‘Red October’ Is Not Over

Bryce Harper, Sports Illustrated.

It will be red all through October, and a bit through November, for the first time in Philadelphia since 2009. The Philadelphia Phillies baseball team has qualified for the World Series for the first time in thirteen years, bringing back long-awaited hope to Philadelphia fans.

The Phillies have had a remarkable year with an unlikely path to the World Series. The Phillies finished third in the National League East Division, behind the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets. After a tumultuous season, which included firing manager Joe Girardi in June after a disappointing 22-29 start to the season and several injuries to members of the roster, a playoff berth looked almost out of reach a few months ago. But the Phillies quickly turned it around when the former bench coach Rob Thompson was promoted to manager. Thompson propelled the Phillies to a 65-46 record throughout the remainder of the regular season, an 87-75 record overall, and the team’s first playoff appearance since 2011.

The Phillies barely clinched the playoffs. They earned the third and final wildcard spot in the National League and the sixth seed of all six teams from the National League that competed in the 2022 postseason. However, their ranking did not seem to be a problem for the team that blasted the mantra ‘Red October’ on the big screen at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. When the postseason lights got brighter, so did the Phillies.

The Phillies began their postseason run with a wildcard matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals, the winner of the National League Central Division with a 93-69 record, were the automatic favorites with a better record and home field advantage. This seemed to be the case through the first eight innings at the start of the best-of-three wildcard series that began on Oct. 7. The Cardinals held the Phillies scoreless with a score of 2-0 going into the top of the ninth inning. However, the last inning was all the Phillies needed for their offense to come alive. They scored six runs in the top of the ninth to beat the Cardinals 6-3. 

This year was the first time the wildcard matchup was a best-of-three series. Prior to 2022, the wildcard matchup was only one game, with the winner advancing to the Division Series. Despite this change, the new format proved to be no problem for the Phillies. The Phillies cruised to a 2-0 victory over the Cardinals in the second game on Oct. 8, behind a strong 6.2 inning by starting pitcher Aaron Nola and a home run by designated hitter Bryce Harper to clinch the wildcard series and head to the National League Division Series (NLDS).

In the best-of-five NLDS, the Phillies faced the Atlanta Braves, the reigning World Series champions and winners of the National League East Division. The Phillies opened the series in an away game in Atlanta on Oct. 11, with a 7-6 win over the Braves behind three hits and three RBIs by right fielder Nick Castellanos whose diving catch in the bottom of the ninth inning prevented the Braves from evening the score. The Phillies lost the second game of the series to the Braves 3-0, but the loss did not put them out of contention for the NLDS title. The Phillies traveled home to play the next two games of the series. 

On Oct. 14, in front of a home crowd, the Phillies played their first postseason game at Citizens Bank Park since 2011. The Phillies offense came alive that night as their bats propelled them to a 9-1 victory to clinch their second win of the series. First baseman Rhys Hoskins blasted a three-run home run over the left field fence in the third inning. Two batters later, after a single by catcher J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper homered to right center. Aaron Nola was strong on the mound for the Phillies, surrendering zero earned runs over six innings. The following day, on Oct. 15, the Phillies bats came alive again as they edged out the Braves 8-3. The Phillies won the NDLS on their home field to advance to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) and eliminate the Braves from a chance at winning the World Series for a second time in a row.

The Phillies headed to the NLCS for the first time since 2010 to face the San Diego Padres. On the other side of the bracket, the Padres eliminated the New York Mets in the wildcard series and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. The Dodgers, who had the best record in all of the MLB at 111-51, were a World Series favorite but saw their season end at the hands of the Padres. The Phillies traveled to San Diego and quickly earned their first win over the Padres 2-0 behind a scoreless seven-inning pitching performance by starter Zach Wheeler and two solo shots by Bryce Harper and left fielder Kyle Schwarber on Oct. 18. The Phillies dropped the second game to the Padres 8-5 on Oct. 19, but they kept their heads up and headed home to Philadelphia to play the final three games of the best-of-seven series. 

In Philadelphia, the Phillies won their next game 4-2 on Oct. 21, behind timely hits and effective pitching performances by four pitchers. On Oct. 22, the Phillies played a game that would go down in Citizens Bank Park history. The Padres quickly leapt to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning with an explosive offense. The Phillies fought back in the bottom of the first to score three runs. In the fifth inning, the Padres added two more runs, making the score 6-3 in their favor. But the Phillies weren’t done yet. Hoskins launched a two run shot in the bottom of the fifth, which was his second home run of the game, followed by a double by Harper, and a single by Castellanos, to take the lead 8-6. Schwarber and Realmuto added home runs later to win the game 10-6. On Oct. 23, the Phillies beat the Padres 4-3 to win the NLCS for the first time since 2009 to advance to the World Series behind a pair of two-run home runs by Hoskins and Harper. Harper earned the NLCS Most Valuable Player award, thanks to his timely hitting throughout the series. Harper has eighteen hits already in the postseason, including five home runs while batting .419.

The Phillies will now go on to face the Houston Astros in the best-of-seven World Series beginning on Oct. 28. The Astros, who posted a 106-56 record this year, are undefeated so far through the post season. The Astros swept both of their opponents, the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees, en route to the American League Championship Series title. The Astros have advanced to the World Series in 2017, 2019, and 2021, falling short in their two most recent appearances but winning the title in 2017. While the Astros have a better record than the Phillies, and more recent postseason experience, the Phillies have shown that they can compete with the best of teams during the postseason. The 2022 World Series will surely be one to remember. 

Growing up in South Jersey, very close to the Pennsylvania border, I remember all too well the magic of the Phillies’ 2008 World Series win and the heartbreak of their 2009 World Series loss. The Phillies were once seemingly unbeatable. I remember being a kid and wearing my pink Chase Utley jersey as a proud fan of one of the best teams in baseball. Now, the Phillies have brought that magic back. The names Harper, Hoskins, Nola, Realmuto, Schwarber, Wheeler, and those of several other roster members who contributed to the Phillies’ magical postseason run, will go down in Philadelphia history. ‘Red October’ lives on. 

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