In the end, the 87-win Philadelphia Phillies didn’t quite have it. As most baseball fans know now, the Houston Astros defeated them, 4-1, on Saturday to take MLB’s crowning trophy. In many observers’ minds, the win washed away the stain of Houston’s cheating scandal of a few years ago.
Only days before, it seemed the Fightin’ Phils might, in fact, have enough to pull off what would have been an upset for the ages.
On November 1, Philadelphia so thoroughly pounded Houston (7-0) that Houston’s manager, Dusty Baker, had to have thought, “Here we go again.” He had come so close so many times in the postseason, once 20 long years ago.
An impressive playoff run by the Philadelphia Phillies fell short because…?
But in the end, no, the Phillies didn’t have it, and that November 1 win held a clue to their failure. That night Philly took a two-games-to-one lead in a game when they chased all of their runs home on long balls.
Before we examine this clue, however, let’s go back and consider how the Philadelphia Phillies started their 2022 season.
The given wisdom as they worked their way through spring training was that the Phils would bomb other teams into submission, and depend on their two “aces,” Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, one of whom had caused concern in the previous, well, two campaigns. Nola had gone 14-14 in ’20 and ’21, and posted a 4.25 aggregate ERA. His WHIP had been a decent 1.115. The team also had high hopes for Ranger Suarez, a converted reliever who had opened eyes with a 1.36 ERA and 1.000 WHIP the previous season, mixing starts and relief stints.
Fingers were crossed about a somewhat remade bullpen.
About two-thirds of the way through their warm-up in Florida in March and April, however, there was room for even more hope, as rookie shortstop Bryson Stott was blasting the mix of minor and major league pitchers seen in spring training, and young Matt Vierling looked ready to challenge Odubel Herrera for the center field job. At the time there was a cause for concern perhaps not fully appreciated at the time. Neither Kyle Schwarber nor Nick Castellanos was hitting much.