Phillies 2022 Red October Overview
When I made plans for a visit to New York City for the weekend of October 21-23, 2022, the thought that the Philadelphia Phillies would still be playing baseball was-well-improbable. After all, with just 87 wins in the regular season, they had squeaked into the third wildcard race. Not the first, not the second, but the last rung of the post season.
And yet, just for that, the city was overjoyed. We had been harangued for months with headlines that reminded us ‘The last time the Phillies were in the postseason was in 2011’ , ‘The last World Series win was 2008’. To say the city was ‘hungry’ is as understated as saying ‘humans gotta breathe’.
First up were the St. Louis Cardinals for the best2 out of 3 games. They were a team we were neck and neck with in wins for much of the season. We beat them.
Next was Mighty Atlanta, the reigning 2021 World Series champs, the team that had sprinted past the Mets by the end of the season. This series was best out of 5. I watched the clinching game with 46, 000 screaming fans in the ballpark way above home plate, just as we had done all season long. And we beat them, too. Solidly, decisively. Unbelievable. The Phillies were going to the National League Championship Series. Could it get any better than this?
For the NLCS series we were up against the San Diego Padres. No small feat to defeat this team. The Padres have good pitching, along with two of the best hitters in baseball, Juan Soto and Manny Machado. And they are another scrappy wildcard team that had made it through past the Mets and the Dodgers.
The pennant race is a grueling best out of 7. Game one in San Diego. Phillies win. Game two. Phillies lose. Back to Philadelphia, a city waiting to breathe out.
And there I was for the weekend in New York City in its own baseball hell, as the Yankees were bowing to the Houston Astros in the American League pennant. Friday night, the first game in Philly, my friend and I were eating out for a nice Thai dinner. I knew it is quite rude to have the cell phone out in a restaurant, but ‘heart’ and ‘clapping’ emojis, ‘whoo hoos’ and ‘Yays’ and ‘oh nos’ were popping up in my texts. I kept an eye on the score. Schwarber opens up with a homerun blast. Segura falters and then redeems. SirAnthony Dominquez pitches 2 flawless innings. Phillies win 4-2.
The next night I didn’t know where to go to watch the games after a day of music in midtown Manhattan. I had seen a website for a South Phillies Sports Bar, but it hadn’t made it through the pandemic. So another friend and I found our way into a loud crowded bar playing the same damn football game on 25 screens. They changed one of the channels for us, but the noise and the crowds were too uncomfortable, forcing me back to checking on my phone. When we left the bar, the score was 6-4 Padres.
In another part of town we passed by a seedy dive bar-one of those places with a small outdoor patio. Peaking inside I noticed a pool table, and some version of tired rock and roll playing to the five tired people slumped on the barstools
And a TV screen facing out to the patio. With the Phillies game on. I pull up a chair to an empty table and watch another miracle happen. Phillies have come from behind twice and Harper tacks on another for good measure for the 10-6 win.
Yes, they may have Soto and Machado, but we have Harper and Hoskins!
I cannot hear the sound on the screen, but I can imagine it because it is coming from me. Oblivious to anyone else at the other tables, I’m screaming, arms raised in the air, ending with hands banging on the table. One more win in Philly and we clinch the National League Championship. And I have tickets.
The highs and lows of watching sports is part of every game but in this series, in this game with the possibility of moving to the next level, those feelings are magnified 10 fold as every pitch seems like life or death.
There is the first inning adrenaline. No one sitting down for the first pitches as each one is a moment of expectant exaltation or low groaning exhale. With brilliant pitching by Zack Wheeler, and Rhys Hoskins’ explosive 2 run homerun an inning later, there was plenty to cheer about early on and many chances to wave our Red October rally towels.
We settle down for the next few innings as Wheeler continues to produce strike out after strike out of eight batters and no walks. The defense is not too taxed. He lets in a run before he is relieved in the 7th inning.
Truthfully, the rain was relentless and I didn’t have enough layers on, so I go inside for a spell. That is when I hear the groans. The Padres are now ahead and the crowd goes tense. You can see it, you can feel it, you can hear the hush as everyone collectively is thinking ‘Will the team have to take that 5 ½ hour trip to San Diego to play in front of the Padres home crowd? Will this be the end of a long and glorious run?’
We’ve reached the bottom of the 8th inning. Bryce Harper’s last at bat. The phenom, the leader, The 2021 MVP, the one who has shown he trusts the fans to trust him. I whisper under my breath-‘This is your moment Bryce’
When people talk about legendary moments, moments to say ‘I was there’ this was one of them. Segura was on base with a walk, waiting on first. Waiting for-
Bryce fouls off pitches to stay alive, waiting for his pitch. It comes to him. He grabs at it with a swing that connects to the ball and to all of us. Deep into the opposite field, out and out and out. It’s gone.
The score is now 4-3.
The cold, the rain. None of that matters now. The deafening sound of 46,000 fans, Arms waving in the air, high fives all around. This noise is not uncomfortable. This noise is a city pushing out the air of possibility in one big blast of expectation.
But that was just the 8th inning. There are still three more outs to go to win. With only a one run lead, this is the most excruciating time. Robertson gets one out, but then puts two men on base. I can barely stand, can barely breathe. The manager, Rob Thomson, ‘Topper’ who came into this year with a flailing team, a team that had no cohesion, now does what an exceptional manager does. He calls in a pitcher who has been overshadowed by the Wheelers and the Nolas and the Eflins. Ranger Suarez is called to finish up the job.
He strikes out one batter. Then the preparation. The last pitch. The swing. A shallow high fly ball to right field. Everyone on the field knows it. Everyone in the stands knows it. Everyone knows. The ball is caught and the ballpark erupts. “BEDLAM AT THE BANK” (nickname for Citizens Bank Park)
No longer sitting alone on a New York City patio, I am now part of that delirious scream.
The Philadelphia Phillies are National League Champions. We are going to the World Series.