The last week for the Phillies has been one of the most successful stretches in the last 10 years. Phillies fans have been starving for a playoff game ever since the 2011 season. We all remember the 2011 NLDS. Phillies led by a historic pitching staff of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels were looking for another championship. Instead with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, star 1B Ryan Howard tore his ACL running to 1st base and the Phillies season came to a disappointing end. Since that game, the Phillies core from the 2008 World Series team all left and the Phillies began the darkest stretch in franchise history. A collapse that took a decade to recover from and longest playoff draught in the national league.
It started with the managers. Ryne Sandberg, Pete Mackanin, and Gabe Kapler were all hired as managers since 2012. Each was a worse hire than the next. We saw a farm system that was as pathetic as the MLB team. We saw players getting serious MLB playing time when they shouldn't be getting AA time. In 2019 stars Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto were brought in with hopes of changing the culture. In 2020 the Phillies brought in veteran manager Joe Girardi and veteran pitcher Zack Wheeler. Even with all the big moves, the Phillies continued to miss the playoffs. Heading into 2022 the Phillies continued to invest bringing in sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. However, the start to 2022 looked like the Phillies were destined for another season of missing the playoffs. After Girardi was fired and Rob Thomson was named the interim manager, the Phillies had some hope. Then it brings us to the last week, and 11 years of pain was erased. Let's take a look at the last week!
October 3rd- Game 1 of the last series of the season...magic number is 1
The Phillies as expected are waiting till the last series of the season to clinch a playoff spot. They also wait to play the defending AL champions. The Phillies easily could have missed the playoffs, but the Brewers continued to lose which continued to give the Phillies hope. After the Brewers had a comeback win against Arizona, the Phillies could not rely on them losing to clinch a playoff berth. However, the Phillies rallied and defeated the Houston Astros 3-0 to clinch the 3rd and final wild card spot in the NL.
Their first series would be against the St. Louis Cardinals, the same team that eliminated them in their last playoff appearance. The Cardinals ended the Phillies historic stretch and 11 years later the Phillies have the opportunity to end the careers of future hall of famers Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.
October 7th- First playoff game since 2011
It was a pitching battle in St. Louis. Starters Zack Wheeler and Jose Quintana. Down 2-0 heading into the 9th, the Phillies offense came alive. JT Realmuto started off with a single and then it was all Phillies. After a Jean Segura single, the Phillies took the lead and kicked off a 6-run 9th inning. The Cardinals were 93-0 in playoff games that they led by at least 2 runs heading into the 9th. Jean Segura never played in a playoff game, and he helped make the Cardinals record 93-1. Stealing game 1 was huge especially coming from behind. However, game 2 was a must win for Philly.
October 8th- Phillies win first playoff series since 2010
With a chance to advance to the NLDS and send the Cardinals home, pitcher Aaron Nola made the most of his playoff debut. Nola went 6.2 innings giving up no runs and striking out 6 batters. Bryce Harper hit his first playoff home run as a member of the Phillies and a Kyle Schwarber sac fly helped give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. Heading into the bottom of the 9th, Zach Efflin was given the ball looking for the save. Down to their last out, the Cardinals managed to get two 2 out hits. With runners on the corners, the Phillies were able to escape the scare and eliminate the Cardinals. With the loss, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina head off into retirement. Their next opponent, division rival and defending World Series champions the Atlanta Braves.
October 10th- Rob Thomson is no longer the Interim Manager
On June 3rd, Phillies announced that they were firing Joe Girardi after a 22-29 start. At the same time the Phillies announced that bench coach Rob Thomson would be named the Interim Manager. The season looked lost, but the clubhouse all rallied behind Philly Rob. Thomson led the Phillies to 65 wins and their first playoff berth since 2011 and their first playoff series win since 2011! The Phillies rewarded Thomson by removing the interim tag and a new 2-year contract. Philly Rob is here to stay!
He was first hired by the Yankees in 1990 and remained there through 2017 and was the bench coach on their 2009 World Series team. He was hired as Gabe Kaplar's bench coach and after Joe Girardi was hired, Thomson and Girardi were reunited. After 20+ years, Thomson finally got his opportunity as a MLB manager and has made the most of it.
The complete 180 the clubhouse has made since Girardi was fired and now is remarkable. Players like Schwarber and Castellanos started to play like the contracts they were given. Thomson had a tough road ahead of him. He is the 4th interim manager to lead his team to the post season after his team was 7 games below .500. He did while Bryce Harper and Jean Segura both missed significant time with injuries. In the end Dave Dombrowski saw enough and made the move to make Thomson the next full-time manager for the Philadelphia Phillies.
October 11th- Game 1 against the Braves
Before we talk about this game, Phillies and Braves fan can all laugh together that after 101 wins the Mets lost in the wild card series! Alright, back to the teams that made it to the NLDS.
The Phillies bats came alive. Nick Castellanos went 3-5 with 3 RBI's, Harper went 3-3, Alec Bohm went 2-4 with 2 RBIs, and Jean Segura 2-4 with 1 RBI. Playoff Bohm and Segura continue to play incredible baseball. Ranger Suarez struggled walking 5 batters but managed to get out of trouble each time giving up just 1 earned run with 5 strikeouts. Relif pitchers Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alverado both pitched lights out to set up the Phillies in the 9th. Heading into the 9th, the Braves were not going to go down quietly. With runners on the corners, 1B Matt Olson hit a 3-run HR to deep center to cut the Phillies lead to 1. In a game where the Phillies led by 6 runs, all of a sudden, they had their backs up against a wall. However, after an incredible diving catch by Castellanos, and an easy groundout, the Phillies avoided the scare and stole game 1 from the defending World Series champions.
What's next for the Fightins?
Game 2 in Atlanta is scheduled for tomorrow at 4:35pm. The Braves will turn to 21-win pitcher Kyle Wright and the Phillies will lean on Zack Wheeler for game 2. The Phillies will continue to be without relief pitcher David Robertson who was left off the NLDS roster after injuring himself in game 2 against St. Louis after celebrating a Bryce Harper home run. After going to the bullpen early in game 1, it is key that Wheeler goes deep to allow our pen to rest or not give them a chance to blow the lead again.
The big game 1 win was huge for the Phillies. In a short series where home field is everything, it puts Atlanta in a position that they must win a game in Philadelphia. Seeing as Phillies fans have been starving for a home playoff game since 2011, I do not think a playoff game at Citizens Bank Park will be a walk in the park for a visiting team.
The Phillies offense will need to continue to have hot bats. This opposing lineup proved they can hit and will not go down without a fight. The Phillies achillies heal is their bullpen. Having to make the move to the bullpen in the 4th inning is a scary thought, as the pitching depth is not there. Wheeler and Nola need to have big games, so Thomson does not have to dig deep into the pen.
The MVP's of the playoffs so far, as you guessed it, Alec Bohm and Jean Segura. These two have been playing great baseball both offensively and defensively. Other guys have had great spurts from time to time, but Bohm and Segura have been the two consistent players. The rest of the lineup needs to kick it into gear. Castellanos played great today but was useless against St. Louis. If the Phillies want to keep advancing, we need to see more consistent production from the heart of this lineup. The Phillies have come to play and now its time to show we are legit World Series contenders!
The series will then move to Philly for games 3 and 4 (if needed) on Friday and Saturday, and game 5 if needed will be Sunday in Atlanta. Wheeler has the nod for game 2 and Nola is starting game 3. Thomson has yet to announce games 4 and 5. Philly has been waiting for a home playoff game since 2011. The atmosphere needs to be crazy. We have seen how the Phillies stars build off the energy down at the Bank.