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NLCS: How the Phillies Decided to Travel Home Early


PHILADELPHIA — Less science, more Schwarber.

That’s not a guaranteed prescription for achievement, nevertheless it appears to be one route Philadelphia can take to earn its eighth National League pennant.

When Manager Rob Thomson said before the team left San Diego last week that “the science tells you it’s best to stay over” however the road-weary Phillies players decided they would like to fly home following Wednesday afternoon’s Game 2 relatively than sleeping one other night in Southern California, it was not an off-the-cuff reference.

The Phillies are one among five big-league clubs who seek the advice of with Dr. Chris Winter, a neurologist and sleep expert who has worked with Major League Baseball since 2006. The San Francisco Giants used his advice to tweak their October travel while winning three World Series rings during a five-year span from 2010-2014.

Current clubs that use Winter’s expertise include each teams on this National League Championship Series, the Phillies and the Padres. The others are the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cleveland Guardians and the Boston Red Sox.

The “sleep science” to which Thomson was referring advised the Phillies that, based on travel direction and game timing, the neatest play was to remain put following Wednesday’s game.

But since the team had been on the road for 22 of 24 days, once the players learned they were playing Wednesday afternoon as an alternative of that night, the veterans talked and Bryce Harper reached out to Dave Dombrowski, the club’s president of baseball operations, and lobbied to get home earlier.

“That’s what studies inform you, and I understand it,” Dombrowski said of the sleep science. “But I believe sometimes you simply must go together with what you think that is best together with your ball club in that regard.”

He noted that the Padres were also traveling after Wednesday’s game so there could be no advantage either way.

“Our guys have been away so long that I believe the drive to get home and be there” is comprehensible, said Dombrowski, who noted that he also spoke with player representative Rhys Hoskins.

Kyle Schwarber punctuated the homecoming Friday night by smashing a leadoff home run in the underside of the primary inning. His second homer in three games energized each his team and the sellout crowd of 45,279 at Residents Bank Park.

It got here after the team landed in Philadelphia around 4 a.m. Thursday and Schwarber grabbed some sleep, went to the park for treatment after which enjoyed a pleasant, restful dinner.

“We’ve been on the road for awhile,” Schwarber said. “But I believe if you happen to told us that we could be on this position, we could be glad to be on the road for that long.”

Constructing itineraries, especially in October, is about way over comfortable charter flights and top-shelf food. Especially when so many things remain unknown until the last minute and players and staff must adjust as circumstances change.

The Phillies this autumn have had their share of fluidity. They’d planned to fly home following a day division series game at Atlanta on Oct. 12. But during a three-hour rain delay, Dombrowski met with the players they usually decided to reverse course, stay in Atlanta that evening and fly the subsequent day as an alternative.

The difference between that night and last week in San Diego, outfielder Nick Castellanos said, was geography and the length of the flight.

“The positions we’re in during that six hours from San Diego, it’s rather more restricted and confined” physically, Castellanos said. “Normally, after six hours of being in high altitude like that, there’s an adjustment period your body must take to loosen up again. I feel like, for me, from a performance standpoint, I like with the ability to get in and have a day to at the least stretch and get acclimated and mainly wash off that cross country flight on an everyday charter airplane.”

In a telephone interview during Game 3, Winter said that whatever his expert advice, he actually understands a team being on the road as regularly in recent weeks because the Phillies wanting to get home. And despite the science, he said, that could be useful, too.

“That is where players have taught me through the years about not sleeping in your individual bed,” said Winter, who relies in Charlottesville, Va., and hosts a podcast called “Sleep Unplugged.” “Some 5-foot-8 sleep doctor can say one thing, but a player’s belief plays into it rather a lot. To me, the science is one among the metrics a corporation can use, like ‘can we go together with a man who’s a left-hander or right-hander?’”

“It’s one piece of knowledge that smart managers and G.M.s are in a position to manage with a lot of data, after which they make the decision.”

A complicating — but welcome — think about October is that the traveling party also includes the players’ families. The Phillies are using two charter planes, one for the team, and one for front office personnel and families.

Asked what probably the most difficult a part of packing has been, pitcher Kyle Gibson said, “That’s probably a greater query for the wives and mothers with kids. We were on an 18-day trip and I barely had a couple of suitcase. But for the mothers, they must pack air mattresses, warm clothes, cold clothes. I’d say the change of weather might be the largest thing. For me, I’m pretty basic. Give me some jeans a few shirts to wear to the sphere and I’m good.”

In Philadelphia on Friday, Gibson said it felt as if the team hadn’t seen its home in endlessly.

“Shoot, the home smelled a little bit prefer it had been closed up for 3 weeks,” he said. “Being there, it’s a welcoming sight needless to say. We all know that the fans are going to be fired up, we all know we’ve been playing real good baseball they usually recognize that. And we comprehend it’s going to be an exciting atmosphere.”

Time together traveling, in fact, can act as a bonding agent.

“Twenty straight days on the road and just home for what felt like a blink and right back on the road,” Hoskins said. “Yeah, we’re around one another for 14 hours a day — 12, 14 hours a day for seven months straight. And you then couple that and form of take a number of the families out after we go on the road, we’ve to spend time with one another.

“But that’s an excellent thing. That’s where that chemistry that’s talked about is built. That’s where trust is built. When you possibly can trust the guy next to you on the sphere or behind you in a lineup, it makes the downs last a little bit shorter and the highs last a little bit longer. But there’s nothing like playing at home.”

Clearly, planes, buses and hotels haven’t slowed the Phillies down. And who knows, the additional round of wild-card playoffs might make prolonged trips a thing. When Tampa Bay opened at Cleveland two weeks ago, the Rays had finished their season on a nine-game trip before visiting the Guardians.

When someone asked Terry Francona whether he thought that will give his team a bonus, he didn’t hesitate.

“In the event that they’re out of underwear, yeah,” Francona said. “No one desires to be out of underwear.”

The Phillies understand.

“That and socks,” Schwarber said.

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