With 2021 heading to a close and the MLB stuck in their lockout, it is the perfect time to look back at this past year. While, ultimately, the Phillies season ended once again without a playoff appearance, it was still a fun ride at times.
The ball club featured the National League MVP, the runner-up for CY Young, plenty of walk-offs, and more. Winning streaks, debuts, and beautiful summer nights at Citizens Bank Park will be looked back on as December closes and as 2022 begins.
5. Back to Back to Back Walkoffs
Watching your favorite club win a game is always a great feeling. Watching your team hit a walk-off to win a game feels even better. So how does it feel when your team wins by a walk-off in three straight games?
The Phillies in total had 12 wins in 2021 in which they won by walk-off fashion. The Gatorade baths and running around the bases with your teammates chasing you is always a sight to see. Having to win a close game late is sometimes stressful, but when the Phils pull through it is all worth the nail-biting.
On June 9, the Phillies were in their second game of a series against their rivals the Atlanta Braves. The soon-to-be World Series champs would score a run in the top of the sixth to take a 1-0 lead. The Phillies bats were silent for much of the game and could not get anything going against starter Tucker Davidson. The Fightins were in the final frame and down to their last three outs. Rhys Hoskins led off the inning with a strikeout against Braves closer Will Smith. The veteran lefty would walk Andrew McCutchen and then get pinch hitter Brad Miller to fly out. The time came for rookie Luke Williams. In his first major league game and the game on the line, the rook came through.
The next game against the Braves was much of the same. A pitcher’s duel between Zach Wheeler and Ian Anderson left both teams scoreless through seven innings. The Phillies would break the scoring in the bottom of the eighth with back-to-back doubles from Odubel Herrera and Jean Segura. Heading into the ninth with a lead has become a trigger for most Phillies fans after the past couple of seasons. Hector Neris would check into the game with a chance to get the save, however that would not be the case. Former National League MVP Freddie Freeman would take Neris deep with one out in the top of the 9th to tie up the ballgame.
The Phils would not put up a fight in the bottom half of the inning and the game headed to extras. Jose Alverado would try and hold the lead. Once again the bullpen would let us all down. Alverado would get the first out of the inning, allowing the ghost runner Dansby Swanson to get to third base. Jose followed this up with the following sequence: Walk, passed ball (run scored), walk, strikeout, walk, passed ball (run scored), ground out. The Braves would score two runs to make it a 3-1 game heading into the bottom of the 10th.
Could lightning strike twice for the Phillies? An Alec Bohm single would knock in ghost runner Rafael Marchan to make it a 3-2 game with nobody out. This would bring Odubel Hererra to the plate. Herrera would smack his second double of the night and Alec Bohm would reach third. Jean Segura would step to the plate with two runners in scoring position. Jean “The Hit Machine” Segura once again stuck it to a division rival.
A day off on the 11th was a weird scheduling tactic by the MLB as the Phillies would rest before starting a two-game homestand against the big bad New York Yankees. The off-day would not cool down the red hot Phillies and it proved to be beneficial to the struggling offense. Through six innings the Phils had a 7-2 lead over New York and seemed to have the game under control.
Yet again the bullpen reared its ugly head. Hector Neris once again would head into the game with a lead in the 9th. A 7-4 ballgame and a two-game win streak should have been plenty to get the home team the win. Neris would walk Tyler Wade and Brett Gardner after retiring the first batter. DJ LeMahieu would step up to the dish for the Bronx Bombers and show the Philly faithful where the nickname comes from. A three-run blast would result in yet another blown save for the Phillies bullpen and Neris. How is it possible to blow three saves in just two games?
Both teams would come up empty in both the bottom on the 9th and top on the 10th. The Phillies wasted a leadoff double from Bryce Harper and the Yankees would go down in order thanks to Archie Bradley. Ronald Torreyes would be the team’s ghost runner and started off on second. Travis Jankowski would pinch hit for Bradley and looked to bring home the winning run.
A well-placed bunt by Jank would force Yankee’s closer, Aroldis Chapman, to field his position. A poor throw would result in Travis reaching base but a nice stop by the first basemen LeMahieu kept Ro-To on third. Odubel Herrera would foul out to third base and Jankowski would advance to second base to break up any potential for a double play. With a chance to send the fans home happy we insert Thursday’s hero Jean Segura. Segura once again would deliver in the clutch. An infield chopper to third basemen Gio Urshela would do the trick.
4. Nola Strikes Out 10 in a row
A few weeks after the Phillies completed three straight comebacks came another highlight of 2021. Aaron Nola was not the same pitcher this year as he has been in the past. Nola often struggled in bigger games and could not find consistency from start to start. Heading into a June 25th start against the Mets, the Phillies starter was carrying a 4.22 ERA.
A far cry from the 2.37 earned run average Nola posted in 2018. Looking for a solid start to get him back on the right path, Aaron would take the mound against the then first-place New York Mets. This game would be a seven-inning doubleheader and Nola would get the ball for the first game. A strikeout to Michael Conforto would be the first out of the game.
Aaron would punch out the next two batters to strand Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil on base and head into the next frame. The right-hander would once again strike out the side in the second. He did it again in the third. Heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, Michael Conforto would once again step into the batter’s box. Since his strikeout in the first, Aaron Nola had gone on to strike out 8 straight Mets. With a 2-2 pitch to the batter, Aaron Nola would make history.
Aaron Nola would tie Mets’ legend and Hall of Famer Tom Seaver as the only two pitchers to ever strike out 10 straight hitters consecutively. It had been 51 years since Seaver had completed this improbable feat. Nola added himself to the list and his name will forever be a part of history.
3. Bryce Harper wins MVP
When Bryce Harper first signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, one of the expectations of his 330 million dollar contract was to perform at an MVP level. When Bryce stepped onto the diamond in 2021, he did just that. Harper put up huge numbers this past year in South Philadelphia. Hitting .309 with an on-base plus slugging of 1.044, the Phillies’ right fielder could not be contained. Harper would add 42 doubles, 100 walks, and 35 home runs this season. This season culminated in his second MVP award and his first with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Harper was fantastic for this team this season. Without Bryce, there is no hope for the Phillies down the stretch like there was heading into the last month of the season. #3 was crucial to the team’s success in 2021. While at times the team as a whole was frustrating, Harper continued to be a must-watch every time he stepped in the batter’s box. If there was any doubt before the season if the contract he signed in 2019 was worth it, the MVP silenced those doubters in 2021.
2. 7-0 Comeback vs Nationals
The Phillies had a knack for the comeback in 2021. But out of all 12 of their walk-offs this season, this game on July 29th against the Washington Nationals stands out the most. The Phillies had lost the first of two games earlier in the day. Max Scherzer would pitch in his final game as a Washington National, shutting down Zach Wheeler and the Phillies 3-1. The Phils would head into the second game of the doubleheader with a bullpen game. The Nats offense jumped out to an early lead and wasn’t looking back, tagging the Phillies’ bullpen for 7 runs in three innings.
Rhys Hoskins would get the club on the board in the bottom of the third inning with a solo home run to make it 7-1. In the bottom of the 4th inning, Andrew McCutchen and Alec Bohm would hit back-to-back home runs and make it a 7-3 ballgame.
The boys in Powder Blue kept adding on as McCutchen would single home Jean Segura in the bottom of the 5th to make it a 7-5 ball game. Momentum would stall however and the Phillies offense would go silent in the 6th. The bottom of the 7th was do or die for the Phils and the first two batters in the inning would be retired easily. Down to their last out, Brad Miller would reach with a 2-out single. Andrew McCutchen would then walk and Alec Bohm would single to load the bases. In stepped the BCIB, JT Realmuto.
Rafael Marchan would pop up to send the game into extra innings. During the top of the 8th, Ranger Suarez would come in to try and hold the lead. A leadoff single to Ryan Zimmerman would score Juan Soto from second. Ranger would get out of the inning with just the one run and needed the Phillies bats to come alive just one more time in the bottom half of the frame.
Odubel Herrera would lead off the inning with a groundout. Jean Segura would not get an opportunity to hit as the Nationals intentionally walked the Phillies’ second basemen. The team was out of players at this point, with the pitcher’s spot due up next. Starter Aaron Nola would come off the bench to pinch-hit and draw a walk to load the bases. Brad Miller would then call game.
1. Wheeler honors Halladay
Roy Halladay meant so much to the city of Philadelphia. Doc gave the Phillies everything he had in his short time with the team and the Hall of Famer will forever be recognized as an all-time great. On
It was only just right for the Phillies to send their ace to the mound on the day #34 would forever be retired by the franchise. On a Sunday afternoon in South Philly, looking to complete a three-game series sweep and to take first place in the National League East, Zach Wheeler took the mound against his former club.
Brandon Nimmo would lead off the game for New York. A leadoff double into the right-field corner could’ve been a bad omen for the afternoon’s game. Wheeler would shut down the next three batters to finish the inning. In the bottom half of the first both Jean Segura and J.T Realmuto would launch solo shots to the seats. Fans continued to collect souvenirs on such a special day.
Once Zach Wheeler took the mound in the second he did not look back. Wheeler began to mow down the Mets lineup 1-2-3 in order. Mixing in 11 strikeouts, Zach was carving up his former club. After the Nimmo double to start the game, Zach Wheeler would retire 22 straight batters. Something that a Phillies pitcher hadn’t done since Doc’s Perfect Game in 2010.
A Bryce Harper solo home run in the 6th inning would be the last run scored in the game. Giving Wheeler just one run would have been enough, but the Phillies provided for their ace launching three home runs against New York.
Heading into the 9th with a 3-run lead with a chance to move into first place was probably the last thing on the mind of Zach Wheeler. He took the mound and struck out the leadoff hitter Kevin Pillar. Brandon Nimmo would once again step to the plate and once again deliver. Nimmo poked a single to end the streak of batters retired. A Jeff McNeil pop-up would bring Pete Alonso to the plate. Wheeler cranked up the heat and sat the Polar Bear down looking to cap off an impressive showing versus his former club.
Wheeler pulled a classic Roy Halladay complete-game shutout on the day his #34 would forever be retired in Phillies history. An amazing ceremony, an amazing gesture, and an amazing performance gives this outing the #1 spot in 2021.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire