But spring training doesn’t count
On March 28, however, both Castellanos and Schwarber homered off Orioles fireballer Dean Kremer, and shortly thereafter, the Philadelphia Phillies began their season under veteran manager Joe Girardi. They won three of their first four games, then lost five of the next six despite Bryce Harper’s first two homers and eight hits in the first 10 contests.
Three of the slugger’s hits were bunched in an 11-3 loss to Miami on April 17.
After 50 games, the Phillies were 21-29, and after a win the next day, manager Girardi was fired and replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Rob Thomson.
At their personal 50-game marks, the hitting “stars” behind Harper were performing unevenly. Schwarber had 14 home runs, but was hitting only .200. He was becoming a clubhouse leader, though. Castellanos had 7 homers and was hitting .256. (After 50 games in ’21, he had hit .367.) Eventual Gold Glove winner Realmuto was hitting .246.
The day Girardi was fired the three leading starters, Wheeler, Nola, and Suarez had ERAs of 3.16, 3.92, and 4.69, respectively. In all three cases, their FIP figures were better, so there was that. However, they were a collective 10-9.
Whatever Thomson would do, it was becoming clear the Philadelphia Phillies were not going to challenge for first place in their division. They faced another campaign to capture a Wild Card slot, a position that hadn’t served them well recently.
And that’s exactly what happened, but this time they won the final Wild Card available, and did so in style, beating the team they would eventually face in the World Series, the Astros, 3-0 on October 3, behind a perfect game performance Aaron Nola pushed into the seventh inning.
Nola ended the season with a 3.25 ERA and 2.58 FIP. His final WHIP was 0.961. Wheeler had been even better in terms of ERA, and Suarez improved over the rest of the season. Both he and Wheeler finished with winning records.
Thomson’s calm, positive influence had proved a quiet miracle, pushing the team from seven games below .500 to 12 games over that mark. The Phillies had overcome significant injuries to star players, had integrated young players very effectively, and managed a bullpen into an unexpected strength.
But let’s go back to the Wild Card clinching game for our second clue as to the team’s eventual failure.
Remember the first? All those home runs in the last World Series game they won against the Astros.
On Oct. 3, the Phillies had done pretty much the same thing. Nola’s pitching had been backed by…(drum roll)…home runs. On Nov. 1, two of the Phillies homers had men on base. On Oct. 3, all the runs scored were solo shots. What does this mean?