When the Los Angeles Dodgers won the all-star break by trading for Manny Machado, conventional wisdom had it that they also locked up the pennant. Cancel the rest of the season and book the defending National League champs and their new star shortstop for Game 1 of the World Series.
Not so fast.
The runaway Dodgers rolled into town on Monday night with a chance to assert their dominance over an upstart contender — and rub that contender's nose in its failed (for now, anyway) pursuit of Machado, too. But the Phillies battled back from three-run deficits in each of the first two games of the series and walked off the mighty Dodgers in the 16th inning of the second game at 1:14 a.m. Wednesday.
When the series finale began about 11 hours later, the young Phillies vanquished the Dodgers again. They hung a five-run fifth inning on rookie starter Walker Buehler, who got the rest of the day off, and sent off retiring Philadelphia icon Chase Utley with a 7-3 decision to remember them by.
See you in October, Dodgers? Why not?
"That's a good team over there, but like I said at the start of the series, we're a good team, too," said slugging leftfielder Rhys Hoskins, who homered for the fourth time in five games. "I think we're past the narrative of, are we a good team? I think to be able to take two of three from the Dodgers, I think we're here to stay. And it's exciting."
The Dodgers are 3-3 since they landed Machado; the Phillies are 4-2 since they missed out. The Phils can't claim supremacy over the Dodgers until they win a series in which they face Clayton Kershaw. Surely, though, they can at least hang with them. The Phillies have won six of their last eight series. They're 57-44 and atop the NL East, 1 ½ games ahead of the Atlanta Braves and seven up on the once-mighty Washington Nationals. And there's still time to add a hitter before Tuesday's trade deadline.
>>READ MORE: Chase Utley will always be 'The Man' around here
Once again, the Phillies overcame careless defense and an early deficit. Backup catcher Andrew Knapp committed two errors in the first inning, and the Phillies made three miscues overall through the first five. One of Knapp's errors led to an unearned run in the first inning against starter Jake Arrieta, who delivered six strong innings.
Hoskins tied the game in the bottom of the first with his 18th homer of the season. And the Phillies KO'd Buehler with a two-out rally in the fifth that included an RBI double by Knapp and a three-run triple by Carlos Santana.
The biggest blow, though, came from Scott Kingery. The rookie shortstop entered the day ranked 97th and 100th in on-base (.285) and slugging percentage (.311) among 100 NL hitters who had at least 200 plate appearances since May 1. It's no wonder the Phillies tried to bump up their timetable for Machado, who will be the object of their desire as a free agent in the offseason.
But Kingery launched a solo homer to break a 1-1 tie and kick-start that big fifth inning. It was his biggest hit since, well, maybe the start of his young career.
"Every inning, every game just gives me more experience, and I'm kind of put into situations that you can't really practice," Kingery said. "So every time I go out there, it feels more natural yet."
Machado? He went 2-for-14 with five strikeouts in the series. And while there's no doubt he will be a difference-maker down the stretch and in the playoffs, it's not clear that he puts the Dodgers so far ahead of everyone else in the flat NL that the World Series is a foregone conclusion.
"We have to win series like this, especially at home against teams like the Dodgers, if we intend to keep this thing going the way we are," Arrieta said. "We haven't lacked confidence really at all this season. We know we're good. We've shown it throughout the season, all the way from April all the way to now at the end of July."
After closer Seranthony Dominguez punctuated the game with a called third strike against Chris Taylor, Utley emerged for one last curtain call in a week filled with them. He was greeted at the side of the Dodgers' dugout by Phillies owner John Middleton.
It was farewell for now. Maybe until October.