And in the end, amid the disappointment and goodbyes and see ya next springs, a most charming thing happened. Over in a corner of the Phillies clubhouse, in various states of undress, a handful of players sat around in a circle and talked as if they wanted to hold onto this moment forever. As Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Castellanos, Alec Bohm, Garrett Stubbs and Matt Vierling quietly conversed, there were smiles and stories and beers and, yes, even in this painful moment.
“We should definitely be proud,” said Schwarber, when he was momentarily summoned from that circle of trust, from Philadelphia’s brotherly love, to speak to reporters. “What went on through this whole year, how we got there, to see how this team came closer and we got into the playoffs, and the bond got even closer after that.
“We ran into a very good club. We should definitely be appreciative and proud of what we did. And the other thing is, there’s a thirsty taste now. That’s the positive. It’s going to be a quick off-season and everyone is going to have that taste in their mouth.”
Left to the record books from their spirited run are a couple of numbers that tell the sheer, overwhelming force of the Houston pitchers and, probably to some degree, the Phillies’ own shortcomings.
OK, so there won’t be a parade down Broad Street this week. There won’t be ticker tape or light-pole climbers. “Dancing On My Own” won’t play on an endless loop through the streets.
But there will be a residue from this wonderfully unexpected run. After years of coming up short of even reaching the tournament, the Phillies of Bryce Harper — co-starring J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber, and of course, Wheeler and Aaron Nola — burst on to the national stage. And now that they broke trough, they may just stay for a while
Maybe that’s why they didn’t seem devastated when it was over. Rookie shortstop Bryson Stott, center fielder Brandon Marsh, and a few others lingered in the dugout, leaning over the railing to watch the Astros celebrate.
The Astros popped champagne. The Phillies forlornly popped open some beers, down the hall yet a world away, a clubhouse’s worth of sad Coors Light and Bud Heavy. After a month punctuated by the kind of alcohol consumption that requires safety goggles and protective coverings, the roster suddenly had to get reacquainted with drinks meant for consolation rather than celebration.
They had fallen 4–1 to the Astros in Game 6 of the World Series—a third consecutive loss. A series that once looked very much in their control had slipped all the way out of it. The result was a specific kind of baseball pain unfamiliar to most of the room: The Phillies had snapped an 11-season postseason drought to get here and then, suddenly, in the last berth created by a newly expanded playoff structure, they’d made it all the way to the World Series. The experience had been a whirlwind. And it made the final loss especially hard to process. This group was largely familiar with September collapses, with terrible blowouts, with seasons that never really got off the ground in the first place. Some of their more recent additions were even familiar with how it felt to win it all. But to lose it all?
When the best 30 days of their baseball lives had ended and orange streamers tumbled from the ceiling at Minute Maid Park, Brandon Marsh put his arm around Bryson Stott. They leaned on the dugout railing and watched the Astros celebrate a World Series title. “We’ll be back,” Marsh said to Stott. Maybe they will. They are two of the youngest players on the National League champions, and they are part of the future that looks far brighter than it did 30 days ago.
“Two wins away and that’s us,” Stott said. “You don’t want to feel that again.”
It had been 30 minutes since Nick Castellanos floated a first-pitch slider into right fielder Kyle Tucker’s glove for the 27th out to end Game 6, and Marsh was still in full uniform. Hat and all. “I don’t want to take it off,” Marsh said after a 4-1 loss to the Astros. “This one stings.” The room was quiet. There were hugs and handshakes. Some red eyes. These were the final moments for this group — most, but not all will return. They made Philadelphia fall back in love with baseball again. Whatever comes next is not guaranteed. The Phillies may never come this close — two wins — again. It might take another decade. It might take a year.
“This run we went on was no accident,” J.T. Realmuto said.
They brought baseball back to Philly. They were the final team to clinch a postseason berth on Oct. 3, when they secured the third NL Wild Card spot. They entered the postseason as an 87-win team that nobody expected to reach the World Series.
They were supposed to be an early, easy out. But they became the first team in postseason history to score six runs in the ninth inning when trailing in a stunning victory in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series in St. Louis.
They were off.
Bryce Harper had one of the best postseasons in franchise history, hitting six home runs, including the go-ahead homer in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series against San Diego to send the Phillies to the World Series. There was Hoskins’ epic homer and bat spike in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Braves, which got Citizens Bank Park rocking for the first time in more than a decade. Schwarber crushed a homer into the second deck in right field at Petco Park in Game 1 of the NLCS. Schwarberfest was born. Realmuto had an inside-the-park home run in the NLDS and a game-winning home run in the 10th inning in Game 1 of the World Series. The Phillies tied a World Series record with five homers in Game 3.
Thomson pushed the right buttons almost the entire way.
Citizens Bank Park was loud, like setting PitchCom to 20 and covering your ears on the infield loud.
“I knew Philly was a really good sports town coming here, but to be able to experience it, it’s a whole different animal,” Wheeler said. “The fans, they love their sports. They’re behind us 100 percent. When we do bad, they let us know and that’s perfectly fine. We’ve got to pick it up when that happens, but I love these fans and it was a lot of fun to be on that ride with them.”