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October 23, 2022

Instant observations: Phillies are the NL champions

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Bryce-Harper-Phillies-world-series_102322_USAT Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper may go down as one of the best Phillies to ever live.

The 2022 Phillies are National League champions. They are four wins away from winning the World Series.

What a positively bizarre pair of sentences to be writing. After a decade of mediocrity and missteps, collapses and botched draft picks, the Phillies have somehow returned to the mountaintop.

After a 4-3 win for the ages thanks to two-run homers from Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies will travel (likely to Houston) to compete for a world championship this coming weekend.

If this is all too insane for you, you're not alone. No one could have possibly seen this coming and the vibes in Philadelphia are palpably electric. You're probably pouring champagne down your throat right now, but in case you'd like to read about the clinching game, here's a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from an amazing Game 5 win:

The good

• I literally can't think of the words to describe what Bryce Harper did in the eighth inning. My. God.

Down 3-2 with a man on, there was a little doubt creeping in amongst fatalistic Philly fans late in the ballpark. But these ain't the choking Phillies you're used to. These are NLCS champions.

Harper has hit five homers and has shattered team records with his bat this postseason. Hopefully the time off before the World Series doesn't cool him off. One has to wonder, had he not had a few bizarre and unlucky injury issues would he have repeated as NL MVP?

• Harper was named NLCS MVP, and with good reason, but Hoskins at least had to be in the conversation too. He hit his third two-run home run over the last 19 hours in the third inning Sunday — blasting a 3-0 count over the left field porch to give the Phillies yet another lead in the playoffs.

• Kyle Schwarber told us after Game 3 he wanted to do whatever he could to help the team win, be it hitting home runs or RBI ground outs. With the Phillies offense in need of a spark against Yu Darvish, Schwarber drew a two-out walk in the third and proceeded to steal second base. Schwarber is a sneaky good base runner, with 10 stolen bags in the regular season and has two now in the playoffs. It's a veteran move like that that can sometimes get the blood flowing in the dugout. The Hoskins bomb followed, and a single from J.T. Realmuto after that.

• Sunday's game was the anti-Game 4, a fast-moving pitcher's duel with just six hits between the two teams through six and change innings. There was a chance it went the other way, with Zack Wheeler and Yu Darvish each pitching on short rest, but each had their A-game and Wheeler in particular was just magnificent. 

Wheeler's postseason body of work should have him in the conversation with Cole Hamels and Curt Schilling among the best Phillies playoff arms. He struck out eight and pitched into the seventh before he was relieved by Seranthony Dominguez.

• Manager Rob Thomson said he wouldn't be pulling any punches to get this series, and he didn't, bringing in Game 3 starter Ranger Suarez to close out the final two outs.

The bad

• A rare mistake for Wheeler came as the rain started to pick up in the fourth, as Juan Soto hit a home run to deep center to get the Padres on the board. San Diego has a loaded lineup and it's pretty impressive how the Phillies have mostly avoided their big bats this series. It's inevitable that players like Soto and Manny Machado will eventually do a little damage.

• The Padres' second run was charged to the line of Wheeler, who surrendered a single before being yanked in the seventh. But it was the previously light's out Seranthony Dominguez who coughed up the lead, giving up a double to Josh Bell after a wild pitch to tie the game at two-apiece just before the seventh inning stretch.

Was it the right call to pull Wheeler after only 87 pitches? Another wild pitch plated the go-ahead run as the wet weather clearly became a critical factor in the later innings of the game.

• Bryson Stott picked a great time to get into the offensive mix, hitting a double to deep center in the bottom half of the seventh with the Phillies trailing by a run. An intentional walk to Schwarber gave Hoskins an opportunity to become the most revered postseason hitter in team history but he flew out on the first pitch to waste a golden opportunity. The Phillies haven't had many of those this month.

The ugly

• We mentioned briefly that the weather kind of messed with Dominguez in the seventh and the cold and rain kind of made it feel like, well, 2008 all over again. Luckily the result was similar.

• I've been sappy in these articles before about my childhood love for the Phillies and this is a career highlight. I am so excited for the next round and hope you'll keep reading!

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