For the first time in 13 years, the Philadelphia Phillies, the baseball team that shares this city with your beloved Eagles, are in the Fall Classic following a harrowing, thrilling, pulse-pounding 4-3 victory over the San Diego Padres in Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.
With the Birds on the bye, many of you likely watched. You saw Rhys Hoskins hit a huge two-run homer. You saw Zack Wheeler mow down Padre after Padre, and you saw Bryce Harper hit one of the biggest postseason home runs in baseball history.
As a writer for our SB Nation sister site, The Good Phight and the host of their podcast Hittin’ Season, I’ve been chronicling this team’s ascent to the pinnacle of the sport for well over 600 episodes now, since the dark days of 2015 and through the grueling drought that sapped the energy from a frustrated fanbase over the last decade. It’s understandable if this baseball team hasn’t garnered more of your attention until now.
After all, the Eagles are 6-0. They are the top seed in the NFC at the moment and the favorites to reach the Super Bowl, much like they were in 2017 when they blitzed the field and upset the Patriots in Super Bowl 52. In fact, this 2022 Phillies team has many parallels to the last Birds squad to reach the Super Bowl, the 2017 crew led by the duo of Wentz/Foles and Co.
Plunging Into the Postseason
When the Eagles made the playoffs in ‘17, they hadn’t been there in four years and were still looking for their first Super Bowl title. Past Birds teams have traditionally eased their way into postseason play, winning a round one season, advancing another round further the season after, and so on. But not the 2017 Birds. Nope, they made the playoffs and dove in head first, ultimately reaching the Super Bowl and winning it all at once.
This Phillies team had a much longer playoff drought to end, 11 years, but like that ‘17 Eagles team, they are not wading into the deep end. They defeated the NL Central Division champion St. Louis Cardinals 2-games-to-0 in the Wild Card Series, then upset the defending world champion Atlanta Braves 3-1 in the Division Series, lastly taking care of the San Diego Padres 4-1 in the Championship Series.
They are 9-2 in 11 postseason games. Not a bad run.
Driven By A Superstar
Were it not for his knee injury against the Rams late in the 2017 season, Carson Wentz would have been the league’s MVP. Everyone acknowledges this. He was, without question, the best player in the league that year, and he is the reason the Birds had homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. He was their superstar, their rock, their everything.
For the Phillies, that player is Bryce Harper, the guy who won the NL MVP award last season, the second time in his career he was named the league’s best player, and was in the midst of another MVP caliber season when he was hit by a pitch by San Diego left-hander Blake Snell in late June. Worries abounded that, like Wentz, his season would be over, but he recovered in time to rejoin the team in September.
While he struggled in the season’s final month, he’s caught fire in the postseason and was named National League Championship Series MVP. He leads the Phillies on the field, and his value cannot be understated.
Bryce Harper, but Moneyball pic.twitter.com/9b4glvpTua— Red October Muse (@Phillies_Muse) October 24, 2022
A Little Luck Never Hurt
The Eagles may have never made it out of the divisional round against the Falcons were it not for this missed interception by Keanu Neal off his knee. The ball ricocheted into the arms of Torrey Smith, allowing Nick Foles to lead the Eagles to a huge field goal just before halftime.
They got lucky, and all teams that win a championship need luck.
The Phillies may not have made it out of their opening round series against the Cardinals were it not for the luck of a well-placed ground ball. Trailing 2-1 in the 9th inning, the Phillies loaded the bases with one out against St. Louis’ closer with second baseman Jean Segura at the plate. On a 2-2 pitch, Segura reached out and poked a grounder that somehow, in some way, snuck under the glove of the diving second baseman for a two-run single.
The Phillies would score 6 runs in that 9th inning, catapulting them on their way through this postseason blitz.
But if that ball is caught, this whole thing may have never happened. Just like the Neal interception.
Playing the Villains for the Title
In 2017, the Eagles had to go up against the greatest player in NFL history, Tom Brady, the man with five Super Bowl victories and seven appearances, and the New England Patriots. The subject of multiple cheating scandals during their dynastic run to an eventual six titles, New England entered the Super Bowl as substantial favorites. Outside of Philadelphia, not many experts gave the Birds a chance to upset them, and very few people outside of New England liked them.
While the Houston Astros haven’t won six titles, they are the closest thing to a baseball dynasty. This is their sixth straight season in the playoffs, and their fourth World Series appearance in six years. They won it all, ironically enough, in 2017, although subsequent sign stealing scandals have tarnished that championship. Many don’t believe it was legitimate, thanks to the scandal, in much the same way many Birds fans don’t believe their victory over Donovan McNabb’s Eagles after the 2004 season was legit, due to Spygate.
The Astros, like the Patriots, are baseball’s evil empire, and the rooting interest of the country will be on the side of Philadelphia for a change.
Chemistry is Everywhere
There was a special chemistry within the locker room of the 2017 Eagles that permeated onto the field. The players seemed to really love each other, offensive players and defensive players. Wentz was not the pariah that he eventually came to be, Foles was universally respected and adored by everyone on the team, and players like Malcolm Jenkins, Brandon Graham and Chris Long made sure that everyone was pulling in the same direction.
I mean, the celebrations alone took time together to coordinate.
philadelphia deserves another 2017-eagles type team, will run through you, spit on you, then electric slide on your grave. pic.twitter.com/o5PHHNY3uS— justin (@justinontwt) April 26, 2022
Four champagne soaked celebrations in a three-week span have a way of bringing a team together, and the Phillies are as loose and together as any baseball team we’ve ever seen. Their home run celebrations are on par with anything those ‘17 Birds came up with.
This is a team that is having fun and embracing the moment.
Break out the Dog Masks
Despite being the No. 1 seed entering the playoffs, the Eagles were underdogs in both their home playoff games, first against the Falcons and then against the Vikings. The reason? Nick Foles was starting in place of Carson Wentz.
Of course, we all know now that Foles was the real deal and that the Eagles were about more than just one missing player. Nevertheless, the dog masks came out and the Birds embraced the underdog role, playing with the confidence and energy of a team that no one outside of Philadelphia believed could win.
The Phillies did not enter the postseason as the No. 1 seed. Instead, out of a possible six NL playoff teams, the Phils were the No. 6 seed. They won 87 games, fewest of any National League team in the field, and were underdogs against the Cardinals, Braves and Padres. As a result, the Phils played like a team freed from the weight of expectations. Just getting to the playoffs was the victory. Postseason success would be icing on the cake.
Now, entering the World Series against the top seed in the American League, a team that won 106 games, the Phillies are certain to be massive underdogs once again. No one outside of Philly will pick them to win the series.
Folks, it’s time to break out the dog masks once again.