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Game 1 featured the sweet torture of Phillies playoff baseball once again

Riding the rollercoaster once again.

Wild Card Series - Philadelphia Phillies v St. Louis Cardinals - Game One Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

There was a time when the Phillies reaching the playoffs and playing postseason baseball would have been my entire life.

In 1993, I was 17 during that incredible summer of Macho Row and their NL East championship. I remember virtually every game from that remarkable regular season. The playoff run will be indelibly etched in my brain forever. I was on the razor’s edge with every pitch, every foul ball, every deficit, every victory. For that month of October, it was all-consuming.

In 2007, as the Phillies began their five-year surge to the top of the NL East, I was engaged to be married but still focused enough on Phillies baseball for it to be classified as an obsession. I would venture to say my now-wife would tell you I was not the best fiancée in the world during their brief October series loss to Colorado.

In 2008, I got married. The Phils won the World Series. In 2009, I was still married and they went back to the World Series again. This marriage thing was a good idea!

As I’ve gotten older, other things in life have have become more important. I missed Roy Halladay’s postseason no-hitter in 2010 because I was at the doctor’s office finding out we were going to have a boy. In 2011, I spent many of those NLDS games against the Cardinals half-asleep after having been up with my new baby all night.

And as the drought dragged along for 11 years, my family grew. Three boys — 11, 9 and 7 — along with my wife, are my life. Despite the work I do writing articles and podcasting, sports, and the Phillies, do not hold the place of importance in my life the way they once did. A loss no longer ruins my week. How can I be unkind to my family, and my children, because my baseball team floundered? Given this newfound “maturity,” I assumed this postseason run by the Phils would feel different.

Then, yesterday’s Game 1 happened.

As I watched with my father-in-law and three sons, none of whom are Phillies fans and had a rooting interest in the game, I realized I was ingesting it on a whole other level.

A scoreless tie through the first six innings was boring to them. I was living and dying with every pitch, filled with the knowledge that one swing of the bat could mean stirring victory or crushing defeat. It was the slow, glorious torture that makes postseason baseball unique, emotionally dragging your bare feet through broken glass, hoping to make it to the other side alive.

It had been 11 years since any of us had felt that. My sons and father-in-law weren’t feeling it, because it wasn’t their team. But for me, this wasn’t boring. This was exactly what I remembered.

Juan Yepez hit his go-ahead two-run homer off Jose Alvarado in the 7th. The Phils’ offense was despondent. Mentally, I had written them off.

Then, the 9th inning. Filled with the spirit of those assassins from the 2009 ballclub, the Phils started making closer Ryan Helsley work for his five-out save (a questionable decision by Oli Marmol, given he had jammed his middle finger during the week and was uncertain to even be on the playoff roster). J.T. Realmuto hit a single. Bryce Harper drew a gutsy walk. and Nick Castellanos does the same. Alec Bohm celebrated almost getting decapitated by a 100+ mph fastball because the hit-by-pitch made the score 2-1. The bases were loaded with one out.

Would the Phillies actually pull this off?

The heart pounded. The palms got sweaty. The couch had only an edge to it. I stayed in the exact same seating position I’d been in, making sure to hold my chin the same way I had been. How were my legs crossed at the start of the inning, did I reverse them? REVERSE THEM BACK.

The Phillies erupted for five more runs, each one more improbable than the next. After all was said and done, after 8 innings of torture, the Phillies came through with an inning of ecstasy in a 6-3 win that leaves them one victory away from a National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves.

Despite my age, my obligations, and my station in life, it’s nice to know the Phillies can still make me crazy in October.