Ava’s Angle: The changes that propelled the Phillies to the World Series 

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The No. 6 seeded Philadelphia Phillies are headed to the World Series for the first time since 2009. They have been underdogs throughout the season, going into the postseason as a Wild Card team with 87 wins. Ultimately, they have beat all the odds and won the NL pennant.  

So what has been the magic behind the Phillies hot playoff run? 

Since Bryce Harper joined the Phillies in 2019 on a 13-year, $330 million contract, he has been the face of the franchise. Harper was sidelined for a bit this season, suffering from a fractured thumb after getting hit by a pitch by San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell. Once he returned, he suffered a brief post-injury slump. Harper is dominant in right field but his offense is what stands out. Harper has arguably been the best hitter of the postseason entering Sunday’s game slashing .410/.439/.872 with four home runs and nine RBI in the Phillies’ first 10 playoff games. In Game 5, Harper added two more hits which included the biggest home run of his career, sending the Phillies to the World Series in dramatic fashion. It’s definitely safe to say that Harper deserved being named the NLCS MVP. 

Harper has been the most integral player that has led the Phillies to this point but, there is so much more depth in Philadelphia to bring them to the World Series.  

In order to have a winning baseball team, pitching is everything. The Phillies starting rotation is led by their two aces in Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. They have both been consistently strong pieces of the team, especially now. 

In the playoffs, the Phillies’ previously weak bullpen has stepped up. Even though they lack stars within their relievers, they have the depth that has come through in their late-game save situations. Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Domínguez have been the team’s go-to guys and have been difference makers down the stretch. The addition of David Robertson at the trade deadline gave Philadelphia more options out of the pen. 

Defense has been something that the Phillies have been known to struggle with. In the 2021 season, they had -54 defensive runs saved, ranking last in the league. More specifically, the infield defense was dreadful and hard to get around. The improvement of this started with the team releasing their weak defensive shortstop Didi Gregorius. This gave Bryson Stott the opportunity to lock in a starting spot and increase playing time. Furthermore, the turnaround of Alec Bohm bolstered the defense. At the beginning of the season, Bohm’s defense at third base was at rock bottom after a three-error game in April. The guidance from infield coach Bobby Dickerson made a huge impact on the struggling infielder. Dickerson spent continuous time strategizing plays fit for the individual players. From that point on, Bohm’s defense improved making him the face of the Phillies defensive growth. Down the stretch, Philadelphia used the shift much less and it eventually helped them get their once shaky defense together.  

A positive aspect for the Phillies defense has always been catcher J.T. Realmuto. He is an elite defender and has always backed Philadelphia at the plate with his incredible framing. Additionally, Jean Segura is a solid defender, which was on full display in Game 3 of the NLCS. But he also has so much range at the plate. The second baseman makes all the adjustments in a clutch situation and makes the most of wherever he is pitched to.  

Speaking of offense, the Phillies lineup has been dangerous during this postseason. Scoring six runs in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the Wild Card, the Phillies offense has gone off in crucial moments. 

First baseman Rhys Hoskins has a total of eight hits this postseason, five of them being home runs. His bat theatrics have put the Phillies in the lead on multiple occasions, as well as allowing the crowd to witness some beautiful bat flips.  

From an offseason free agent signing, Philadelphia has a power hitter in Kyle Schwarber. In Game 1 of the NLCS, Schwarber blasted a 488-foot home run — one of the longest homeruns in recent postseason history. The left fielder’s offense has been red-hot and he has been a leader for the Phillies offense.  

A lot changed for Philadelphia around the middle of the regular season. After starting the season with a 22-29 record, they fired manager Joe Girardi and bench coach Rob Thomson took over the club. Thomson made a significant impact on the team and his leadership style is what put the Phillies in the position to win the pennant. Since the playoff run, the Phillies removed the interim tag for Thomson and extended him to a 2-year deal. 

At the trade deadline, the Phillies addressed their areas of weakness and added outfielder Brandon Marsh from the Los Angeles Angels. Marsh gave the Phillies some stability in centerfield defense-wise and has had moments where he shined offensively in the playoffs. They also acquired Noah Syndergaard from the west coast. Syndergaard isn’t the same pitcher that he was early in his career with the New York Mets, but has added depth to Philadelphia’s pitching. So far in the postseason, he’s allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings. The Phillies roster runs deep and has been uplifted since their lowest moments in the regular season. Clinching a World Series berth, the Phillies are equipped with whatever comes their way against the Houston Astros.  

With all four of the major professional sports crossing over right now, there is a ton of hype surrounding the city of Philadelphia. The Eagles are the only undefeated team in the NFL with a 6-0 record and sit in first place of the NFC East; even with a slow start, the 76ers are still projected as one of the favorites for the NBA Finals; the Flyers have started off better than expected in the NHL. 

The Fall Classic is set up with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros. The atmosphere of Citizens Bank Park has been electric and fans have given the team an unmatched home field advantage performance going undefeated 5-0. The resurgence of Philadelphia has been led by the Phillies and their embrace of Red October.  

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