PHILADELPHIA — Momentum isn’t tangible. It’s not quantifiable. It’s not predictive, in any non-anecdotal way. It is basically a feeling, and feelings can change quickly.
So it feels silly to say that the Phillies have the momentum and complete control of the 2022 World Series after their rollicking, rolling 7-0 domination of the Astros in Game 3, which gave them a 2-1 series lead. It feels even sillier to say this series feels like an inevitable championship for the Phillies. Momentum is, we’ve been told all of our baseball-watching lives, no more than the next day’s starting pitcher.
But here’s the thing: These Phillies, they believe in momentum.
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The players and the coaches believe in the power of Citizens Bank Park and its fans. They believe in the power of their lineup, with 46-homer slugger Kyle Schwarber batting leadoff, two-time MVP Bryce Harper in the cleanup spot and youngsters in the bottom half of the lineup — Harper referred to them as “our daycare” after Tuesday night’s win —who are either coming up with big hits game after game (Alec Bohm) or drawing 12-pitch walks (Bryson Stott). They believe in their ability to win World Series baseball games without a single pitch from their two best starters or their three best relievers, like they did in Game 3.
These Phillies, they believe in the momentum they’ve created.
“You feel it, right?” Bohm said after the game. “(Baseball is) a big momentum game, scoring a couple runs and then getting a shutdown inning and then coming back scoring a couple more, it just keeps the ball rolling. I think when you got an atmosphere like that and it just keeps growing, I think just the momentum continues.”
And it goes without saying that the fans in Philly, they believe too. They believe that they’re part of the success, because that what the Philly players believe. It’s why corner outfielders Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber — much maligned glovemen who have been outstanding with the leather this month — regularly interact with the fans sitting around them at the home ballpark. Castellanos goes so far as to turn around and hold up fingers for how many outs there are in the inning.
“For me, it’s for the fans to understand they’re a part of this,” Castellanos said after the game, standing in front of his locker — which is next to Schwarber’s. “I like flashing them the outs, and it fires me when I get it all back because we’re all in this together. Anything I can do to make them feel more part of the game, it’s fantastic.”
These Phillies, they believe in momentum and they believe in their fans. That matters.
“Just walking into the ballpark, just being back home, I think is such a momentum swing for us just for the pure fact of our fan base,” Harper said. “We all come in here and we’re ready to go and we’re excited to get on the field because we know they’re going to show up and there’s going to be 46,0000 people here screaming and yelling and going crazy.”
And that belief? It’s confidence, and confidence is essential to winning in October.
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It’s confidence that says “Coming back from trailing 5-0 with Justin Verlander on the mound for the other team is not a problem.” It’s confidence that says, “If Kyle Schwarber had hit that ball a couple feet left, we were in position to come back again in Game 2.” It’s confidence that shakes off a rain-delayed Game 3 and helps you hits five home runs off a guy who gave up just four homers in nearly 50 innings during the regular season.
This, of course, is not to say the Astros are not a confident bunch. They are confident, no doubt. But they’re not at home at the moment, and the Phillies are. The Astros might have had a much better regular season — 19 more wins, to be exact — but World Series history is full of teams with fewer regular season runs who rode a wave of confidence and momentum to a title.
Look at last year’s Braves, the 88-win team that looked like a juggernaut as it rolled though the 2021 playoffs and won the World Series in six games. Look at the 2012 Giants, the underdogs who shocked Justin Verlander in Game 1 — sound familiar? — and went on to sweep the favored Tigers. And those 2006 Cardinals, the team that won just 83 regular season games but beat Detroit in five games in the World Series, they rode a wave of momentum and confidence — and a baffling string of fielding mistakes by Tigers pitchers — to the title.
And maybe the most telling example, the 1990 Reds. By pretty much every piece of evaluation available, it was clear that Oakland was a better team on paper. Didn’t matter to Cincinnati, as the Reds snagged the moment early — who will ever forget Eric Davis’ two-run homer in the first inning of Game 1 — and never looked back.
These Phillies, they feel ready to join that list.