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25 Most Unforgettable Pennant Race Moments in Philadelphia Phillies History

Greg PintoCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2016

25 Most Unforgettable Pennant Race Moments in Philadelphia Phillies History

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    It's that time of the year again. 

    No, it's not Christmas. You won't wake up and find any presents under the tree. It's not Thanksgiving either, so no turkey for dinner. 

    It's time for Major League Baseball's pennant race to kick into full gear, and while the Philadelphia Phillies are trying their damnedest to fight and claw their way back into the race, it looks like they'll sit this one out. 

    So it goes without saying, if the Phillies do somehow make the postseason this year, it will be nothing short of a miracle and probably the greatest pennant race moment in franchise history. 

    For some historical perspective on what that means, here's a look at the most unforgettable pennant chase moments in the history of the Phillies franchise—some great, some, well, not so much.  

The 2012 Phillies: Flop or Fly?

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    Do the Phillies have a magical run in them in 2012? 

    Ultimately, only time will tell. Even after scuffling for most of the season, the Phillies find themselves in a position to make some noise in the wild-card hunt as they play through their weakest part of this season's schedule. 

    This could be their proving grounds—13 straight games against the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins and New York Mets—all sub-.500 teams; all very beatable. 

    Nate Schierholtz walked off a Phillies win in the first game of that stretch. Will there be more heroics to come? 

Alexander's Incredible Season Can't Lift Phillies

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    The Phillies made their first trip to the World Series in 1915, and though they would eventually lose that series to the Boston Red Sox, there was plenty of reason to be hopeful for the next season. 

    A big part of the reason why was, undoubtedly, starting pitcher Pete Alexander, the club's ace. 

    While Alexander is a baseball legend today, at the time, he was just one of the best starting pitchers in the game, and he was only getting better. 

    In 1916, the big right-handed thrower would put on an incredible display of pitching down the stretch run as he tried to secure the Phillies' return trip to the World Series. 

    They would eventually finish in second place despite 16 shutouts from Alexander that season.

Phillies Clinch the Pennant in '78

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    "Revenge" would probably have been an appropriate theme for the Phillies' 1978 season. 

    In the two previous seasons, they had been embarrassed by the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively, in the National League Championship Series. They were a good team, but they couldn't get the job done. 

    And don't think that the media wasn't catching on to that. They were building a reputation as a team without the "clutch gene" and really needed to get the job done in '78. 

    For a second straight year, while although clinching a playoff berth was a great feeling, it almost felt like a small first step for the Phillies. 

    Winning the World Series was the goal.

    For a third straight season, they failed. This was a team in the prime of its existence and yet, the media, fans and others around the game had given up on them. 

    They had the pieces. They had the tools. They just didn't know how to win.

Phillies Clinch the East in '77

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    1977 was a big year for the Phillies. 

    After being a yearly loser for what felt like forever, the team won the National League East in 1976 before they were embarrassed by the Cincinnati Reds in the postseason. 

    Needless to say, they were eager to get back the next year. 

    The Phillies were one of the best teams in the National League—in baseball as a whole, as a matter of fact—in '77 and a lot of people liked their chances. 

    Clinching the NL East was almost akin to "making it official." Everyone knew that the Phillies were good enough to win the World Series. Now, all they needed to do was, well, do it. 

    They couldn't. 

    For the second straight season, the Phillies were embarrassed in the postseason. This time, by the Los Angeles Dodgers and a little help from "Black Friday." 

The Beginning of It All: Phillies Clinch 1915 Pennant

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    I hope this team got to savor the moment. 

    The Phillies had been a member of the National League since 1883 and still didn't have a pennant. They had undergone a name change, ditched the Quakers' brand and become the Phillies, but still remained without a pennant. 

    In 1915, it looked like their luck would change. The Phillies boasted one of the best pitchers in the game in right-handed workhorse Pete Alexander and finally scrounged up enough offense to get him some runs. 

    They would win the pennant that season for the first time and eventually take on the Boston Red Sox in the World Series—a series that they would lose. 

    The Phillies wouldn't win another pennant for 35 years.

Phillies Sweep Cardinals in '93 to Reverse the Phold

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    The pennant race was just getting underway in 1993, but the Phillies were already scuffling a bit. 

    After coming out of the gate to open the season like their pants were on fire, the Phillies started to give the people who thought that they were just a fluke team on a hot streak the satisfaction they were looking for. 

    They started to fade. 

    All of the sudden, the Phillies found themselves compared to the 1964 team that "pholded" right out of the postseason. Oddly enough, they were ready to open a series against the St. Louis Cardinals—the team that started the "Phold" in '64. 

    Up by five games in the NL East but coming off of two straight losses, the Phillies found themselves needing to win this series to keep themselves atop the division.

    Boy, did they ever do that. 

    The Phillies swept the Cardinals behind a potent offense that would score 30 runs in the series and pitching that was good enough to keep the Redbirds' bats at bay. 

    For a lot of folks, this was the series that "reversed the Phold." This team would get a shot at the World Series.

Lonborg Tosses Complete Game to Down Expos, Clinch East

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    Jim Lonborg was having an incredible season for the Phillies in 1976, so it was only appropriate that he be on the mound with a chance to wrap up the pennant race that season. 

    Lonborg, who would eventually win 17 games in '76, wasn't exactly faced with the toughest competition. The Montreal Expos were a team that would go on to lose 101 games that season. 

    With all of the dominoes falling into place, Lonborg wrapped up the race in style. He pitched a complete game and surrendered just a single earned run as the Expos would watch the Phillies celebrate a postseason berth. 

Diaz Goes 5-for-5 as Phils Clinch

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    Less than a week after Steve Carlton won his 300th game, his battery mate put on quite the show of his own while helping the Phillies to clinch a division title. 

    Bo Diaz was the Phillies' starting catcher in 1983, and while he wasn't particularly known for his offensive contributions, he couldn't be stopped on September 28, 1983. 

    With a chance to clinch the division against the Chicago Cubs, Dias went 5-for-5, scored four runs and drove in three. Among those five hits were two home runs. 

    Mike Schmidt also homered in the game and 39-year-old second baseman Joe Morgan went 4-for-4.

Phillies Throw a 10-Spot on Astros to Clinch Third Straight Division Title

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    The Phillies made one of the most curious moves of the 2009 season when they decided to bolster their starting rotation by adding a future Hall of Famer that had been on the down and outs—Pedro Martinez. 

    After fine tuning his repertoire in the Phillies' minor league system, Martinez joined the Phillies for the pennant race and proved to be a very useful asset. 

    He took the mound against the Houston Astros late in September with a chance for the Phillies to clinch. While he lasted just four innings, the potent Phillies' offense was no match for the Astros' pitching, as they would hang a 10-spot on them en route to their third consecutive NL East title.

Phillies Roll off 11-Game Win Streak in 2010

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    This will be something that you will probably hear often now that there are two wild-card spots up for grabs. However, it was something that you heard prior to this season as well: A lot of times, the hottest team during the pennant race makes the postseason. 

    Now, that's not the whole story of the 2010 Phillies, who were a very good team. However, they were as hot as ever heading into the thick of the postseason race as well. 

    With a rotation full of aces and a lineup that was having a bit of a renaissance, the Phillies rolled off an 11-game winning streak from September 12-24, 2010 that helped them seal their postseason fate.

    Related: How happy is Mike Sweeney?  

Phillies Aide in Mets' 2007 Collapse

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    If this were a slideshow about the New York Mets, this would be No. 1. 

    The Mets were in a comparable situation to the 1964 Phillies back in 2007. They held a seven-game lead over the Phillies in the National League East with the finish line in sight. 

    If they played even average baseball, they would have made the postseason. But they couldn't do it. They just couldn't find ways to win. 

    Of course, the Phillies helped their own cause. 

    The Phillies played the Mets just three times in the month of September that year—a three-game set at Shea Stadium. 

    It would be fitting for the Mets, with the way they had been playing, to lose that series, and they did—in grand fashion. 

    The Phillies swept them right out of their own ballpark and moved to within 3.5 games of the division lead. About two weeks later, they'd win the NL East on the final day of the season.

'93 Phillies Destined to Phold?

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    The 1993 season wasn't all rainbows and butterflies for the Phillies. At one point in time, they were scuffling bad. 

    Members of the media started comparing them to the 1964 club that had a 6.5-game lead erased with just 12 games to play and at times, the resemblance seemed uncanny. 

    In fact, it seemed more appropriate for this team—a bunch of misfits that many believed were playing over their heads—than that '64 team. 

    After a scorching start to the month of August, the Phillies started to fade down the stretch. For nearly a month,  this club played mediocre baseball that had a lot of people wondering...

    Are they destined to repeat the fate of the infamous '64 Phillies? 

Oswalt Strikes out Seven, Rollins Logs Four Hits, Phils Clinch Fifth Straight

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    Despite their early exit from the postseason, the Phillies were a great team in 2011. 

    Of course, most of that fact centered around their elite starting pitching corps and it was on full display against the St. Louis Cardinals on September 17, 2011. 

    For the first time in a long time, the question wasn't if the Phillies could clinch a division title, but when. 

    Roy Oswalt, who had missed a lot of time that season with a back injury, stepped up to answer that question. He punched out seven Redbirds in seven innings and shortstop Jimmy Rollins provided the offense, collecting four hits and scoring a pair of runs. 

    For the fifth consecutive season, the Phillies were National League East champions, and this time, they could celebrate in style. No one was close.

Bruntlett Turns an Unassisted Triple Play

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    If there is something more embarrassing than having Eric Bruntlett turn a triple play on you to end a game in the heat of a pennant race, well, I'm not all too sure what it is. 

    But that was the case for the New York Mets. 

    It was the bottom of the ninth inning and the Mets were threatening with runners on first and second and no outs. 

    In the blink of an eye, there were three. 

    The Mets made a questionable decision to hit and run and a line drive was smashed right at Bruntlett, playing shortstop. He made the catch, tug second and fired to first. 

    One play, three outs. Game over.


Carlton Wins 300th Game in Midst of Pennant Race

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    On September 23, 1983, the Phillies were right in the thick of a pennant race and desperate to get back into the mix. 

    They had won the World Series in 1980, were bounced from the postseason early by the Montreal Expos in the strike-shortened 1981 season and missed the postseason all together in 1982. 

    Their window was closing and fast. It was an undeniable and unavoidable fact of life. The Phillies were getting old. Outside of Von Hayes, who was an enigma in his own right that season, the Phillies' youngest everyday player was 30-year-old shortstop Ivan de Jesus. 

    They needed this pennant race and Steve Carlton was ready to help in any way that he could. 

    So on this day in 1983, Carlton made history. He took the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals up three games in the division and hurled a gem, tossing eight innings and striking out 12 en route to the win—the 300th of his career.

Storybook '93 Team Clinches Division

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    Now this was a team that the city of Philadelphia could rally behind. 

    The 1993 Phillies were a group of hard-nosed, blue-collar workers that just wanted to play baseball. They weren't concerned about being "professional athletes" or how they looked. They just wanted to win the World Series. 

    The Phillies would finally get that opportunity in '93—the first time in a decade. 

    The date was September 28, 1993. The Phillies had battled the National League for nearly an entire season and at some points, they even battled members of the media that compared them to the 1964 Phillies that folded out of the postseason race. 

    But on this day, the Phillies could end all of that. 

    They sent starting pitcher Mike Williams to the bump against the Pittsburgh Pirates and were in for a battle. Williams was gone after just 5.2 innings and an offensive slug-fest ensued. 

    The Phillies rallied behind a three-run home run by Mariano Duncan in the seventh inning and defeated the Pirates 10-7, clinching their first division title since 1983. 

The Start of a Magical Run

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    Pete Rose changed the entire complexion of the Phillies when he joined the club in 1979. Though they didn't make the postseason that year and there wasn't a great moment to add to this list, Rose began to take over. 

    After years of steamrolling the rest of the National League as a member of the "Big Red Machine," Rose taught the Phillies how to do the one thing that they had been lacking—win. 

    Rose's passion for the game must have inspired the Phillies in 1980 because they took the field like a team on a mission. 

    Behind arms like Steve Carlton and Tug McGraw and bats like Rose and Mike Schmidt, they were a real threat. 

    Schmidt went on a tear at the end of the season and hit a number of dramatic home runs to help the Phillies clinch the National League East, once again, with the Montreal Expos in the opposing dugout. 

Phillies Sweep Braves in Atlanta; End Their Season

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    Maybe it was revenge for their decade of dominance at the top of the NL East. 

    Maybe the Phillies just really didn't want to face the Atlanta Braves in the postseason. 

    Whatever the case may have been, they headed to Turner Field for the final series of the 2011 regular season to take on the wild-card leading Braves having already clinched the division, and the Phillies were determined. 

    They played some of their best baseball of the regular season and swept the Braves in three games, allowing the scorching St. Louis Cardinals to sneak into the wild-card lead. 

    That was it. 

    Three short games and the Braves' season was over, all thanks to the Phillies.

Halladay Tosses Complete Game Shutout to Clinch East

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    Saying that Roy Halladay came to the Phillies "as advertised" in 2010 probably wouldn't do his season any justice. 

    He was better than advertised. 

    The Phillies paid a hefty price for their new ace, but it didn't take him long to prove that he was worth it. Earlier in the season, he had pitched a perfect game and a few weeks from this moment, he'd toss the second postseason no-hitter in baseball history. 

    So it was only fitting that it was Doc on the mound to seal the deal for the Phillies' 2010 squad. After dominating the Washington Nationals all season long, Halladay tossed a complete game shutout as the Phillies routed the Nats and secured their fourth straight NL East title.

Rollins Turns Slick Double Play as Phils Clinch Second Straight East Title

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    2008 was quite the year for the Phillies. 

    For the second straight year, they trailed the New York Mets in the standings for a good bit of the season and for the second straight year, they left their rival in the dust. 

    The Phillies clinched the NL East in fashion in '08. Jimmy Rollins turned a slick double play after making a diving stop against the Washington Nationals and for the second straight year, they'd celebrate their division title as the Nats watched.

Remembering September 11, 2001

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    It was one of the iconic moments in the history of Philadelphia sports. 

    The 2001 season had been interrupted by one of the most heinous terrorist attacks in the history of the world on September 11, 2001, and MLB put its slate of games on an indefinite pause. 

    When the United States was ready to resume its pastime, we saw some of the most unforgettable moments in the history of the game, including right here in the city of Philadelphia. 

    Like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, this country rose out of the shadow of one of the darkest moments ever seen. 

    On field tributes gave way to some of the most meaningful baseball ever played, regardless of a team's position in the standings. 

    But when the Phillies resumed play on September 17, 2001, there was hope in their pennant chase. They were just 2.5 games out of first place. 

The Phold

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    It was the most infamous stretch of games in franchise history and their worst collapse of all-time—perhaps the greatest collapses in the history of sports. 

    The Phillies were sitting pretty in first place with just 12 games to play. They held a nice lead in the division and if they could play just .500 baseball the rest of the way, that would be fine. They'd still win the pennant. 

    But not so fast. 

    The most infamous moment in franchise history came when St. Louis' Chico Ruiz stole home against the Phillies in a game that they would lose. Dick Allen called it the play that "broke our humps." 

    The Phillies would go on to lose 10 of their final 12 games and miss the postseason. Manager Gene Mauch received the most flak for overusing his lethal one-two punch of Jim Bunning and Chris Short. 

    Whatever the cause though, it was a moment that will forever live in Philadelphia sports infamy. 

Phillies Clinch NL East on Final Day of '07 Season

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    The Phillies were making a storybook run at a division title back in 2007 and had all of the momentum in the world. 

    On the final day of the season, there was plenty of drama. 

    After sweeping the New York Mets a few weeks earlier, the Phillies had moved to within striking distance of first place and the teams started moving in opposite directions. 

    The Phillies used that sweep of the Mets as a springboard and went on a tear while their New York Rivals started sinking fast. 

    With one game to play, the NL East was literally up for grabs. A Phillies' win and a Mets' loss would give the Phillies their first playoff berth since 1993. Swap the outcomes and the Mets would head back to the postseason. 

    So you can imagine the excitement coursing throughout the city of Philadelphia as the Mets' score went final—Florida Marlins 8, Mets 1. 

    Citizens Bank Park went bonkers.

    Not long after that, the fans turned it up a notch. Brett Myers celebrated on the mound and the rest of the city would follow suit as the Phillies defeated the Washington Nationals, completed the improbable comeback and would move on to the postseason.

Sisler's Walk-Off, Pennant-Clinching Home Run

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    The 1950 Phillies would eventually go on to become one of the most beloved teams in the history of Philadelphia sports, but they wouldn't have been such a great team with the story without the lumps they took along the way. 

    The "Whiz Kids" kicked off the pennant race with their strongest month of the season in August. But as the season progressed, the club's injuries mounted. The month of September wasn't kind to the Phillies and they found themselves in a dead heat with the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

    With one more loss against the Dodgers, they'd be forced into a three-game playoff for the National League pennant. In grand fashion, it all came down to the season's final day. 

    Though there was some speculation surrounding whether or not the Phillies would pitch their ace on this day, they eventually did, and the result was an excellent matchup: Robin Roberts versus Don Newcombe of the Dodgers. 

    The two dueled the whole game, which would eventually move into extra innings. 

    Roberts kicked off the Phillies' half of the inning with a single and Eddie Waitkus followed suit. Richie Ashburn sacrificed them over with a bunt and that set the stage for Dick Sisler. 

    It was one of the greatest home runs in the history of baseball. 

    Sisler launched a three-run shot over the wall and gave the Phillies a three-run cushion that would eventually clinch the pennant. Roberts retired the side in the bottom half of the 10th inning and the Phillies were the National League champions.

Chico Ruiz Steals Home

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    Dick Allen called it the play that "broke our humps." 

    The date was September 21, 1964 and the Phillies were sitting pretty with a 6.5-game lead and just 12 games left to play. On this date in particular, they took on the Cincinnati Reds. 

    It was a well-pitched ball game that featured Art Mahaffey of the Phillies and John Tsitouris of the Reds, and neither looked like they would flinch. 

    But Mahaffey did. 

    A pitch bounced around at home plate and catcher Clay Dalrymple couldn't corral it in time to tag out the Reds' Chico Ruiz, who broke for home on the play. 

    He stole home. 

    It was a play that took the air right out of the Phillies' sails and, as far as many are concerned, started the "Phold." 

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