There’s just more month left in the 2010s, a decade that started off with the Philadelphia Phillies as perennial postseason participant and ended with them trying to make their way back there.
There were two division titles, one postseason no-no, a perfect game, four no-hitters in all, a tear-down, a rebuild, talk of “tanking,” a waiving of the white flag, the death of a beloved star, the tenure of Gabe Kapler, a last hurrah for a cavalcade of stars and lots of “stupid money” spent.
Certainly there were more good moments to remember in the first couple years than there were in the middle part of the decade, and the 2010s certainly ended in frustration. But before we move on to the 2020s, let’s remember the good times as we take a look at the single greatest moment from each season of this frustrating decade of Phillies baseball.
2010 - Roy Halladay’s Postseason No-Hitter
There were really only two moments worth considering from this season and they both featured Roy Halladay — his regular season perfect game and his no-no in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS against the Reds. The one I chose was the playoff no-hitter, because it was the first postseason game of Halladay’s Hall of Fame career and is one of only two postseason no-hitters in baseball history.
Think about that. Only two no-hitters have been thrown in the history of Major League Baseball’s playoffs, and one of them was thrown by a Phillie, in Philadelphia.
2011 - Wilson Valdez 19-inning Marathon
The Phillies won 102 games that year, they won their fifth straight NL East title, and made it to the playoffs for the fifth year in a row. But their 102 wins were mostly the result of incredible starting pitching, a relentless cacophony of quality starts that ran one into the other, covering up for a faltering offense that ultimately led to their demise in their five-game NLDS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
However, on May 25, fans were treated to a special night when the Phils and Reds entered extra innings tied 3-3. Both teams scored a run in the 10th to make it 4-4, and that’s how it stayed for a loooooong time. Halladay started that game and went seven innings and was then relieved by Michael Stutes, Ryan Madson, Antonio Bastardo, Kyle Kendrick, J.C. Romero, David Herndon, and then got a heroic five innings from Danys Baez.
That’s when they ran out of pitchers.
So, Charlie Manuel turned to utility infielder Wilson Valdez, who incredibly pitched a scoreless 19th inning. The Phils loaded the bases in the bottom of the 19th with one out, which led to a game winning sacrifice fly by Raul Ibanez that gave the Phillies a ridiculous 5-4 win.
2012 - Jim Thome’s Walk-Off Blast
Things really got bleak fast in Philadelphia, and it was perhaps bleakest in 2012. After winning 102 games the season before, the Phils began the season with Ryan Howard recovering from an Achilles tear, Chase Utley’s degenerative knee issue had him fielding spring training ground balls from a chair, and the demise of Halladay happened faster than anyone thought. Sure, he recorded his 2,000th strikeout that season, and sure, Jimmy Rollins got his 2,000th hit, but the best moment of the season was when Jim Thome, in his return to the Phils as a bench bat, hit the 13th walk-off home run of his career, most in MLB history.
2013 - Domonic Brown Owns May
I know this may bring back harsh memories, but there was a time when Domonic Brown was a legitimate reason for optimism in Philadelphia. The Phils’ top prospect, who was widely regarded as one of the best young prospects in the game, had an .856 OPS with 23 homers in the first half that season (95 games), including an insane run during the month of May in which he hit six in five games.
In the moment, it was an exciting display and made us all believe we had a new superstar emerging. Unfortunately, his power numbers cratered in the second half when he hit just four in his last 44 games. He played 144 games in ‘14 and had a ridiculously awful .634 OPS while playing terrible defense, and would play just one more lackluster season of big league baseball before shuffling off back to the minors and independent ball.
2014 - Rollins Sets the Franchise All-Time Hits Record
Surprisingly, there were a few really good moments to choose from here. The team threw a combined no-hitter, Ben Revere cranked TWO home runs, and Chase Utley hit a walk-off homer, his first since 2006. But the moment of the season had to be Rollins breaking Mike Schmidt’s all-time franchise hits record, at 2,235.
Mike Schmidt coming out to raise Jimmy’s hand was cool, and with the rebuild just starting to get off the ground, the holdovers from the glory years managed to sprinkle in some nostalgia along the way.
2015 - Cole Hamels’ No-Hitter
This is a bittersweet memory, but in the season in which the Phillies officially started the rebuild, Hamels’ final game in a Phils uniform is undoubtedly the best moment. Everyone knew Hamels was getting traded and everyone knew this would be his last start with the team, so the fact that he threw this no-hitter, at Wrigley Field, against a talented Chicago Cubs team, just makes the moment that much more special.
And hey, maybe a reunion is coming!
2016 - Vinny Velo K’s 16
The farewell game for Ryan Howard was a special moment, but for me, it was mostly sad. It was sad to see Howard go, especially given that his role had been reduced to that of a bench player. Sure, it was a day filled with emotion, but it felt inevitable and was not exactly something I would call “the best.” Instead, Vince Velasquez’ second start with the team, a 16-strikeout, complete game shutout, was the most electric moment of the season.
Unfortunately, Velasquez has been chasing that start ever since. It showed his tantalizing potential, and for a moment there, everyone thought the Phils had found a rotation piece around which to build. But consistency has eluded Velasquez since that start, and it now appears that if he’s with the team at all in 2020, it will be out of the bullpen.
2017 - Rhys Hoskins Homer Barrage
If Dom Brown’s homer rampage in 2013 was cool, than Rhys Hoskins hitting 18 home runs in his first 34 games was Miles Davis.
No one had ever hit 18 home runs that quickly in their big league career to that point, and Phils fans got their first glimpse of the player they hope will be the right-handed slugger they can build around for the next Philles playoff team. The 2017 was a fun one, especially the second half, when young prospects like Hoskins, Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro started to show glimpses of their talent level. Hoskins certainly stumbled in the second half of 2019, but this early career dinger barrage was a ton of fun to watch, and hopefully a prelude to better things in 2020.
2018 - Nola Outduels Scherzer TWICE
Late in the 2018 season, as the Phillies were gakking away their lead in the NL East, Aaron Nola was also battling Max Scherzer for the NL Cy Young Award. Neither would win it, as it would go to New York’s Jacob deGrom instead. But Scherzer and Nola would finish 2-3 in the voting and in back-to-back starts in late August, Nola outdueled Scherzer twice, with the first being in a 2-0 win on August 23rd in Washington, DC.
Nola and Scherzer matched up again four days later in Philadelphia and, once again, Nola got the better of him. Scherzer lasted just five innings and gave up three runs, although given a 3-0 lead heading into the 7th, Nola ran into some trouble and gave up a couple runs of his own. Although just one earned, he left with a 3-2 lead. Unfortunately, the Phils bullpen blew that lead in the 9th and the Phils’ late-season collapse began in earnest.
But in those two starts, Nola pitched 15 innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on nine hits with 15 strikeouts and three walks while Scherzer pitched 12 innings and gave up five runs on six hits with 15 strikeouts and four walks. We may never seen Nola pitch that well again, but he proved to be a big game pitcher with ace-level stuff when he’s at his best.
2019 - Harper’s Walk-Off Grand Slam
This one was easy. During a frustrating season that ultimately ended with the firing of Gabe Kapler, free agent signee Bryce Harper had his signature moment of the season.
The Phils trailed the Cubs 5-1 in the bottom of the 9th, but this Harper walk-off slam was the reason they signed him to that 13-year, $330 million contract.