After a decade of futility, Phillies fans can finally rejoice; the Philadelphia Phillies are going to the playoffs. It wasn’t an easy road, as this team experienced many peaks and valleys over the course of this year, but they’ve finally secured their first postseason berth since 2011.
It was an unbelievably special day in Houston, as the Phils shut out the Astros 3-0 to lock up a wildcard spot. Aaron Nola, the longest tenured player on the team, had one of the finest performances of his career, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning against one of the best offenses in the league. Nola was dynamite, punching out nine and surrendering only two hits in 6.2 innings of work.
Once Nola gave up consecutive base knocks, Rob Thomson called on the Phillies’ biggest comeback story, José Alvarado, to put out the fire. Alvarado, who has been the team’s best reliever ever since he returned from his demotion to Triple-A, fanned three Astros in 1.1 innings, and handed things off to newly minted reliever Zach Eflin. Eflin, another king tenured Phillie, has been working out of the bullpen ever since his return from a knee injury in September. Fittingly, he worked a one-two-three ninth inning to notch his first career save, and send the Phils to the postseason in the process.
At the plate, it was three big swings that made the difference in this one. Kyle Schwarber launched a homer off of Lance McCullers, Jr. on the first pitch of the ballgame to give Nola an immediate 1-0 lead. It was a good old fashioned pitcher’s duel after that, with the only other runs coming in the eighth inning when Bryson Stott and Schwarber went back-to-back to make it a 3-0 game. With the Astros struggling to figure out Nola, that was all he would need.
Everything about this game was poetic, as the two most important players were the longest tenured Phillie, who had seen years of futility, as well as this season’s biggest addition, who was brought in to help break the playoff drought. Both Nola and Schwarber have been indispensable in the Phillies’ wild ride to the playoffs, and they figure to be heavily relied upon this weekend.
With the San Diego Padres holding a 1.0 game lead over the Phils for the second wildcard spot it’s still possible that the Phillies could overtake them for that position. If that happens, they’ll face either the Mets or the Braves, whichever one doesn’t win the division. If the Phillies remain in the third wildcard spot they’ll match up with the St. Louis Cardinals for the upcoming three-game series. Either way, the Phillies will be forced to play their first playoff series entirely on the road.
It’s easy to start dreaming about playoff glory, given that the Phillies will have Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola starting the first two games of a three-game series. We’re all certainly hoping that whoever the Phillies end up facing is only the beginning of a deep playoff run. However, before we get ahead of ourselves let’s take a day or two to revel in what has just been accomplished. A franchise that has been down on its luck for more than ten years has finally flipped the script.
From the firing of Joe Girardi, to Bryce Harper’s broken thumb, to a nailbiting September swoon, the Phillies have looked done and dusted on multiple occasions this year. But, unlike in years past, this team never gave up, and kept giving us a reason to tune in the next day. It wasn’t always pretty, but we can now say for the first time in forever, the Philadelphia Phillies are winners.