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September 28, 2023

Red October hasn't even started yet and it's already out of control

Garrett Stubbs somehow hit his first homer after partying the hardest in the Wild Card celebration the night before, and someone tried to bring a gator into, for real.

This was Garrett Stubbs after the Phillies clinched their Wild Card spot Tuesday night:

And this, somehow, was Garrett Stubbs 24 hours later:

That was his first home run of the season and the spark for yet another comeback Phillies win.

"All it took was a bunch of champagne, drinking all night, going out, and the next day, there it was, homer," Stubbs said postgame with the biggest smile on his face

Just unbelievable vibes. 

Red October isn't even here yet, and already, it's out of control. I mean, someone tried to bring an alligator into Citizens Bank Park – no, I'm serious. His name is Wally. He has an Instagram, too.

It's going to be another insane few weeks, and Philly is absolutely ready for it. 

But until then, here's a bit of what they're saying and what we know in the lead-up to it...

Locking in the rotation

So now that the postseason trip is official, Rob Thomson confirmed the obvious for next week's Wild Card round: Zack Wheeler will start Game 1 and Aaron Nola is getting the nod for Game 2. 

Game 3? The Phillies will cross that bridge if and when they get to it. 

Per The Philadelphia Inquirer's Alex Coffey, Ranger Suárez would be the likely candidate for the start, but just like last postseason, he'll be there as an option out of the bullpen too, and if the Phillies do take that latter route with him, that'll leave them looking at either Taijuan Walker or Cristopher Sánchez in a potential do-or-die situation. 

Also of note is that Wheeler will have the start for Thursday night's series finale against the Pirates to keep him on schedule, but Nola – after pitching 6.2 innings of one-run ball in the Wild Card clincher on Tuesday – will get an extra couple of days of rest in an attempt to keep him as fresh as possible.

Hopefully, that leads to the best version of Aaron Nola

The 'Stay Ready' Camp

Rhys Hoskins was there on the field celebrating with the Phillies Tuesday night. 

He's swinging the bat again and overall making great progress on his way back from an ACL tear suffered in the spring, to the point where he might even have a shot at returning in the World Series if the Phillies can get there, Thomson told SportsRadio WIP on Wednesday

The catch, however, is that any return for Hoskins would be purely as a hitter – either a DH or a bat off the bench. His knee, Thomson explained, just wouldn't be ready by then for nine innings' worth of fielding, which makes a roster fit for Hoskins a lot tougher to figure out. 

Bryce Harper has settled in as the first baseman, Nick Castellanos, Brandon Marsh, and Johan Rojas have given the Phils reliable defense in the outfield, and that frees up Kyle Schwarber to DH with Cristian Pache, Edmundo Sosa, and Jake Cave available off the bench. 

Adding Hoskins once he's healthy enough to bat would bump someone out, and that isn't an easy call to make. 

Still, if Hoskins stays on his current pace or even moves a bit ahead of schedule, it'll be something to consider should the Phillies make it that deep into the postseason. 

And a sign of where he really might be at in his rehab could be if he leaves to go down to Florida soon, per The Athletic's Matt Gelb:

At some point in October, Hoskins could leave the team to join a group of players at the club’s Florida complex. The Phillies have opened their “stay ready” camp there. Those participating: catcher Rafael Marchan; infielders Kody Clemens, Darick Hall and Weston Wilson; right-handers Andrew Bellatti, Connor Brogdon, Yunior Marte, McKinley Moore, Nick Nelson and Luis Ortiz; and left-hander Michael Plassmeyer. They will have daily workouts to stay sharp in case of emergency. [The Athletic, $]

Trying to find a balance

The one who sent the Phillies into the postseason wasn't any of the big names in Harper, Schwarber, Castellanos, or even Trea Turner. 

It was Johan Rojas, who with a walk-off roller up the middle in the 10th Tuesday night, got the long-awaited celebration started. 

The 23-year old was called up in July, and upon his debut in center field, made a spectacular catch at the wall then throw out at first for a double play that caught everyone in the park by surprise. 

The moment had arrived, he rose to the occasion, and in the way of defense and even a bit of offensive production ever since, has been exactly what the Phillies needed. 

So when a shot at his next biggest moment arrived, of course he owned it, all while showing that the Phillies are a much more well-balanced team than most would think. 

Wrote Phillies Nation's Destiny Lugardo of the club's makeup:

The Phillies have struck a balance that other big market clubs have failed to do this season. They have five players who have signed contracts of at least $100 million and a handful of other veterans on big money deals. Phillies collapses of the past have shown that having stars in their prime is not enough. The best teams are built with a mixture of talent young and old from inside and outside the organization. [Phillies Nation]

It's a balance, and these Phillies may have struck it. 

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