The vibes are good after a rollercoaster regular season.
Folks, they’re back.
Phillies fans are revving up for Red October after rookie outfielder Johan Rojas clinched the Phils’ second straight playoff berth with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 10th to beat the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park last night, 3-2.
Yep, once again, the Phillies are Dancing On Their Own.
If there’s one thing these guys know how to do, it’s celebrate.
On the most recent edition of Hittin’ Season, I recapped the many heroes from their postseason-clinching victory.
- Johan Rojas, who hit the game-winning single to center, capping off a meteoric rise from Double-A Reading to the big leagues
- Jeff Hoffman, a right-handed reliever no one expected to be a major contributor, discovering a 98-mph fastball and back-breaking slider to become the team’s most dependable set-up man, preserving the 2-2 tie in the top of the 10th inning
- Jose Alvarado, the left-handed fireballer who has rediscovered his mojo and destroyed the Pirates in the 9th
- Aaron Nola, for the second straight year, shoved in a playoff-clinching game, giving up just one run in 6 ⅔ innings with eight strikeouts and no walks, his second straight great start
- Brandon Marsh, who broke up a no-hitter in the 6th with a solo home run to put the Phils on the board first
As is true anytime a baseball team goes to the playoffs for a second year in a row, things are different this time around.
By virtue of a Cubs loss to the Braves last night, the Phillies also clinched the top wild card spot in the National League, meaning the entire three-game wild card series that will begin next Tuesday, Oct. 3, will be played in front of the zealots here in Philadelphia.
The Phils will host one of the following:
- the Diamondbacks, who currently hold the second wild card
- the Cubs, who possess the third and final spot
- the Marlins, who sit a half-game back
- the Reds, who are 1 ½ games out
Whoever it is, the Phils will be favored. That’s unlike last year, when, as the last team into the dance, they went into St. Louis and upset the Cardinals with two straight wins.
This year’s Phillies are better than last year’s. They will finish with more wins, have a deeper starting rotation, more high-impact arms in the bullpen, and an offense that can hit home runs with the best of them, including the high octane Braves, their NL Divisional Round opponent should they get past the wild card round.
But as last year’s Phils showed everyone, the MLB playoffs are a crapshoot. In a short, three-game series, an ill-timed slump by the bats, or one start by an ace gone awry, can torpedo even the best teams. Just ask last year’s Braves, Mets, Dodgers and Cardinals teams that watched the two bottom National League teams — Phillies and Padres — play for a trip to the Fall Classic.
That said, getting into the postseason tournament is always the goal at the start of spring training, and while there is a long way yet to go…
…the ride getting there has been — and we hope will continue to be — magic.