'We believe': Resilient Phils head to Houston confident

November 4th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- It is an immense challenge, but it is not impossible.

Kyle Schwarber knows this because he has lived it. He has won. The Phillies lost to the Astros, 3-2, in Game 5 of the World Series on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park. Houston has a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Series, which returns to Minute Maid Park for Game 6 on Saturday night. Only eight teams in baseball history have won a best-of-seven World Series by winning Games 6 and 7 on the road.

Schwarber’s 2016 Cubs are one of them.

The 2019 Nationals are another. They won Games 6 and 7 against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

“No one said this was easy,” said Schwarber, who belted a leadoff home run in the first inning off Justin Verlander on Thursday. “We’ve overcome a lot of things throughout the course of this year to be in this position. I think when we get there, you’re going to see a really resilient club and we’re going to play until the very end and we’re going to see where it takes us.

“It’s going to take everything. It’s going to take everyone. We’re excited. Trust me. Sure, it’s frustrating [to lose Game 5], but we’re also very excited.”

If the Phillies are anything this season, they are resilient. They were 22-29 on June 3 when Joe Girardi lost his job. They went 14-2 under Rob Thomson to jump back into postseason contention. They showed their mettle again in September, when they struggled down the stretch but still clinched the third NL Wild Card spot two days before the regular-season finale.

The Phillies have bounced back in the postseason, too. There was Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series in St. Louis, when they trailed, 2-0, in the ninth inning and won, 6-3. There was Game 4 of the NL Championship Series against San Diego, when they trailed, 4-0, before they even hit in the first inning and won, 10-6. There was Game 5 of the NLCS, when they trailed, 3-2, in the eighth inning and won, 4-3. There was Game 1 of the World Series, when they trailed, 5-0, in the fourth and won in 10 innings, 6-5.

But this is the first time this postseason the Phillies have trailed in a series.

They must win Saturday to force a decisive Game 7 on Sunday.

“We’ve faced adversity all year,” Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos said. “What a better storybook ending than if we can go there and win this in Game 7.”

They will need to hit better than they have to play in a Game 7. The Phillies snapped a 20 at-bat hitless streak with runners in scoring position in the eighth inning in Game 5 when Jean Segura singled to score Castellanos to cut Houston’s lead to one. They need to cash in on those scoring opportunities more frequently on Saturday.

They will need a big game from Zack Wheeler, too.

“We’ve got a pretty good pitcher going for us in Game 6,” Schwarber said. “We’ve got to be able to bounce back offensively. I don’t think anyone believes more in this group than we do. That’s going to be a big thing for us. We’ve just got to be able to play all the outs. We’re going to see where it takes us.”

They will also have to battle the pressures of this situation. Perhaps it will help to have somebody in the dugout who has actually experienced this before. Because while nobody in the Phillies’ clubhouse probably knows much about the other six teams to win Games 6 and 7 on the road -- the 1979 Pirates, 1968 Tigers, 1958 Yankees, 1952 Yankees, 1934 Cardinals and 1926 Cardinals -- they know Schwarber.

He will be right there, hitting leadoff on Saturday.

“We believe in this group,” Schwarber said. “We know that this is a one-game-at-a-time thing. This was never a big-picture thing. It wasn’t back then [with the Cubs], either. This is one game at a time. Now we have to win two games in a row, but we’re going to have to focus on this first game here in Game 6 and try to win, then we’ll go from there. We’re going to be confident. We’re going to be resilient like we have been all year.”

“We definitely feel like we can do it,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “They’re a good team over there and it’s not going to be easy. But everyone in this clubhouse has confidence in ourselves and we believe that we can go win two games.”