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Phillies Red October recap

Diaries from a mad Phillies fan
Nolan Shelinsky
The Phillies set to square off versus the Marlins in Game 1 of their wildcard series

Monday, October 2, 2023

After a long weekend of too much rain, and a 4 game sweep of the depleted New York Mets, the Phillies headed into last Tuesday only needing one more win to clinch a playoff berth. Their final homestand versus the Pittsburgh Pirates proved pivotal as they beat them in game one, outlasting them 3-2 in 10 innings. Later, in the clubhouse, the team watched the Cubs choke their late-inning lead to the Braves. This meant that the Phillies had locked up the 1st wild card spot. Now, they get to play at Citizens Bank Park, and their fans are not only hoping to celebrate another playoff-clinching year but also hoping it ends in a better result than the previous year.

Dr. Tommy Richards, a history teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and avid Phillies fan said, “Going into the playoffs, I’d say more confident because of what they did in the playoffs last year. I wouldn’t say I’m expecting them to get back to the World Series.” 

The following Saturday, the Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks clinched the final two playoff spots. The stage is set, the Phillies will play a best-of-three-game series versus the Marlins, starting Tuesday, October 1st. The Marlins down the stretch were a team that was “on the outside looking in,” meaning unless a team lost their position, they wouldn’t have made it. However, after the Cubs’ poor performance down the stretch, the Marlins snuck in.

Last year, the Phillies grabbed the last wild card spot and didn’t look back. However, at that point, they hadn’t clinched a playoff spot since 2012, over ten years ago. Also, they had 4 veteran players who never were in the playoffs. They, paired with a vibrant group of young players, created a methodical feel of quiet confidence. Up until this point though, there has been a different feel in the air.

“I think the World Series definitely left a bad taste in their mouth,” said Steve Melly, a former college baseball player and coach, and a huge Phillies fan. “I think the core guys, like, saw that and hated it”. 

Last year they got in and used the phrase “October rise.” Now, they are back with a vengeance and have embodied the slogan “Take October”.

Friday, October 7, 2023

This past Tuesday, the Phillies kicked off their wildcard series versus the Marlins, and the next day, they completed the sweep. The main story of the early week set was no doubt their starting pitching. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola combined for 13.2 innings pitched and allowed just one run. Aaron Nola’s start was the more unexpected of the two considering his Earned Run Average regressed from 3.25 in 2022 to a 4.57 in 2023. 

“Who do you pitch after Wheeler right now? It’s kind of a mess,” Dr. Richards said on September 22nd, before Nola’s spectacular outing on the mound. If Nola does continue this pace throughout the Phillies’ run, he will prove a lot of doubters wrong.

Another key moment came in game two of the series. After an Alec Bohm double, a Bryce Harper walk, and a fielding error by Jake Burger at third base that allowed Nick Castellanos to get to first, the bases were loaded. Bryson Stott stepped up to the plate. On the first he saw from Andrew Nardi, a 95 mph up and in fastball, he sent it deep into the right center field stands. A grand slam.

After asking him who he thinks will step up this year like Bryce Harper did last year, Dr. Richards suggested, “maybe Bryson Stott, like one of the young guys.”

To the same question, Steve Melly responded, “I think this postseason, you’re gonna see a better version of Bryson Stott in the postseason. I think he’s been able to withstand, like the lulls that you would see, and he’s kind of got some more energy.

Now, after an early week sweep of the Miami Marlins in front of their home crowd, they move forward to the weekend. A rematch is set, a National League Division Series (NLDS) versus the Atlanta Braves, who have arguably the best offense ever.

“The Braves are the scariest team in baseball. They might be the best team I’ve seen in the last 20 years, for real, since like the dynasty of the Yankees,” exclaimed Steve.

The Braves finished the year at 104-58, atop the MLB. They set a single season regular season MLB record with a .501 slugging. Slugging is a statistic that represents the total number of bases recorded in an at-bat. Through 161 games, the Braves were fourth ever in offense runs above average. Furthermore, they have 916 team runs batted in, which is 21st best dating back to 1874. Continuing, they had the third best WRC+ of all time. Also, they have seven players hit 20+ home runs and three of those players hit 40+ home runs. Another stat that they have is the MLB leader in home runs. Matt Olson clobbered 54 this season. They also have the current odds leader for MVP, Ronald Acuna Jr. who had one of the best single seasons by any player ever. It is safe to say that the Phillies pitchers will need to be careful versus these guys.

However, their pitching staff has been struggling. Some of them haven’t been healthy and others have underperformed.

“Morton just went on the IL, and he’s not going to be available for the NLDS. Max Fried is on the IL for the third time this year. He’s going to be available but he has that blister issue,” Steve said when discussing the Braves pitching staff struggles. “Kyle Wright just came off the IL, and he’s getting lit up”

Their team currently is a tale of two halves and it will show the most under the lights of the National League Division Series.

Friday, October 13, 2023

The Phillies are advancing to the NLCS. The series, a best of five games, that started on the 7th, ended not even a week later. It took the Phillies five games and six days to send the Atlanta Braves packing. The downfall began in game one when “the best offense ever” failed to score one run. The game was started by Ranger Suárez who posted a subtle 4.18 era this year in only 125 innings pitched. He lasted just 3.2 innings before the game was handed off to six different relievers. Those relievers: Hoffman, Dominguez, Alvarado, Kerkering, Strahm and Kimbrel gave 5.1 innings of scoreless baseball and just four hits. A true masterclass by manager Rob Thomson. For Atlanta, their ace Spencer Strider got the ball. In the regular season, in his career, he is 8-0 vs the Phillies in 8 starts. In those 47.1 innings he has 10 earned runs and 72 strikeouts. Pure dominance. However the postseason is a different story. Last year Rhys Hoskins hit the famous bat spike off of him. That outing he gave up 5 runs in not even 3 innings. Though he was solid this time around, he still wasn’t good enough. The Phillies won 3-0.

In game two, the Phillies again dominated for most of the game. However, a 2 run go ahead home run by Austin Riley in the 8th put the Braves up 5-4 heading into the top of the ninth. The Phillies must score to continue play. After Bryce Harper walked and J.T. Realmuto flied out, Nick Castellanos hit a drive to deep right center field. Braves center fielder, Michael Harris made a spectacular play and doubled off Harper at first. Game over.

In the clubhouse post-game, Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia was overheard by reporters clowning Harper for the baserunning mishap. He allegedly said “atta-boy Harper, haha”. The Braves players immediately denied this and one player even blamed the reporter, even though the players knew reporters were in the clubhouse.

In game three the Phillies won 10-2. The game broke open in the third when the Phillies scored 6 runs in the third. But the team broke through when Nick Castellanos started the inning with a solo home run. Five batters later, with two guys on and two outs, Bryce Harper came up. With the chance to make Arcia eat his words, he launched a 2-1 slider into the upper deck in right field. 4-1 Phillies. When rounding second Harper stared down Arcia to let him know he made the wrong decision to poke the bear. Later in the game, for good measure, Harper blasted another homer to dead center. He again stared down Arcia.

“Bryce Harper, that dude is made for the moment. He’s the most clutch human being in a baseball game I’ve ever seen in my life,” Steve exclaimed when talking about who’s going to step up in the postseason.

The Phillies won 10-2 that day, and now had a chance to clinch the division series on their home field the next day.

With all the momentum from the previous day, the Phillies continued to silence the Braves bats. Again the Phillies sent out a handful of relievers after Ranger Suárez’s outing. The staff held the Braves to one run. Spencer Strider pitched again for the Braves and in 5.2 innings of work, he gave up three more runs. Nick Castellanos had another stand out game, homering twice. He became the first player in MLB history to have back to back multi home run games. The Phillies won 3-1 and celebrated to “Dancing on My Own” in the clubhouse.

October 20, 2023

A date with the Diamondbacks was next.

The Diamondbacks snuck into the playoffs as the sixth seed. They played the NL Central division winner, the Milwaukee Brewers. As underdogs, the Diamondbacks shockingly swept the Brewers. Both the D-Backs pitching and hitting showed up. They outscored the Brewers 11-5 in the two games. They then went on to play the two seed, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The short lived series finished in only three games after the Diamondbacks swept them too. Again, the D-Backs outscored their opponent by a crazy margin of 19-6. They headed to Philadelphia with their hopes up.

Up until this point, the Phillies had been used to playing on the road to open the series. Their goal was always to split the first two games and come back home and win the rest of the games there. This worked last year versus the Braves and Padres and this year again against the Braves. Now, with the home field advantage, the first two games were played at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies got off to a hot start in game one. Facing Zac Gallen, the Diamondbacks ace, Kyle Schwarber hit a first pitch bomb. Ironically, just like last year, Kyle Schwarber struggled until the NLCS where he hit four home runs. Continuing, two batters later, Bryce Harper hit a solo shot to center field. It was 2-0 Phillies after an inning. Though the Diamondbacks clawed away late in the game, the Phils were able to use their first inning momentum, and another stellar performance by Zach Wheeler, to propel themselves to a 5-3 victory. Phillies up 1-0.

Game two was much of the same story, but more. Again they jumped out to a 1st inning lead. This time it was Trea Turner who hit a solo homer to left field. Kyle Schwarber added two more runs via two more solo home runs later in the game. In the 6th and 7th innings a hit parade broke out. Seven total runs were scored by the Phillies and they routed the Diamondbacks 10-0. Aaron Nola also had a 6 inning 0 run gem. The Phillies put themselves in a best case scenario by winning both games at home before heading to Arizona for three games. But this series was far from over.

“I would like to see Schwarber hitting some clutch home runs like he did last year,” Dr. Richards explained when asked about players stepping up in the postseason. 

Boy was he right.

In game three, with their backs against the wall, and rookie Brandon Pfaadt on the mound, the D-Backs scratched out a 2-1 victory. Pfaadt was masterful in his 5.2 innings of work where he allowed 0 runs and struck out 9. He had the Phillies chasing pitches and off balance the whole night. Despite a quick pull by manager Torey Lovullo, he passed the ball off to the bullpen and much of the same continued. 3.1 innings of one run ball and another four strikeouts. In a must win game for Arizona, they delivered. 2-1 Phillies.

The Diamondbacks used this momentum heading into game four Cristopher Sánchez took the rock for the Phillies. A surprising young arm that broke out this year for them. He threw to a 4-3 record with a solid 3.44 era. Because the diamondbacks didn’t have a fourth starter, it was a bullpen game for them. This means that they needed to dump all of their relievers into this game and piece together a win. The D-Backs struck first in the 2nd and 3rd inning, tallying one run each inning. Then the Phillies bats finally broke through. They scored 5 runs unanswered and headed into the bottom of the 7th up 5-2. However, in the bottom half, the Snakes answered with a run in response. Still 5-3 Phillies they were in good shape with Craig Kimbrel coming into the game.

Up until the all star break, Craig Kimbrel had a 3.41 era. But in his first 14 appearances he had a 8.25 era, and in his final 25 before the break he had a 1.08 era. He finshed the year with a 3.26 era, but like most years in the ladder half of his 15 year career, he heavily regressed in the back half of the year. A lot of his saves went from a piece of cake to gut wrenching. He also had his highest usage since 2016.

He needed three outs. He left the game only recording two, while being responsible for giving up 3 runs to the 6-5 Diamondbacks. Series tied.

“They’re plucky, they’re young, they don’t know any better,” Steve said about the Diamondbacks.

He wasn’t wrong.

Next up, the almighty game five. In a seven game series, that’s tied at 2-2, is the most important game of the series. Both teams  have turned back to the top of their rotation. Wheeler versus Gallen. The Phillies followed the recipe to success that’s been prevalent throughout the series. Score first. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead after one inning. That proved to be all that was needed as they held the D-Backs bats to just one run. Zac Gallen gave up four runs in six innings. Another poor playoff outing from their ace. The Phillies ace went seven innings and gave up only one run. In a must win game, Zach Wheeler delivered… again. 3-2 Phillies.

The Phillies now head home where they are 40-29 all time. They couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.

But they came out sluggish in game six, Aaron Nola gave up three runs in the top of the second inning. That turned out to be all they needed,  but they added another two runs throughout the game. Besides a Brandon Marsh rbi single, there was nothing. Their struggles to put the ball in play and move runners showed. They struck out ten times and failed to score with runners in scoring position. They headed to a game seven.

Ranger Suárez took the ball again against Brandon Pfaadt. It was all hands on deck. The Diamondbacks scored first. A bad start considering the team that scored first was 6-0 in this series. The Phillies answered in the second on an Alec Bohn solo homerun. In the 4th, Alec Bohm walked and Bryson Stott doubled. 2-1 Phillies. However that inning, they had the bases load and could only muster one run. From there, Arizona tallied three unanswered runs by doing everything the Phillies failed to do this series: string together multi hit innings, moving runners over and stealing bases. The Phillies failed to score Kyle Schwarber after a leadoff double in the 5th, and failed to score with two guys on in the 7th. Those were the last true chances for the Phillies. The Diamondbacks retired the next six hitters in order. Game over. Season over.

“Corbin Carroll at the top of the lineup always scares me. And the guys underneath it through the lineup that give you headaches,” Steve said about the Diamondbacks lineup.

Carroll ended up going 4/8 in the final two games and gave the Phillies’ pitchers headaches in the batter’s box and on the base paths.

In game 6 and 7, the Phillies big bats were silenced. Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos went a combined 3/36 in those games. These guys were paid to show up in these games and unfortunately they couldn’t come through.

Yes, it was a great season for the Phillies, but anyone will tell you that they had the potential to advance to the World Series and even win it.

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About the Contributor
Nolan Shelinsky
Nolan Shelinsky, Staff Writer
Nolan is currently a senior at SCH, and this is his first year on staff. Outside of school, he is exclusively playing baseball or golf, watching the Phillies, listening to Zach Bryan or sleeping.
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