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October 04, 2023

Phillies' Johan Rojas was ready for his first postseason moment

In his first postseason at-bat ever, first postseason game ever even, Johan Rojas battled for a crucial base hit then scored the run to send the Phillies on to a Game 1 Wild Card Series win.

The next major moment arrived, but there were no nerves for Johan Rojas.

This is what he wanted.

In the bottom of the third Tuesday night, Rojas' turn finally came up in the order – his first postseason at-bat in his first postseason game ever.

And he made it one to remember.

He battled Miami starter Jesús Luzardo for eight pitches, working into a 3-1 count then fouling off the next several to draw out the at-bat and make that pitch count climb. Then, on pitch No. 9, he lined a hanging slider straight into left field for a base hit, took second on a wild pitch to Kyle Schwarber in the next at-bat, and then, with two outs, came streaking home on Alec Bohm's double that took the perfect bounce off where the left-side wall in foul territory caves in to score the game's first run.

The Phillies were on the board, the Red October crowd at Citizens Bank Park was on its feet and waving the rally towels a mile a minute, and Rojas set the club well on their way to taking Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series, 4-1, over Miami.

Welcome to October. What a debut.

"Johan is such an electric player and he can impact the game in so many ways," manager Rob Thomson said postgame. "His poise level since he's been up here has just been unbelievable for a young kid like he is, that's never been above Double-A."

But in a lot of ways, his quick rise to the big leagues was exactly what the Phillies needed.

From making that spectacular catch at the wall then throw out at first for the double play in his debut back in July to knocking in the run that sent the Phillies back to the postseason a week ago, Rojas has only grown more reliable with every passing game, and more confident.

The athletic outfielder finished the season with a slash line of .302/.342/.430 with two home runs and two triples through 59 games, all while providing steady defense out in center.

Simply put, he earned his spot on the Phillies, so no way was he going to be left off the postseason roster.

And now that he's finally here, he showed right away that he can be a key piece in pushing the Phillies through. The moment isn't too big.

No nerves. This is what he wanted.

Through team interpreter Diego Ettedgui postgame, Rojas said he had never even played in a playoff game before Tuesday night, not even in the minors, so the 23-year-old kept his approach simple: Just go out there and enjoy it. Play hard, too.

Because from the moment Rojas got to the Phillies' clubhouse following his call-up, he explained, his new teammates had welcomed him with open arms. It made it easy to feel relaxed, he added, and not hard at all to give it your all once you're out there with a group like that. 

Heart and Soul

If Rhys Hoskins somehow joins this postseason run, it won't be until the very end on the condition that the Phillies make it to the World Series.

He left for Clearwater on Wednesday to start taking live batting practice at the team's "Stay Ready" camp to work toward that potential scenario, per's Todd Zolecki, but not before throwing out the first pitch to bless the Phillies' run until then – all with a thunderous roar from the crowd.

"Emotional, man, I was fighting back – trying not to cry," Castellanos said of Hoskins' one last moment in front of the Philly faithful (via KYW's Dave Uram). "He symbolizes Philadelphia honestly more than any of the signees that have come here after the fact. He's born and raised in this organization, and as here when the team wasn't winning, and was here all the way up through last year. So for him to go down with an ACL injury the way he did...I mean, I wore 17 on my hat all year for that fact, so for him to be able to go out there and get love from this city and this organization, I was perfect."

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