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After taking the lead in dramatic fashion in the eighth inning, the Phillies finished off the NLCS and embraced in delirious delight. They are going to the World Series. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Everything Comes Together For Phillies, Who Are Going To The World Series

After taking the lead in dramatic fashion in the eighth inning, the Phillies finished off the NLCS and embraced in delirious delight. They are going to the World Series. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Everything Comes Together For Phillies, Who Are Going To The World Series

When Brandon Marsh squeezed the final out in Houston on Oct. 3, all that mattered was the moment. The Phillies had been waiting over 4,000 days to return to the postseason, the longest of any National League team. It did not matter that they were the last team to make the dance. The franchise had spent over a decade stuck in the past. After a decade in the sport’s doldrums, the Phillies finally found happiness in the present that night.

Three weeks have passed, and the Phillies’ grip on happiness is still tight. Perhaps the only thing tighter is the embraces they shared with each other on Sunday night. When the Phillies clinched their first postseason berth since 2011, it was not guaranteed they would even host a single postseason contest. The Phillies have played five such games and won all of them. They have doused the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park with champagne twice.

There is more to come.

Maybe it wouldn’t have felt right without a little drama. When Rhys Hoskins further etched his name into Phillies lore with a 3-0 bomb to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead in the third, it felt like the Phillies might run away with it, just as they did in their NLDS clincher. Juan Soto quickly cut the deficit in half with a blast of his own, but Zack Wheeler largely cruised. Then, disaster struck. The lights out Seranthony Domínguez could not control his electric stuff amidst the moderate rainfall. Domínguez, who threw three wild pitches all season, yielded the same amount in a half-inning that felt like it was plucked out of 2015.

The air inside the packed ballpark deflated as the third errant pitch skipped passed J.T. Realmuto, scoring José Azocar with the go-ahead run. The Phillies have experienced a lot of unfamiliar feelings in October, most of them great. This was the first time the Phillies trailed at home all postseason. Suddenly, they went from being nine outs away from the World Series to nine outs away from being uncertain if they would return to Citizens Bank Park this year.

Yet any inklings of dread that may have lingered in the occupied blue seats in the ballpark did not penetrate the clubhouse. The Phillies have been through too much — a 21-29 start, injuries to their best hitter, starting pitcher, and reliever, the weight of September struggles in years past — to worry about a one-run deficit in a series they were leading by two games. Their first hitter after falling behind, rookie Bryson Stott, stroked his third double in the last three games to re-ignite the energy. He and Kyle Schwarber were ultimately stranded, but the message had been sent. The Phillies were still fighting.

The home crowd’s spirit rose again when Realmuto stroked a lead-off single to start the eighth — partially because the tying run was on, and partially because they knew who was due up. Almost every member of the Phillies roster has proved they can handle the pressure of October. But few, if any, relish in it the way Bryce Harper does. It makes sense because Harper has spent more time in the spotlight than almost any person. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and made his MLB debut as a teenager. He has won two NL MVPs and been an All-Star seven times. And of course, the 13-year, $330 million contract that brought him to Philadelphia amplifying everything.

But before this year, Harper had never won a postseason series in his career. That has always been Harper’s focus. Until it shifted to the 2-2 fastball that Robert Suarez tried to paint on the outside corner. Harper was the first player all series to touch home plate, doing so after an eventual game-winning opposite-field homer on Tuesday. On Sunday evening, he became the last player all series to touch the dish.

All of it sounds almost too ridiculous to say. The last time the Phillies won the National League pennant, the final out went to Brad Lidge, one year removed from going 48 for 48 in save chances. With two on and one out, these Phillies entrusted their No. 3 starter on one day’s rest. On July 3, 2021, Ranger Suárez retired Fernando Tatís Jr., Jake Cronenworth, and Manny Machado for his first Major League save. He threw just two pitches to record the biggest one of his life. Trent Grisham bunted back to Suárez, and one of the game’s best fielding pitchers looked the part. Austin Nola flipped a harmless fly ball to right field on a first-pitch curveball. Nick Castellanos took a few steps in and caught it. Thirteen years of convoluted twists and turns, and returning to the World Series was that simple. And that hard.

But that is what made this moment, the one that sent the Phillies to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2009, so special. It has been the same for all of the ones over the last three weeks. You could poll the 45,485 feverish fans that rocked Citizens Bank Park Sunday, and all of them may be able to provide their favorite memory of this postseason without repeating. The clutch two-out hits. Late-game rallies. Electric pitches that danced around the bats of some of the game’s best hitters. Home runs hit to all fields, including one that never left the field of play, with all launch angles and impacts. The sea of red towels that witnessed the Phillies move from a team that dreamed of the past to one that can not get enough of the present.

“They’re in love with each other,” said the team’s beloved manager Rob Thomson. “They really are. They care so much about each other. There’s a lot that goes into that. You can have the most talented team in the world, but if they’re not together you’re not going to play as well as you could.” Right now, the Phillies are playing as well as they can — if not better. The result is a 9-2 start to a postseason journey that has somewhere between four and seven games remaining, all of them worth soaking in no matter what happens.

For so long, the Phillies and their fans could only put their hand to their forehead, grimace, and try to remember what this is like. Many of them were too young to even be able to do that. Now, they can.

Please welcome the newest member of our team!

“Everything has happened for the Phillies,” said their radio play-by-play announcer Scott Franzke, one of the few faces still around from the last time the Phillies did things like this, as the celebration grew. It is an incredibly telling description. No longer were things happening to the Phillies — backbreaking losses, wasted seasons, players laboring for and deserving better but being forced to find it elsewhere — but for them. They made the big swings. They released the knockout pitches. And they welcomed the warm embrace of their fans, who endured for a decade in lingering anticipation of something special. Even they may not have dreamed of this happening this fast, this way.

Right now, though, there is no need to dream. The light of reality is more than enough. The Philadelphia Phillies are going to the World Series. It does sort of feel like a dream — only better.

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