To state the obvious, getting to the postseason is not easy.
Some fans believe that fate plays a hand in the outcome of the regular season, while others will boldly proclaim that the hottest teams make the playoffs and the hottest team of them all wins the World Series, but all can agree that it's not easy.
All of the pieces need to fall into place. Team chemistry is one thing that great teams have always stressed, but no team would make the postseason without a vast amount of talent. You don't get to the playoffs without being a good team, and you don't win the World Series unless you're firing on all cylinders.
But once a team reaches the postseason, magical things happen.
Sure, that sounds like a cheesy thing to say, but how else can you put it? Great moments are crafted during the regular season, but the postseason is a different beast. The stakes are higher and emotions run wild, and now, when great moments happen, they are so much more than just great moments—these moments are what legends are made of.
The Philadelphia Phillies have had their share of memorable postseason moments. Since their inception in 1883, the Phillies have appeared in the postseason following 14 different seasons. That opens the door for a number of great moments, but which of them made the cut?
As with most lists of this nature, there were a number of great postseason moments in the history of the Phillies' organization that didn't quite make the actual list, but they were too good to go unmentioned. So here they are, in no particular order:
- Chase Utley hits five home runs during the 2009 World Series, tying the all-time record.
- Ineligible for the postseason because of military service, Curt Simmons is granted leave to support his Phillies club during the 1950 World Series.
- In one of the biggest surprises in World Series history, Jim Konstanty, who won the National League MVP Award during the regular season as a reliever, is chosen to start Game 1 of the 1950 World Series for the Phillies.
- Though the Houston Astros would eventually win the game, Game 3 of the 1980 NLCS featured one of the best pitching duels in the history of the NLCS, as Larry Christenson and Joe Niekro pitched to the tune of a 1-0 game.
- Dallas Green nearly blows a gasket after a controversial call during the 1980 NLCS.
- After a bitter loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers years earlier in the NLCS, the Phillies were able to regain redemption for "Black Friday" in 1983 by defeating the Dodgers in four games.
- Deadlocked at one run apiece heading into the eighth inning, starting pitchers John Denny and Scott McGregor were dueling in the first game of the 1983 World Series—that is, until ABC took an extended break following the seventh inning to have Howard Cosell interview President Ronald Reagan. McGregor surrendered a home run the following inning and blamed the layoff during the interview for keeping him from staying loose.
- During the 2009 NLDS, Ryan Howard crafted his famous "Get me to the plate, boys" quote, and when the Phillies did just that, Howard responded with a game-tying double.
- It may seem trivial, but the Phillies win in Game 1 of the 1977 NLCS was the club's first postseason win since the 1915 World Series.
Cliff Lee was excited to be in the World Series back in 2009, but you would have never guessed it by watching him on the mound for the majority of the game.
Playing through the first postseason of his career, Lee baffled the New York Yankees (like he had done to the rest of his opponents in the 2009 postseason) and made it look easy. Literally.
Lee nonchalantly shagged a pop-up like he was throwing batting practice, and on a different play, he snagged a comebacker behind his back.
He was showing that he likes being in the postseason in his own, unique way.
Despite the fact that it was a relatively low-scoring game (the final score was 4-3), the Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers took time trading home runs during Game 4 of the 1978 NLCS, and Greg Luzinski and Bake McBride were able to give fans hope, albeit for just a brief time.
After falling behind early, Greg Luzinski put the Phillies ahead with a two-run shot, and after falling behind in the run column yet again, Bake McBride tied it up with a home run of his own.
A surprisingly shaky defensive inning from Garry Maddox would eventually cost the Phillies the game, however.
After several seasons of embarrassing exits from the NLCS, the Phillies were ready to kick things off the right way in 1980, and they did just that in Game 1.
Though the series between the Phillies and Houston Astros would shape up to be one of the best postseason series of all time, there weren't many home runs. In fact, Greg Luzinski deposited a ball over the wall in Game 1 of the series, and it would prove to be the only home run hit in the NLCS.
Steve Carlton didn't mind. The two-run home run by Luzinski would be all of the run support he needed, as he held the Astros to one run through seven innings and Tug McGraw nailed down a two-inning save.
By the time the World Series rolled around in 1980, the Phillies hadn't won a game in the Fall Classic since Game 1 of the 1915 World Series. Needless to say, they wanted to capture that elusive first title as much as the fans did.
Despite falling behind early to the Kansas City Royals in Game 1, the Phillies came out guns blazing. In the third inning, Bake McBride hit a dramatic, three-run home run, and the Phillies added two more runs in the inning to take the lead.
Later in the game, Tug McGraw would come in and nail down the save, moving the Phillies one win closer towards their first World Series title.
When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, the club was firing on all cylinders. That statement was especially true for a very dynamic group of offensive players, who by the time October rolled around, could practically smell that trophy.
With the Tampa Bay Rays being the only team standing between the Phillies and the club's first World Series title since 1980, the Phillies' offense clicked into a higher gear.
Providing the horsepower was a pair of homegrown talents, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Though they'd accomplish a number of feats that year, Utley and Howard became just the 14th pair of teammates in baseball history to hit back-to-back home runs in the World Series.
Later in the game, Eric Bruntlett would slide into home plate to give the Phillies a two-games-to-one advantage in the series.
How Joe Blanton managed to hit a home run with that swing is something that I'll never be able to understand, but that's beside the point.
Game 4 was a game that the Tampa Bay Rays would like to forget. Blanton was in complete control. Not only did he allow just four hits and two runs over six innings, but he managed to hit a home run...with his eyes closed!
The Phillies would win that game by a score of 10-2, moving them within one victory of their second World Series title.
After being swept out of the previous two National League Championship Series, the Phillies were looking for a bit more success in 1978, but with two games in the series already in the books, the Phillies found themselves in danger of being swept yet again, this time by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
All hope was not lost, as the Phillies sent their ace, Steve Carlton, to the mound to take on the Dodgers, and he had a performance that would have won the game single-handedly.
Carlton pitched a complete game and gave himself all of the run support he would need. The Phils' ace slugged a three-run home run and added a fourth RBI on a single, later scoring another run on a double by Jerry Martin.
For the sake of this slideshow, however, we'll talk about another memorable moment in his career, this one coming in the 1980 World Series.
Noles was the Phillies' starter for Game 4 of the Fall Classic, and though the Phils would eventually fall in that game, Noles crafted one of the most memorable postseason moments in Phillies history for throwing a pitch right at the chin of Kansas City Royals superstar George Brett.
Teammate Mike Schmidt would later call that moment "the greatest brushback in World Series history."
The Phillies brought Pete Rose aboard before the 1979 season for one reason alone: He was a proven winner. Though the Phillies didn't make the postseason that season, a year later, they were one of the favorites to win it all in 1980.
First, they had to go through the Houston Astros, and Rose was willing to literally run right through them.
Tied at three runs apiece with Rose on the basepaths, Greg Luzinski stepped up to the plate and promptly mashed a double. Hustling as hard as he always does, Rose had a chance to score, but it was going to be close.
With Astros catcher Bruce Bochy blocking the plate, there was a collision, and Rose often won those. This time was no different, as Rose scored the go-ahead—and what would turn out to be the deciding—run.
For Phillies fans, there wasn't much to be happy about during the 2011 postseason. As far as both the fans and the team were concerned, it ended much too soon.
The best moment of the series may have been the epic pitching duel between Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter, but that didn't end well for Phillies fans. Instead, I'll mention this moment as the most memorable from the 2011 postseason.
With each club having won a game in Philadelphia, the series shifted to St. Louis, where Cole Hamels would take the mound to oppose St. Louis Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia. Both men were brilliant this day, each throwing up zeroes in the run column for most of the game.
Both starters pitched six shutout innings, but the scoring would begin in the top of the seventh, when with two men on base, Ben Francisco pinch-hit for Hamels. He promptly launched a three-run home run over the outfield wall in left-center, as it just cleared and the Phillies took a three-run lead.
Though the Cardinals would score twice, Francisco's home run would prove to be the decisive blow.
Just a couple of days after being no-hit by Roy Halladay and an even shorter amount of time since facing Roy Oswalt, the Cincinnati Reds once again had to deal with a legitimate ace, this time, the longest-tenured Phillies starting pitcher in Cole Hamels.
Down two games in the series, the Reds had their work cut out for them, despite being at home. Just two seasons ago, Hamels had been named the MVP of both the NLCS and the World Series en route to lifting the trophy over his head at the season's conclusion.
Now he was prepared to show the world why the Phillies' starting rotation was a force to be reckoned with.
Hamels took the mound in Cincinnati, and like Halladay before him, baffled one of the game's best offensive units. He scattered just five hits, tossing a complete game shutout and sending the Phillies to the NLCS for the third consecutive season.
When the 1993 season began, one of these two teams was supposed to be in the postseason, but it wasn't the Phillies. The Atlanta Braves looked like the better baseball team, and there weren't many people who believed the Phillies could compete.
But they did.
These National League rivals sat atop the league throughout most of the season, and now they met to do battle in the postseason.
With the series tied at two games apiece, Game 5 was pivotal. As expected, it was a battle. The Phillies held the lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, but the Braves scored three to tie it off of Phillies closer Mitch Williams.
With the Braves at home, the momentum shifted in their favor, that is, until Lenny Dykstra hit a home run in the next half inning and Larry Andersen collected the save in the next half to give the Phillies the win, and more importantly, the series lead.
The 1981 postseason isn't mentioned often, so it couldn't possibly be more fitting that a guy like George Vukovich, who had a couple of solid seasons for the Phillies but flew under the radar, was the star.
The 1981 season was unique because it was interrupted by a labor strike. Split into two halves because of the strike, a division series was created. The series was set up so that the leaders of each half would play each other. For example, the leader of the NL East in the first half would square off with the leaders of the NL East in the second half.
Hence, the Phillies played the Montreal Expos in the 1981 National League Division Series.
That series didn't provide many highlights for the Phillies, who would eventually lose in five games, but it did give Vukovich the chance to hit a dramatic, walk-off home run in the 10th inning of Game 4.
When the Phillies acquired Cliff Lee at the trade deadline in 2009, no one could have foreseen the impact that he was going to have on the club, especially during the postseason. Lee wanted to win the World Series, and he was going to run right over any team that stood in his way.
One of those poor victims happened to be the Los Angeles Dodgers, who dared to stand in Lee's way during the 2009 NLCS—the second year in a row that these teams matched up in the series.
Needless to say, Lee wasn't impressed.
After the Phillies rocked Hiroki Kuroda early in the game, Lee put the pitching on cruise control, scattering three hits and shutting out the Dodgers, as the Phillies jumped out to a two-games-to-one advantage in the series.
Back in 2008, CC Sabathia turned the Milwaukee Brewers into a legitimate World Series contender. After acquiring him from the Cleveland Indians, Sabathia ran roughshod over the National League, winning 11 games and losing just two. Now he was an integral part of the Brewers' staff, slated to start Game 2 of the NLDS.
The Phillies would counter with Brett Myers, so naturally, a lot of pundits favored the Brewers in this matchup. However, the best matchup of Myers versus Sabathia came in a less-than-traditional sense: with Myers at the plate.
After surrendering a run in the first inning, Myers came to bat in the bottom half of the second inning and did battle with Sabathia, fouling off several pitches and forcing the count full before drawing a walk, much to the delight of the Phillie faithful.
Sabathia was noticeably agitated, and later in the inning, Shane Victorino would help him to an early shower by hitting a grand slam that would be all Myers needed to deliver a victory for the Phillies.
All Matt Stairs ever tried to do was hit home runs, and that wasn't a bad thing. Realistically, that's what the Phillies paid him to do. He wasn't an adequate defender. He was slow. He couldn't hit for average.
The Phillies picked up Stairs during the waiver period during the regular season, hoping to add a powerful left-handed bat off the bench, and Stairs proved to be just that. He even forced the fanbase into creating a catchy slogan: "In case of emergency, use Stairs."
Game 4 of the NLCS was the defining moment of Stairs' career.
Trailing by two heading into the top half of the eighth inning, Shane Victorino quickly leveled the score by hitting a two-run home run. Carlos Ruiz followed that up with a single and then came the moment when the Phillies were looking for that power. The Dodgers made a call to the bullpen, bringing their closer, Jonathan Broxton, into the game, and Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel called the Dodgers' play by playing his ace in the hole, sending Stairs out to pinch hit.
It was truly a matchup of epic proportions. Broxton favored his high-velocity fastball, and all Stairs wanted to do was hit a fastball into the bleachers. Realistically, one man was going to get his way, and on this night, it was Stairs.
Broxton threw him a fastball right in the happy zone, and Stairs knows what to do with those. He mashed a no-doubt-about-it home run way into the outfield seats, and the Phillies took a two-run lead.
Nowadays, the home run is known more simply as "The Moon Shot."
When Game 1 of the 1983 NLCS started, the Phillies hadn't appeared in the postseason since the 1983 World Series, so one can imagine what Kim Batiste was feeling when he made an error that helped the Atlanta Braves tie the score.
At home in Veterans Stadium, the Phillies would have the last laugh.
With John Kruk on the basepaths in the bottom of the 10th inning, Batiste stepped into the box looking for redemption, and he got it. He lined a double right over the third baseman's head, scoring Kruk and giving the Phils the win in Game 1.
Just a couple of seasons prior to this moment, Curt Schilling wasn't much of a pitcher in the MLB. Though talented, he struggled on the biggest stage, and after a few futile seasons in the rotation, he was moved into the bullpen, that is, until the Phillies swooped in and acquired him.
By 1993, Schilling was a legitimate ace, starting Game 1 of the World Series for the Phillies—a game he'd eventually lose.
That loss, however, would only be motivation for Schilling, who would come back with a vengeance in Game 5, scattering just five hits and pitching a complete game shutout while bringing the Phillies within one game of tying the series at three.
As we all know, however, that didn't end up happening.
When he's on the field, Chase Utley is the heartbeat of the Phillies. Throughout the history of the organization, there have been few players with the ability to personify the passion of the club's fanbase the way that Utley has, and Harry Kalas, knowing such, simply called him "The Man" because of it.
During the 2008 World Series, the qualities that make Utley "The Man" were on full display. Known as one of the game's smartest, savviest players, Utley made a classic play in Game 5 of the '08 Fall Classic that quickly got the Phillies out of a jam.
With the game tied at three runs apiece, the Tampa Bay Rays threatened to take the lead. With Jason Bartlett on the basepaths, Akinori Iwamura grounded a single towards Utley that should have allowed Bartlett to score—but not so fast.
There was no way that Utley, who had to range far towards the second base bag, was going to throw out the speedy Iwamura at first base. Instead, he faked the throw across his body, confusing Bartlett, who was heading towards home plate, and threw a perfect one-hopper to Carlos Ruiz, who quickly applied the tag.
Just like that, the Phillies were out of a jam.
Getting to the World Series was certainly not a guarantee for the Phillies, given their proficiency for finding ways to lose in the NLCS in years past and a very talented Houston Astros' pitching staff.
That staff was on display in the decisive Game 5, when the Astros sent flame-throwing, right-handed starter Nolan Ryan to the mound and gave him a three-run lead. Without divulging into the numbers, when Ryan took a three-run lead into the eighth inning in his career, he was nearly unbeatable.
The Phillies had a different plan on this day.
On the brink of being eliminated from yet another NLCS, the Phillies channeled their inner Pete Rose and rallied against one of the game's best pitchers. The Phillies would score three runs to tie the game at five runs apiece, and Manny Trillo would give the Phils the lead.
The Astros would later come back to tie the game, but the Phillies pushed across the go-ahead run in the 10th inning, and Dick Ruthven retired the Astros in order in their half of the inning, sending the Phillies to the World Series and capping off one of the greatest postseason series of all time.
Jonathan Broxton couldn't wait to get out of the National League. When his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers ended, he high-tailed it to Kansas City, eliminating most chances of him facing the Phillies in the NLCS in 2012, unless of course, he's traded.
OK, so that was a bit of a dramatization, but I can't imagine the former Dodgers closer likes facing the Phillies much.
In Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS, the Phillies jumped out to an early lead, but the Dodgers responded by scoring four unanswered runs to make the score 4-2 before Utley would respond in the bottom of the sixth inning to bring the Phillies within one with an RBI single. The score would remain 4-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Phillies just wouldn't quit.
Broxton, trying to earn a four-out save, started the inning the right way by setting down Raul Ibanez, but things started to get crazy thereafter. He walked Matt Stairs (because let's be honest, he wanted no piece of Matt Stairs after what happened in 2008) and hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch.
The Phillies were in business.
The tying run was at second base, and Greg Dobbs stepped to the plate, promptly lining out to an audible groan from the crowd. Now it was all up to Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies' shortstop lined a pitch into the alley for a double, as both runners would come around to score, and the Phillies extended their series lead to three games to one.
When Pat Burrell decided to retire at the end of January, his poor World Series performances came to light once again. In two World Series (with the Phillies and San Francisco Giants), Burrell recorded all of one hit. But it was huge. Quite possibly, it was the biggest hit of his career.
With Game 5 having resumed play, the Phillies were looking to take the lead once and for all, and Burrell was ready to break the tie in a big way. He smashed a double into the outfield, running his hardest towards second base and reaching with a double.
As Eric Bruntlett jogged towards second base to replace him as a pinch-runner, the crowd erupted. They knew as well as Burrell that this could be his last at-bat with the Phillies, and how fitting an at-bat it was.
A few moments later, Pedro Feliz lined a single back up the middle, scoring Bruntlett and giving the Phillies a lead they'd never give back.
When the Phillies acquired Roy Halladay prior to the 2010 season, a lot of people thought he was going to be very good in the National League, on a team with a legitimate shot at the World Series, but this good? No, no one thought he was going to be this good.
"Doc" threw a perfect game back in May, and now, heading into October, was looking for a win in his first career postseason start. In search of that elusive World Series ring, all he needed was to put the Phillies in the win column, but he did so much more.
He kept the Cincinnati Reds out of the hit column.
That was no simple task. The Reds were, statistically speaking, one of the best offensive teams in the National League in 2010, and for their only baserunner to come via a (questionable) ball four call, well, that was something no one could have expected.
So as Carlos Ruiz threw Brandon Phillips out at first base, Citizens Bank Park became flooded with emotion. Halladay and Ruiz embraced on the mound and the city of Philadelphia celebrated around them.
It was just the second time in baseball history, the other being Don Larsen's legendary perfect game in the World Series, that a team was no-hit in the postseason.
It's an image that Phillies fans will never forget.
After a perfect season, the Phillies put their World Series hope in the hands of a man who had been flawless all season long—Brad Lidge. With a devastating fastball/slider combination, he'd baffled the opposition throughout the year, and now, if he could do it one more time, the Phillies would be world champions.
Nursing a one-run lead, we fast-forward to the game's final hitter, Eric Hinske. Lidge and Carlos Ruiz worked hard to run the count to two strikes, and now the Rays were down to their final out—their final strike.
Needing one more out, Lidge turned to his best pitch—the slider—and in an instant, it was over. Hinske struck out and the Phillies were world champions once again.
Lidge dropped to his knees in celebration, throwing his arms up towards the sky, and moments later, a dog pile ensued on the mound. From the players to the fans and everyone in between, sheer jubilation ran throughout the city of Philadelphia.
For a while, winning the World Series seemed to be more of a pipe dream than a realistic possibility for the Phillies and their fans. Doubt crept into their winds. The Phillies couldn't win the World Series in 1915, and Pete Alexander was their ace. The Whiz Kids couldn't do it. Then they lost three consecutive National League Championship Series.
Could this team really get it done?
That had to be the mindset heading into the 1980 season, but now, that mindset was a thing of the past. The Phillies were in the World Series. They had won three games. They were just a game away, then an inning, then just a strike.
With Willie Wilson in the batter's box, who better to finish off the series for the Phillies than Tug McGraw? With his final pitch of 1980, it was over. McGraw had struck out Wilson and the Phillies had become world champions for the first time.
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