HOUSTON – When the Philadelphia Phillies fired manager Joe Girardi after a 22-29 season start, it was hard to imagine Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and interim manager Rob Thomson would dance under a champagne shower in October.
But this team persevered during the tough start and injury that took Harper out for two months to do just that, beating the Houston Astros 3-0 on Monday night and clinching his first playoff spot in 11 years.
“That’s the goal,” Harper said. “This is what you play for.”
Aaron Nola caught a perfect match in the seventh inning, and Schwarber scored to propel the Phillies to victory.
“It hasn’t been an easy season,” Schwarber said. “We went through a manager change, we went through the MVP that was down … and we looked at people who said our season is over, that the Phillies don’t even count and they can’t catch the baseball. … and for us to get all our kids back to health and for them to all be there and contribute, that’s what it’s all about. ”
After Brandon Marsh captured Mauricio Dubon’s sprint in the middle for the final elimination of the match, the Philadelphia players jumped and cheered before meeting on the mound, where they hugged and bounced some more.
The video card at Minute Maid Park displayed the team logo and the words “Congratulations Philadelphia” as the Phillies celebrated.
A small but vocal group of Philadelphia fans gathered near the team bench and sang “Let’s go Phillies” at the bottom of the ninth inning.
In the victorious clubhouse, Thomson gave a short speech to his team before the champagne flew.
“We’re not done,” he told his team. “After Wednesday we got another 13 victories and we are world champions.
“Congratulations, have fun, you’ve earned it.”
Players and coaches danced and sang like champagne from bottles affixed with special labels celebrating them as they punched their long-awaited and fought post-season ticket raining and soaking their red playoff shirts.
“When I signed here in ’19, I said it would take a couple of years, three or four or five years, to get to where we needed to be,” said Harper, a two-time MVP. “And we’re not where we need to be. right now, but this is the first step to hope for greater success and a greater opportunity to get to where we need to be. ”
Harper credited Thomson as the key to the team that changed things. Thomson said he appreciated the compliment but would not take credit for the success.
“At the start of the year, we just weren’t playing well, and we weren’t playing to our abilities,” said Thomson. “But I always thought we would arrive, and we did. So, I happened to come in at the right time.”
The Phillies conquered the same baseball field where they secured their last post-season trip on September 17. 14, 2011. That match was a 1-0 win over the Astros, highlighted by a complete closure of the game by Hall of Famer Roy Halladay.
Philadelphia’s post-season drought was the longest active in the majors after the Seattle Mariners clinched their first playoff spot in 21 years on Friday night.
Now that the Phillies have won, all 12 playoff spots have been set, with exact matches to be determined over the next couple of days.
The Phillies entered the opening of the regular season final series that they needed a win or defeat by the Milwaukee Brewers to secure a wild card spot in the National League. The Brewers rallied to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-5 in 10 innings just minutes before Philadelphia ended the win.
Nola knocked out nine and didn’t allow a base runner until Yordan Alvarez singled out with two knockouts in the seventh. David Hensley followed with a single and Nola was replaced by Jose Alvarado, who knocked out Kyle Tucker to finish the innings.
Zach Eflin threw a ninth no net to complete the shutout and secure his first bailout in 11 years of pro ball.
Schwarber kicked things off for the Phillies on their first visit to Houston since September 19. 16, 2012, with a homer ahead of Lance McCullers.
Philadelphia added some insurance when Bryson Stott and Schwarber hit two Jose Urquidy’s solo shots to start the eighth inning.
It was the eighth multiple home run this season for Schwarber, who leads the NL with 46 career home runs and now has 199 home runs in his career.
The Phillies have three players who will appear in the postseason for the first time after playing more than 600 career games. Jean Segura leads the pack with 1,327, JT Realmuto has 1,004 and Rhys Hoskins is at 666.
Segura, who is in his 11th major league season, began to wonder if this day would ever come.
“I felt some pressure on myself, as if I will probably never make it to post-season,” he said.
Now that he’s made it, he couldn’t be happier.
“It was a long ride,” Segura said. “I’ve waited so many years for this opportunity and I guarantee you I won’t let it pass.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.