HOUSTON — The Phillies wanted another beer together, another conversation.
It wasn’t surprising to see this incredibly tight-knit group hang out one last time before returning to Philadelphia, where they’ll empty their closets early next week and scatter across the country and beyond. This team has taken Philadelphia on an absolutely wild and unpredictable ride over the past month. They didn’t want to leave.
Wheeler can appreciate the ride at that point, said it all. Because for a moment, it looked like the Phillies would force a Game 7 after Schwarber’s solo home run in the sixth inning. But Phillies manager Rob Thomson retired Wheeler with runners on the corners and singled for Jose Alvarado in the bottom of the sixth.
“It caught me off guard,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler had dominated until that point.
“He had lightning coming out of his hands today,” JT Realmuto said.
Alvarado allowed a three-run home run to Jordan Alvarez, who hit a ball in center field with a hitter’s eye.
The pitching change will be discussed and dissected, perhaps if anyone alive who saw it remembers it. But Philadelphia had just three hits in Game 6, and just nine hits in the last three games of the Series, as the Phillies lost. But later in the clubhouse, the players found ways to reflect on the season.
They brought baseball to Philly. They were the last team to clinch a postseason berth on Oct. 3 when they secured the third seed in the NL Wild Card. They entered the postseason as an 87-win team that no one expected to reach the World Series.
They should have come out early and easy. But they became the first team to score six runs in the ninth inning in a dramatic Game 1 victory in the NL Wild Card series in St. Louis.
Bryce Harper had one of the best postseasons in franchise history, hitting six home runs, including a leadoff hit in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series against San Diego, to send the Phillies to the World Series. Hoskins had an epic homer and at bat in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Braves. Schwarber smashed a homer into the second deck in right field at Petco Park in Game 1 of the NLCS. Schwarberfest was born. Realmuto had an inside-the-park home run in the NLDS and the game-winning home run in the 10th inning in Game 1 of the World Series. The Phillies hit a World Series record with five homers in Game 3.
The Phillies dominated Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez. The bullpen came out great.
Thomson kept pressing the right buttons almost all the way through.
It was like Citizens Bank Park turned up the volume, set the PitchCom to 20, and covered your ears hard in the infield.
“I knew Philly was a really good sports town coming in here, but to experience it, it’s a whole different animal,” Wheeler said. “The fans, they love their sport. They are 100 percent behind us. When we do bad things, they let us know and that’s great. We’ll have to take it when that happens, but I love these fans and it’s been fun hanging out with them.
Calum Scott’s “Dancing on my Own” was played every time the Phillies won. First, in the clubhouse. Then, through the sound system in the Bank.
It became the team’s anthem.
“We proved a lot of people wrong,” Zach Eflin said. “We have a lot to be proud of. But at the same time, it sucks. We just watched the Astros celebrate and do what we wanted to do. We just saw people make our dreams come true.”
“It hurts,” Nola said. “I know tomorrow will be even more painful. I think the chemistry and camaraderie carried us through to the end. I think this is overlooked today. Everyone loves each other in this club. There’s not a single selfish guy in this team, which I think says a lot about the club. Everyone’s feet were wet. Everyone knows what the postseason is all about. It depends. It’s a different kind of atmosphere. This is a different kind of winning. Because when you win, it is purest.”
Thomson asked Realmuto after each round how many more wins the Phillies needed to win the World Series.
It went down to 11, then eight, then four.
“We didn’t get it done,” Harper said. “We didn’t finish it. It doesn’t matter if you’re an 87-win or a 100-win team. Is not important. We couldn’t do it.”
But the Phillies believe that this is just the beginning. Not everyone will be back next season. But there are many of them. Maybe with some changes to the roster they can get things done.
“Now there’s flavor,” Schwarber said. “This is a positive thing. It’s going to be a fast season now. Everyone has that taste in their mouth and knows what it takes. So it will be interesting.”