If the Phillies miss the playoffs, what’s this year’s story?

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You will have to take my word that this sentence was typed shortly after noon Sept. 18, before the Phillies game in Atlanta began. This was a game I knew in my gut the Phillies would win.

That’s how this piece was supposed to start. It was a perfect lead in to a report on Philadelphia’s win in their series finale with the Braves in Atlanta. However, the Phillies being the Phillies, they lost, and as a result, slipped a bit down the playoff ladder to the very bottom rung of those who will qualify.

Even if the Phillies scrape into the playoffs, what is the real story of their season?

I was sure I had seen enough evidence in the Sept. 17 loss to Atlanta to predict a win. The Phillies fought hard in their 4-3 loss last Saturday night, and gave every impression that they were not going to roll over and play dead (again) this September.

First, Aaron Nola, once again a victim of poor run support struck out the side in the last inning he pitched in the game, the seventh. All three of Atlanta’s hitters, Ronald Acuna, Jr., Dansby Swanson, and Austin Riley, went down swinging.

Before and after that half frame, the Phillies had narrowed Atlanta’s margin of victory by one three times behind timely and situational hitting by three of their youngest players. In the fifth inning, Bryson Stott walked and eventually scored on Matt Vierling’s sacrifice fly after being advanced on a Nick Maton single. In the seventh inning, Stott singled and scored on a Vierling double.

Then in the top of the eighth, Stott singled again, driving in Bryce Harper who had doubled. It really looked as though the Phillies were saying, “We’re not gonna take it anymore.”

However, this piece isn’t about my predictive powers, and maybe the Phillies’ fighting spirit would return for their games with the Blue Jays at home. However, the seventh and eighth-inning offensive effort the Phillies displayed Saturday points to one of the principal stories of their 2022 season.

And if the team fails to hold onto a Wild Card slot, it will really be the only positive story of the season: The success of the Phillies’ youngest players.

I was reminded of this by a hearsay tweet last week that I can’t find now – so, sue me – that involved an allegation by veteran baseball writer Jayson Stark. According to this report, an opposing coach for a recent Phillies opponent complained to Stark that Philadelphia’s minor-league call ups all produced, while this coach’s young players had not.

I have no idea whether Stark actually made this remark, or where it was made if he did, but it seems a minor miracle to Phillies fans. The team’s maligned farm system has produced useful players! Let’s take a look at some of them.

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