadium:
Yes, they’ll be ready for their first World Series game in 13 years on Halloween.