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It wasn’t pretty. But that doesn’t matter to the Phillies, who pulled off their most impressive victory of an already magical postseason run in Game 1 of the World Series on Friday. (Eric Gay/AP Photo)

Phillies Continue Their Unexpected Rise With Historic World Series Game 1 Win

It wasn’t pretty. But that doesn’t matter to the Phillies, who pulled off their most impressive victory of an already magical postseason run in Game 1 of the World Series on Friday. (Eric Gay/AP Photo)

Phillies Continue Their Unexpected Rise With Historic World Series Game 1 Win

Everything just keeps getting bigger for this remarkable Phillies team. The moments — so many magical ones created over the last few weeks, their significance steadily growing. The stage, the biggest in baseball, one the Phillies have only reached eight times in their 140-year history and not since 2009. And the happiness and goodwill of a fanbase that has gone from disillusioned to delirious in the blink of an eye.

But in Game 1 of the 2022 World Series, something else got bigger — the deficit. The Phillies fell behind early to the Houston Astros, as experienced a team as you’ll ever find in the postseason. Then, they fell behind some more. Kyle Tucker ignited the capacity crowd at Minute Maid Park with a pair of towering home runs. Justin Verlander blew high fastball after high fastball past the first nine Phillies to bat, retiring them all.

It would have been ok if Friday night just wasn’t the Phillies’ night. The World Series is a best-of-seven, after all. The Phillies followed the same formula in the NLDS and NLCS — split the first two on the road, then take the next three at home. A loss in Game 1, even a resounding one, would not have destroyed that. The Phillies have a good chance of winning Saturday with their ace Zack Wheeler starting on an extra day’s rest. No team is going to give up a game after three innings, of course. But how high are your odds of coming back from 5-0 down against a future Hall of Famer on the road in your first World Series game in 13 years?

The answer, as everyone found out in a jaw-dropping 6-5 Phillies victory, is high enough. But the answer didn’t really matter to the Phillies. No matter what time of the game it is, the beginning or the end, we play every out,” said catcher Garrett Stubbs after the dust settled. “I don’t think anybody felt any other sort of way other than: “Ok, time to go score five runs, because we gave up five.”

Doing so required a throwback to a different Game 1 from this incredible run. In their NLDS opener at Atlanta, Nick Castellanos and Alec Bohm delivered back-to-back two-out RBI singles in the first inning to set the pace. That the Phillies were playing from behind this time only made the consecutive two-out knocks they delivered to drive in a combined three runs in the fourth even more impactful. Suddenly, the Phillies had life. They proved that they could hit Verlander.

The momentum was shifting.

The Phillies hardly cruised to their fourth Game 1 win in as many tries this postseason. Even though they tied the game the very next inning on a J.T. Realmuto two-run double, the momentum wasn’t permanently on their side. The Phillies left the bases loaded in the seventh. The Astros moved four runners into scoring position in the final five innings.

All that meant were more opportunities for the Phillies to keep fighting. That has been their biggest calling card all season, especially under Rob Thomson, and they showed it in spades. Aaron Nola recovered from a rocky start against the lineup he dominated just under four weeks ago to retire the final seven hitters he faced. Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long has emphasized a “pass the baton” approach at the plate. But it was the bullpen that best exemplified that approach after Nola departed after just 4.1 innings. José Alvarado, Zach Eflin, Ranger Suárez, Seranthony Domínguez, and David Robertson threw between 0.2 and 1.2 innings of shutout baseball, one after the other, to kill the home crowd’s buzz.

That didn’t mean things were easy. The Astros were inches away from winning the game in the bottom of the ninth — the Phillies needed Castellanos to re-create his most heroic moment from Game 1 of the NLDS, a sliding catch in shallow right — to set up Realmuto’s go-ahead tenth-inning laser of a solo homer. The Astros, as undeterred as you’d expect a team making their fourth Fall Classic trip in six years to be, had the tying run on second with one out in the bottom of the tenth and the winning run there with two down.

Past seasons have reminded the Phillies in agonizing fashion of just how slim the margins are. This season has offered plenty of reminders as well, but so often, the Phillies have been on the right side of them. Some of that is luck. A lot of it is the best-constructed Phillies team in who knows how long at this point earning their breaks. Sometimes, it feels like baseball itself turns victory into defeat, or vice versa. Lately, more than ever, the Phillies have been making the difference themselves.

When the Phillies arrived in Houston about four weeks ago, nothing was guaranteed. It took an extra oomph, one they delivered at Minute Maid Park, to push past the finish line in postseason position for the first time in eleven years. Their season could have ended right then and there. Nearly that exact scenario had played out just two seasons prior. The 2020 Phillies, who may as well be the 1920 Phillies at this point, lost their final three regular-season games at AL-best Tampa Bay. If they had just won once, their postseason drought would have ended long before now.

But the wait, first to return to the postseason, then to return it to Philadelphia, then to return to the places where the lights become brighter and brighter, is as present as anything during this stretch, already one of the greatest in franchise history. It instilled a hunger and indescribably powerful feeling in everyone who was a part of it. The ending was always going to be special. That didn’t mean it would automatically take the Phillies to the incredible heights they currently find themselves at. But it was all but guaranteed to produce wonderful feelings.

Credit the Phillies for realizing how to harness them. After a decade in baseball’s doldrums, just getting the chance to climb the postseason mountain means something. The wait made sure that everyone understands the importance of maximizing the delight of these moments. It is perhaps the only thing that everybody who is a part of the organization, from the players to management to staff to fans, can control. Philadelphia, a city where false bravado is often at the forefront, is believing in a way they rarely ever do. The Phillies still have a good chance of winning Saturday with Wheeler on the mound. They are 5-0 at Citizens Bank Park in the postseason. Everything is right in front of them.

Check out our own Erik Kosky‘s preview of the 118th Fall Classic!

It is just one win. If there’s any team that can find a way to use it as motivation to rebound, it’s the Astros. But if there’s any team that can capitalize off the potential boost such an epic victory can provide, it’s the Phillies. They know what this victory means and what it doesn’t. Right now, it is another moment of happiness for the Phillies to maximize. The best way to do that? Create some more.

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