PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Phillies are going to the World Series. That sentence was unfathomable five months ago, and it would have been hard to grasp at the start of the 2022 MLB playoffs barely two weeks ago ( ). But it's true. Bryce Harper on a rainy Sunday afternoon in South Philly and the Phillies closed out the Padres in NLCS Game 5.
It has been a magical run 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 run through 13 reasons why they're here.
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1. Bryce Harper
This list can only start in one place. Bryce Harper is the biggest reason the Phillies are where they are as a team and as a franchise. Harper navigated the Phillies off the course of failed rebuilder when he signed a $330 million contract 42 months ago, and he's led them to the Fall Classic in his first playoff run with the team.
Harper has been the best hitter on any team in the 2022 playoffs. He proved he was fully healed from a broken thumb suffered in June when he went deep in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against the Cardinals, and he has not looked back. He entered Sunday's game slashing .410/.439/.872 with four home runs and nine RBI in the Phillies' first 10 playoff games. Then he added two more hits, including the biggest home run of his career.
2. Rhys Hoskins' bat theatrics
Rhys Hoskins has eight hits in the 2022 MLB playoffs. Five have been home runs. Three of them have featured some beautiful bat flipping.
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 issued the Bat Spike™️. Look at it in all its glory:
Then, in Saturday night's Game 4 win over the Padres, Hoskins took Sean Manaea deep for his second dinger of the game. It answered Juan Soto's two-run homer earlier in the inning, and two batters later, the Phillies had the lead. Hoskins had a gentler approach to his celebration.
He capped things off Sunday, as Hoskins started the scoring against Padres starter Yu Darvish:
Variety, they say, is the spice of postseason bat disposals.
3. Kyle Schwarber is hitting titanic blasts
Would you like to read more words? Or would you like to watch a replay of Kyle Schwarber hitting a ball 488 feet?
If you enjoyed that, might I also recommend this towering beauty from Game 4:
Schwarber hit three homers in the NLCS against San Diego after not hitting any in the first six games of the playoff run. And yes, of course we have a sandwich-related explanation for that power surge coming right up.
4. Wawa introduced 'Schwarberfest'
Wawa, the purveyor of the country's finest gas station hoagies, has played a part in this run to the World Series. Obviously. The Philly-area institution has introduced "Schwarberfest" during the NLCS, and the results speak for themselves.
Some background: Every summer, Wawa has "Hoagiefest." It's the best fest in the country, says this writer, 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 (meaning $5 Shortis and $6 Classics). Schwarber then hit three home runs in five games.
It takes a village. And it also takes discounted hoagies from the village's beloved gas station.
5. Jean Segura's range
Yes, we are partially discussing Jean Segura's defensive range at second base. That was on full display in NLCS Game 3 on Friday night.
But mostly we're talking about Segura's range at the plate. The veteran infielder had two go-ahead hits in crucial 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. Look where this pitch was:
Not to be outdone, Segura slapped another pitch he had no business hitting against Joe Musgrrove in NLCS Game 3.
Segura 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's pitched.
6. Zack Wheeler
Welcome to the pitching portion of this list. Wheeler has been absolutely stellar in this run. The right-hander did not get a win in Sunday's closeout game, but he did pitch six strong innings, allowing just two earned runs. In his three playoff starts prior to Sunday, Wheeler had a 1.40 ERA and .109 batting average against.
7. Aaron Nola
Nola has followed Wheeler in the Phillies' playoff rotation, and he also does so on this list. The longest-tenured Phillie has been mostly superb since the calendar flipped to October. Dating back to his start against the Astros in the Phillies' playoff-clinching win on Oct. 3, Nola has a 2.25 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 24 innings. In fact, all of the earned runs Nola has allowed in October came in his NLCS Game 2 loss to the Padres. Otherwise, he's been lights out, and he could will face the Astros again in the Fall Classic.
8. The two (bullpen) aces
José Alvarado and Seranthony Domínguez have formed quite a 1-2 punch in the Phillies bullpen. The playoff numbers:
- Alvarado: 8 IP, 3.38 ERA, 9 K, 1.13 WHIP, 1 SV
- Domínguez: 7 2/3 IP, 1.17 ERA, 15 K, 0.39 WHIP, 1 SV
Like the Phillies as a whole, it was far from a certainty that these two relievers would be in this position. Alvarado was sent to the minors for a spell earlier in the season and then was lights out when he was recalled. He even has his own catchphrase and T-shirts.
Domínguez, meanwhile, has been electric (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, Domínguez recorded the Phillies' first six-out postseason save since Tug McGraw closed out the Royals in the World Series exactly 42 years earlier.
9. Rob Thomson
Virtually nobody knew who Rob Thomson was in Philadelphia 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 interim tag is gone, and he's led the Phillies to the pennant. He has become a Philly cult hero along the way. During introductions at Citizens Bank Park during these playoffs, the cheers for Thomson have rivaled those of Harper.
10. Long-haired guys from the Angels
The Phillies didn't have the splashiest trade deadline, but they addressed areas of weakness. Two of their biggest acquisitions were long-haired ballplayers from the Los Angeles Angels: Brandon Marsh and Noah Syndergaard.
Syndergaard is not the same flame-thrower he was earlier in his career with the Mets, but he's been a key piece to two Game 4 victories the Phillies picked up in bullpen games. He's allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings so far in the postseason.
The other West Coast import is Brandon Marsh, who has most notably given the Phillies' shaky defense some stability in center field. He had a moment on offense against the Braves, too.
11. The Eagles' energy
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 early season results of the 76ers). The Eagles are the only undefeated team left in the NFL, and the Phillies' run as the No. 6 seed in the NL bracket feels similar to the run the underdog Eagles made to their first Super Bowl title in 2018.
Need further proof? Here is legendary Eagles center Jason Kelce hugging the Phanatic and chugging a beer on the field during NLCS Game 3.
12. They have a theme song
The Phillies have embraced "Dancing on My Own" (the Tiesto remix of a Calum Scott song that is a cover of a song by Robyn) as their October theme song. It's been 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
A few dozen paragraphs could be written trying to explain the atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park, where 45,000-plus playoff-starved fans have been as vocal as possible from first pitch to last out in their first five postseason games since 2011. They've given the Phillies an unmatched home-field advantage in these playoffs, and they are 5-0 at home.
Here's a look at things inside the stadium on Sunday:
And outside the stadium:
Yes, they will be ready for their first World Series Game in 13 years on Halloween night.