Red October is back for another go-around!
The Philadelphia Phillies entered their meeting with the Pittsburgh Pirates needing just one win to clinch their second straight postseason appearance. They would need extras in this game, but it was a quick finish for the Phils. A walk-off RBI single giving them a 3-2 win, as well as another trip to the postseason. The Phillies' mission, now that they will be playing October baseball, is a simple one: win two more games than they did last season.
The Phillies' 2022 campaign was definitely one to remember. After a dismal start, the Phils fired Joe Girardi as their skipper, and that's when the wins came in. They reached the postseason as one of MLB's first-ever #6 seeds, the other one being the Tampa Bay Rays, and Philly decided to take their playoff spot and totally run with it. They swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the best-of-three Wild Card Series. They actually ousted the then-defending champion Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, and they took out the San Diego Padres in the NLCS to win their first pennant since 2009. The Phillies gave the Houston Astros quite a scare, leading 2-1 in that Series, but they couldn't finish the job, losing the next three. Even so, this was quite the run to remember.
This current set of consecutive postseason appearances is Philly's first since 2007-2011. We all remember that period, back when the Phillies were established as the top dogs in the National League. 2007 was the year that the Phils made that comeback to win the National League East, while 2008 was their championship year, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in five games. 2009 saw them back in the World Series, but they were defeated by the New York Yankees in six games. 2010 saw their hold over the NL start to slip, as they were defeated in the NLCS by the San Francisco Giants, while 2011 saw them ousted in the NLDS by the St. Louis Cardinals--their last postseason appearance until 2022.
I remember Kyle Schwarber back when he was with the Washington Nationals, but I think it was when he ended up with the Boston Red Sox that his power really started to increase. The guy was hitting home runs left and right with Boston, and he's still doing it now that he's in Philadelphia. Schwarber leads the team with 45 home runs, and his 100 RBI ranks second behind Nick Castellanos, who has 106 RBIs, along with 29 drives to deep left field (for those who know, I just couldn't resist). There's just one teeny, tiny problem: his batting average is tepid. Schwarber is currently hitting below that famous Mendoza Line--a .196 batting average. He has 112 hits, and 45 of them are home runs, that's 40% of his hits.
Of course, we can't talk about the Phillies without bringing up the man himself, Bryce Harper. The main reason why I was happy for the Phillies last year was because Harper was finally in the Fall Classic for the first time. Remember: Harper left the Washington Nationals to sign that big contract with the Phillies in 2019, and that was the year that the Nationals won the World Series. Regarding Harper's 2023 season, it's been a bit on the up-and-down side. Injuries have plagued him, and he went through a long dry spell when it comes to hitting home runs, but despite this, he's still one of the top hitters on the Phillies. Harper's .292 batting average leads the team, and he has 20 home runs this season, along with 71 RBIs.
The Phillies became the first team to officially lock in a Wild Card position, as the Atlanta Braves won the NL East weeks ago. In addition, with their win, and the Chicago Cubs' loss, the Phillies are cemented in the #4 spot in the National League, meaning that they will host a Wild Card Series against whoever takes the #5 seed. 2022 saw the Phillies make an improbable run to the Fall Classic, with no home field advantage whatsoever. Can this team do it again?