In 2017, the improbable Philadelphia Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots as an underdog team. Appearing in their eighth Super Bowl in 15 years, winners of five, the Pats were also mired in multiple cheating scandals.
On Oct. 23, the underdog Philadelphia Phillies made their way to the World Series for the first time since 2009, ending a long, difficult 13-year drought for Philly fans. Their World Series opponents were the juggernaut Houston Astros.
The Astros are one of the best Major League Baseball teams in decades, appearing in their fourth World Series in six years. But much like the Patriots, the Astros are marked by one of the biggest cheating scandals in MLB history.
The Astros’ Jose Altuve was a key figure in the sign-stealing scandal, much like Tom Brady was the central figure in the Patriots’ deflated football scandal. Once again, the sports world was forced to root for the Phillies, the baseball team of their least favorite city.
The atmosphere was electric
Going into the Series, the Astros were heavy favorites. Most thought the Phillies’ luck would run out and it would be a clean Astros sweep. But the Phillies shocked everyone by roaring back from a 5-0 deficit to win 6-5 and steal Game 1 in Houston. After dropping Game 2 in Houston, the Phillies returned home to the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park where they met a raucous crowd and destroyed the Astros 7-0, hitting five home runs to take Game 3.
Avery Byrnes, a senior biology major, is a lifelong Phillies fan who attended all of the games in the World Series. “The atmosphere was electric and, of course, very loud. Everyone around was cheering on the Phillies as much as they could but also booing the other teams as well. Philly fans were having the times of their lives,” Byrnes said.
The Phillies had the upper hand going into Game 4 the next night at home in Philadelphia. However, the tide quickly turned as the Astros, behind Cristian Javier, the Astros’ hottest pitcher coming into the Series, silenced the Phillies’ bats with a World Series first: a combined no-hitter.
Javier pitched the first six innings before handing the ball to the best bullpen in the league, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly, who finished off the Phillies in a 5-0 victory. With the win, the Astros took back the home field advantage and evened the Series at two games apiece.
Early in Game 5, the Phillies struggled at the plate. This game matched the Atlantic League’s probable Cy Young award winner, pitcher Justin Verlander, against the Phillies’ late season pitching addition, Noah Syndergaard. Astros rookie Jeremy Pena was the star of the game with three hits in four at-bats, two RBIs, and the go-ahead homer in the fourth inning.
But the real story of Game 5 was missed opportunities. The Phillies magic disappeared as they could not come up with a key hit, leaving a whopping 12 runners on base. They had their chances to break the game open but ended up going 1-7 with runners in scoring position. The Astros took two out of three Philly games and headed back home for Games 6 and 7.
“One game at a time” was the Phillies motto going into Game 6 in Houston. Facing a must-win situation, they had to win Game 6 in order to force a Game 7. It was a fierce pitching duel with both starters, Zach Wheeler and Framber Valdez, posting five shutout innings. Kyle Schwarber started the scoring in the top of the sixth with a mammoth home run, giving the Phillies the 1-0 lead and the fans hope for a game 7.
But manager Rob Thomson made a crucial mistake by going to the bullpen too early. The Astros answered with a three-run Yordan Alvarez home run, which capped a four-run inning. The Astros bullpen did the rest and closed out a 4-1 Game 6 win over the Phillies and their second World Series title in six years.
“Losing in the World Series was very disappointing, but this team barely made the playoffs and played extremely tough through each series. Everyone counted us out from the beginning, but we continued to prove them wrong. I think the future holds a lot for the Phillies as we are a young team that has a lot of potential,” Byrnes said.
Although this Philadelphia “Cinderella Story” sequel might not have ended with a champions parade down Broad Street like the 2017 Eagles Super Bowl team, it had the same impact on the city. The Phillies Red October ended with a heartbreaking loss, but it was a historic season that will be remembered.
This group of underdogs, who had no business being in the World Series in the first place, not only captured the hearts and imagination of all Philadelphia fans, but baseball fans all across America as well. With a perfect blend of youth, veterans, chemistry, and a players’ manager, they also proved that they are a force to be reckoned with in years to come.