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Win and in: Phillies 3, Astros 0

Aaron Nola, Kyle Schwarber and the Phillies earn their way back to the postseason

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Houston Astros
In the biggest start of his career, Aaron Nola delivered
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

October 7, 2011 was a bad night. Sure, we knew it was bad at the time, but we had no idea just how bad it was. Because as awful as it was to watch a heavily favored Phillies team lose in the first round of the playoffs, we didn’t realize that it would be the last time we’d get to watch the Phillies play in the playoffs for the next eleven years.

There were times it seemed like the Phillies would never return to the playoffs. It felt like we were destined for a lifetime of watching players like Vince Velasquez, Brandon Workman, and Michael Saunders lose game after game. It felt like good players such as Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, and Rhys Hoskins would never be quite good enough to get the team to the postseason.

Even entering Monday, when the Phillies were just one win (or one Brewers loss) away from a wild card berth, it still felt tenuous. The Astros might not have much to play for, but they were still a 103-win team that could probably win three games by accident, especially against a Phillies team that hasn’t always shown it can deliver in pressure-filled situations.

But they did it. They actually did it. They beat the Astros 3-0 and earned one of the National League’s wild card spots.

Kyle Schwarber was prioritized as a free agent this past offseason, partly because of his postseason experience. And he didn’t waste much time in leading the way on Monday, hitting a home run on the first pitch of the game.

The narrative about Aaron Nola not being able to pitch well in the clutch is well known. But in the most important start of his career, Nola came through. He was perfect through the first 6.2 innings, and his curveball might have looked as good as it ever has.

Maybe in a different situation, Nola would have been given more rope. But after giving up consecutive singles, Rob Thomson called upon Jose Alvarado. Much as he’s done the entire second half of the season, Alvarado escaped that jam, and pitched a pristine eighth as well.

Even with their pitchers looking great, a one-run lead isn’t very comfortable. Thankfully, Bryson Stott made it into a two-run lead.

And then Kyle Schwarber went deep again to make it a three-run lead.

In the ninth inning, despite the presence of Seranthony Dominguez and David Robertson, Thomson chose Zach Eflin to pitch the ninth and hopefully earn his first career save. Eflin did not disappoint. He retired the first two batters quickly, and although Mauricio Dubon gave him a little trouble, he eventually flied out to send the Phillies to the playoffs.

With that, much celebrating ensued, both in the Phillies clubhouse, and assuredly in households all throughout the Philadelphia area.

The Phillies aren’t going to be favorites to win the World Series. Depending on their opponent in the first round, they might not even be expected to win a single game. But for the first time in eleven years, at least they have a chance. And for now, that’s all we can ask for.