This season can feel like a disappointment to many Phillies fans. The team didn’t make the playoffs yet again, stretching their drought to a decade, though it feels longer. They barely finished above .500 and though it doesn’t feel like an accomplishment, at least they did that.
Regardless of whether or not you feel like this is a disappointment, there were some good moments this season that should make you feel good as a fan. Here are our choices for the top five moments this season.
5. Aaron Nola’s strikeout streak
On June 25th, Aaron Nola took the mound against the Mets in game one of a doubleheader. He hit the first batter, Jeff McNeil, then allowed a double to Francisco Lindor to push McNeil to third. It was a precarious situation, but then a funny thing happened. Nola proceeded to buckle down.
In a big way.
Nola would strikeout ten Mets in a row, capped off by this filthy curveball to Michael Conforto.
The record for most strikeouts in a game was held by Tom Seaver and was tied by Nola on this day (Corbin Burnes would later join them in August). In an up-and-down season for Nola, this was definitely one of the highlights.
4. A furious comeback against the Nationals
The Nationals were still on the fringes of the wild card race on July 29 when they began a doubleheader against the Phillies. The rumors were swirling around Max Scherzer as he took the mound for game one, but he put them aside and dominated what would be his last start as a National. If the team wanted to do anything, this next game was going to determine what their course would be.
Game two started out well for Washington. They started out with a 7-0 lead and though the bullpen had cracked a bit, they still had a 7-4 lead headed into the bottom of the seventh, then the final inning of a doubleheader, and looked like they’d put the Phillies behind in their own chase for the playoffs.
After tying the game in the bottom of the seventh thanks to singles from Alec Bohm and J.T. Realmuto, the Nationals took the lead in the eighth off of Ranger Suarez.
No worries. The Phillies simply loaded the bases for Brad Miller against Sam Clay.
Want to enjoy it a little more? How about listening to the Nationals’ broadcast of the game.
here’s the walkoffs from mccutchen and Brad Miller with nats brodcast (here’s miller’s, cutch in thread) pic.twitter.com/NPqN9KuWCR— Phillies Fan (@philIiesfan) July 29, 2021
This game was probably the most unlikely of Phillies victories of the year. I mean, look at this win probability graph.
What a game.
3. Bryce Harper wins the National League MVP
When the Phillies signed Bryce Harper, one might have expected him to win an MVP award. He’s had the talent all along and coming to Philadelphia with the new, heightened expectations thanks to a massive contract, we had to think that he would raise his game up a level and win another award.
Boy did he raise his game up another level.
Bryce Harper was in tears after winning his second NL MVP award pic.twitter.com/r0vv82nuke— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) November 19, 2021
Many things have been written about Harper and his season, and with a quick Google search, you can read them all (it’s worth your time), but it’s still just amazing that he was able to raise his game up to this level and be the player he was in the second half. It’s rare that we see a player almost singlehandedly will his team to the playoffs, but we saw just that with Harper. Though they came up short, the MVP award was deserved for Harper. We should all just continue to marvel that he’ll be with this team for years more.
2. Luke Williams’ walkoff home run against the Braves
No description necessary. Just watch it over
Braves radio call of Luke Williams' walk-off pic.twitter.com/b77SwKz0O2— Nick Piccone (@_piccone) June 11, 2021
and over again.
The Scott Franzke call of the Luke Williams homer is just fantastic pic.twitter.com/e8klOyTlcc— Mitch Rupert (@Mitch_Rupert) June 10, 2021
Still, months later, this one gives me chills.
1. Zack Wheeler’s shutout against the Mets
Remember the days of yore, when Citizens Bank Park was full of fans every day, cheering, into the game, watching exciting baseball? It all seems so far away, what with the rebuild and the continued September collapses. The fans of the team are begging for a team to support, to help will into October baseball. They just need a reason to get excited. When the Mets came to town in August, they needed to win and get some help and they’d all of a sudden find themselves in first place. All alone. After taking the first two games, they were suddenly a game up on the Mets, 2 1⁄2 games up on Atlanta and about to send their ace to the mound to finish the job.
What they got was nine innings of dominance from Wheeler, a game where he allowed only two hits, both to Brandon Nimmo, one walk and 11 strikeouts. It was a game where the Mets knew they weren’t going to touch him and feebly succumbed to the brilliance of Wheeler.
That August series against the Mets, particularly this shutout by Wheeler, was easily the highlight of the season. The ballpark had electricity in the stands where you could remember what it was like a decade ago. When Wheeler came out for the ninth inning, Matt Gelb captured it perfectly:
Everyone knew he was going to pitch the ninth; he had batted in the eighth and no one was throwing in the Phillies bullpen. But the entire ballpark stood and screamed. The scoreboard didn’t prompt them to do it. It was genuine, raw joy. People have waited almost a decade for it. Wheeler stepped on the rubber, and No. 34 was etched into the slope of the mound. The final pitch he threw against his former team was 98 mph.
Zack Wheeler vs Mets yesterday— SIS_Baseball (@sis_baseball) August 9, 2021
- Averaged 98 MPH with fastball
(2nd-fastest avg velo in start by him)
- 16 of 21 sliders for strikes
- 8 outs, no hits allowed with breaking pitches
Ranks No. 4 in World's No. 1 Starting Pitcher Rankingshttps://t.co/7elJtclC6Y pic.twitter.com/mBZcaTXXy5
Though the rest of the season would eventually go down the toilet, the team, for a fleeting second, made us believers in what they were capable of doing.
It was a good day.