By JJ Zaun
As of Sept. 27 in Chicago Illinois, The Philadelphia Phillies had just been swept by the Chicago Cubs (68-86) and another September collapse seemed imminent. With a two-game lead for the final wild-card spot slowly slipping after an 11-14 record in September, it seemed that even if the Phillies did stumble their way into the final playoff spot, they would not be going very far. Confidence in the Phillies was not high, but after taking the series 4-1 against the NL-worst Washington Nationals, all the Phillies needed was one more win to clinch a playoff berth. Heading into Houston to take on the AL-leading Houston Astros, Aaron Nola, known for his late-year struggles, pitched a no-hitter heading into the 6th inning. Eventually finished off by stout reliever Jose Alvarado and newly formed closer Zach Eflin. Leading the Phillies to a 3-0 win, and their first playoff berth in 11 years.
For many in Philadelphia, after an 11-year absence from the playoffs and almost missing out yet again, just making it to the post-season was enough. Heading into the series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs 11 years prior, the Phillies were ranked as the worst of the playoff teams by the MLB.
In game 1 against St. Louis, the “Phightins” as they are known in Philadelphia, pulled off a 2-0 comeback in the 9th after a ground ball hit into right by 2nd baseman Jean Segura. Segura had played 1,222 regular season games without a postseason appearance, the second-longest streak of any active player came through for the Phillies giving them a 1-0 series lead. 6 ⅔ scoreless innings from Aaron Nola propelled the Phillies to a game 2 victory and a meeting with the Defending World Series champs Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.
The Phillies, underdogs in the series against Atlanta, seemed as though they were playing with house money. In game 1, Nick Castellanos came through for the Phillies with three hits leading to three RBIs in a 7-6 win for the Phillies. After taking a loss in game 2, the Phillies thoroughly dominated the next two games by scores of 9-1 and 8-3.
A less-than-expected run by the Phillies in the postseason continued to the NLCS, where they met with the San Diego Padres, who themselves had upset the Dodgers to advance. A dominating performance from Zach Wheeler and RBIs from Harpers and Schwarber gave the Phillies a game-1 win. After losing game 2, the Phillies took three straight to win the series, with the biggest moment coming from Bryce Harper on a go-ahead Home Run in the bottom of the 8th.
Joe Davis, the play-by-play broadcaster for the Dodgers and Fox, captured the moment with a historic call, “Hits one in the air, left-center field, back it goes. Harper, the swing of his life.” The sold-out 43,035-seat stadium with the passionate Philly faithful erupted as Bryce Harper rounded the bases.
After a nerve-racking ninth inning, which was eventually finished off by Ranger Suarez, the stadium joined in singing “Dancing on my Own — Tiesto Remix,” which has become the anthem of this Phillies run. Brought over from Boston by leadoff slugger Kyle Schwarber, the song has become the favorite of almost every Philadelphian as the city gets swept up in Phillies fever.
Bryce Harper described the fan base in a postgame interview after his go-ahead game-winning homerun against the Padres: “Everybody talks about the blue-collarness of this city and the fight that they have. It just rubs off on all of us. I've said it multiple times; if we have 46,000 people in the stadium, that's 46,026 'cause we're all in this together.”
Their World Series run was ultimately ended by the heavily favored Houston Astros. Although the postseason did not end with the Phillies hoisting the world series trophy, they still managed to embody the underdog mentality throughout October and give the city a month of baseball they will not forget for a long time.