Phillies Power Their Way To Party-Like, Jubilant Game 3 Win
The gates to Citizens Bank Park opened around 3:07 P.M., and it did not take long to realize this was different. The Phillies have sold out a handful of games over the last eleven seasons. They have produced some incredible moments of joy in this ballpark, but most of those are less recent. The 2022 Phillies have already checked off some impressive boxes, ones that many more than the 45,538 people in attendance dreamt and dreamt and dreamt of seeing unfold. The sun shined down on the newest era of Phillies baseball on an uncharacteristically warm October day. It almost felt too good to be true.
Maybe in the past, it would have been. But this Phillies team has proved they are more than just different than the clubs that came up short before them. They are writing their own, special story with every pitch of this postseason. Yet none of the excitement of the first four games of their October journey can quite compare to the rager they threw on Friday.
There have been some beautiful sights in this ballpark in recent years. But Philadelphia has never been a city defined by its style. The noise is what sets apart the fans who packed CBP for Game 3 of the NLDS, a 9-1 thrashing of the Atlanta Braves by the team they had haunted more than any in the prior five seasons. It did not take even one pitch for them to rise to a decibel level unlikely almost any moment or feeling they had experienced over the last 4,025 days.
Phillies postseason baseball is back in Philadelphia. That never meant just participating in a game with special logos on the field and each player’s hats, though. It meant electrifying starting pitching by Aaron Nola, who has pitched 19 1/3 innings across the three biggest starts of his career without allowing an earned run. It meant hugs and high-fives with the Phillie Phanatic and fellow fans. And it meant grinding out at-bats and taking extra bases, showcasing the controlled aggression that the Phillies have cultivated under Rob Thomson.
But, perhaps more than anything, it simply meant dingers. Balls that went so high and so far you could hardly track their flight. And you definitely couldn’t track when they were engulfed by the bouncing hands and outstretched arms of the Phillies faithful. One from the team’s biggest star, Bryce Harper, who truly seems to have been healed by a few games under the bright lights. And one from a player ready not for a redemption arc, but a redemption missile, as Rhys Hoskins grabbed control of the game on a first-pitch fastball to turn frustrated pre-game boos into deafening, all-encompassing cheers.
David Robertson, one of four Phillies preferred relievers for high-leverage situations, strained his calf celebrating Harper’s game-winning home run in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series. He is not on the roster for this series but is trending in the right direction. The Phillies are one win away from likely making an otherwise excruciating bad break a mere footnote. You might think such an event might dissuade similar reactions. But when Hoskins belted a first-pitch fastball 394 feet out to left in the third, Jean Segura jumped so high it almost looked like he was levitating. The fans, arms shot up in an instant, probably felt the same way.
The Braves mildly threatened over the next few innings but never made the Phillies sweat. Nola made the pitches he had to and then some, no longer just capable of surviving the big moments but thriving time and time again in them. Even an error by Hoskins on a play so basic it almost felt like a video game glitch couldn’t spoil the fun. Just in case, the Phillies tacked on three more in the seventh. Everybody hit. Perhaps more importantly, not everybody pitched. Those insurance runs allowed the Phillies to finish the final two innings with Brad Hand and Connor Brogdon. José Alvarado threw just 14 pitches in the seventh, retiring all three hitters he faced.
Everything went according to plan — the Phillies’ plan, to be specific. Philadelphia fans have always thrived on proving skeptics wrong; often, including themselves. It was impossible not to feel the weight of the wait the last few Septembers as the Phillies slumped down the stretch. With each way-too-early ending, the emotional highs of the previous era felt a little bit more distant. The joy a little bit harder to remember. The highlights a little bit grainier in comparison to the shiny new ones of the rest of the National League’s teams.
Even this year, it still lingered. Before Friday, the Phillies’ most recent home game was Sept. 25 against the very same opponent. They had won three of five and led the Brewers by 1.5 games (plus tiebreaker) for the final NL Wild Card spot. Yet only 32,090 people showed up at Citizens Bank Park. They cheered for a couple of patented Schawrbombs. But their groans as the Braves scored five runs in the first four innings were nearly as loud. Not nearly as many remained over six hours later when the Phillies lost 8-7 in 10 innings.
It felt like the same old, same old was unraveling again. Sure, the Phillies had felt different all season. But fans had convinced themselves that about the previous teams only to be let down in heartbreaking fashion. Old feelings returned in again Game 3. These ones, however, could not have felt any different than the ones from three weeks ago. There will be slightly different but still exhilarating ones in the air on Saturday afternoon, as the Phillies look to finish off Atlanta and advance to the NLCS. Doing so will be their toughest task yet. The Braves have rallied back from harder situations. They won the World Series without their best player available less than a year ago. And winning the final game of a postseason series is always the hardest one to prevail in.
Once again, this Phillies team finds themselves largely in uncharted territory. Only three members of the Phillies active roster have ever played in a League Championship Series. One of them happens to be the Phillies’ Game 4 starter, Noah Syndergaard. What experience they lack, they know the fans can make up for. The latter group knows how special postseason baseball is here, and that is why they longed for it so deeply. It is why receiving a long-awaited payoff meant so much. And it is why they will undoubtedly rise to the even higher occasion of Game 4 on Saturday afternoon.
The only question is whether the Phillies will as well. When a Red October was just a nostalgic escape, their odds of doing so might not have been very high. That is no longer the case anymore. It took 4,381 days after the Phillies took the 2010 NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds to win another postseason series. It has been just a week since the Phillies beat the Cardinals to reach this stage. Little else could better symbolize how far the Phillies have come — other than maybe a bat spiked in the grass to the first base side of home plate, a literal and figurative stake blasted through everything holding the Phillies back from jubilation like this.
On Thursday, Phillies prospect Corey Phelan tragically lost his battle against cancer. You can read more about his story, which will stick with the Phillies, in this story by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Alex Coffey. Rest in peace, Corey.