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The Philadelphia Phillies are in the National League Championship Series for the second straight year and are looking to nab another pennant when they face the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Fresh off a division series win against the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies will want to maintain the same consistency that they’ve held throughout the postseason.
Manager Rob Thomson said that consistency goes along with the cohesive unit built in the locker room.
“We’ve got a group of guys… not only the players, but the coaches and the support staff — everyone is pulling in the same direction,” Thomson said Sunday. “Everybody cares about each other. There’s this natural bond, [a] love, whatever you want to call it, that’s in that locker room and it’s as good as I’ve ever been around to tell you the truth.”
On Monday and Tuesday, Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS will be played at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies will look to capitalize on that home field advantage, having won 70% of their playoff games played at home since 2004, the best of any MLB team.
“I feel the energy come through me,” Thomson said. “I think it’s the best fanbase in maybe all of sports.”
Zack Wheeler will start Game 1 on the mound for the Phillies. During Sunday’s practice, he said he looks to go seven-plus innings with every start, not just for the win, but in support of the rest of the bullpen.
“It saves the bullpen.” Wheeler said. “If you’re going five innings every time … these guys are going to be struggling this time of year. This is when we need them most.”
Not too long ago, the Phillies went more than a decade without making the postseason. Catcher J.T. Realmuto began his tenure in Philadelphia during that stretch and has helped the team blossom into what it is now.
“Those first few seasons didn’t pan out,” Realmuto said. “Last year, we started off really slow, so it kind of felt like, ‘Oh, man, we’re going through the same thing again. We’re not going to live up to our expectations.’”
And then, the team hit their stride.
“We had that run in the postseason, and I think that run just really gave this group the confidence of ‘Hey, like, we are who we think we are. We’re as good as we thought we were.’”
“Now this season, we just kind of played with that confidence all season long … We just have to take that next step this postseason and continue to play with confidence … get a couple more wins than we did last year,” Realmuto said. “If we do that, goal’s accomplished.”
Saturdays just got more interesting.