Almost There!

The Phillies officially started their quest to repeat as World Series champions in mid-February when pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. On April 5, the regular season began anew, and the Phillies would once again have to deal with oh-fers, blown saves, injuries, and losing streaks. The rigors of a 162-game season are taxing, no doubt.

Yet here the Phillies stand, again, on the precipice of every baseball player’s dream: a World Series championship. The last franchise to reach the World Series two years in a row was the 1998-2001 New York Yankees, who went four times in a row, winning it thrice consecutively from ’98-00. The ’95-96 Atlanta Braves were the last National League franchise to reach the World Series two years running.

The Phillies are now in that rarefied air, proudly.

While the Philadelphia police greased up poles on South Broad Street to prepare for riotous celebrations, the Phillies are now greasing up for a run at, likely, the New York Yankees. It should come as no surprise that the Bronx Bombers will be the Phillies’ greatest challenge thus far, but the good guys have overcome anything and everything thrown their way:

  • Brad Lidge’s incomprehensibly poor regular season as the closer
  • Cole Hamels’ mediocre 2009 despite being the same pitcher
  • J.C. Romero missing the first 50 games of the season, and then missing two more months due to injuries
  • Biology finally catching up to Jamie Moyer
  • Eric Bruntlett’s 21 OPS+

With their epic comebacks in Game Four of the NLDS and NLCS, the Phillies have shown that they get knocked down, but they get up again. Captain Clutch, the suddenly clutch Alex Rodriguez, and the $423.5 million the Yankees obliged to C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett — it doesn’t matter. Last year, Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, and Matt Garza were supposed to stop the Phillies in their tracks. That idea was quickly squelched.

As they have been for the last few years, the Phillies will go into yet another post-season series expected to lose, to crumble at the sight of a dominant closer, to be overmatched by a three-time MVP, various Gold Glovers, and future Hall of Famers.

For now, the Phillies will celebrate the completion of the second-to-last leg of their run at another World Series title. Upon marinating in and consuming much champagne, the Phillies will turn their attention to those aristocrats from the Bronx, their yeoman’s approach unfettered.

In Game 4 of the NLDS, the Phillies had a 4% chance to win after Shane Victorino made the second out in the top of the ninth inning.

In Game 4 of the NLCS,  they had a 12% chance to win after Raul Ibanez grounded out to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning.

Go ahead, count them out. They like it better that way. It makes it that much sweeter when they pile up after the 27th out.

Game graph above courtesy FanGraphs.