PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies hoped to see some improvement in 2016, moments that made them believe they were on the path to postseason contention again in the next few years.
They believe they are on that path.
"If someone had told me last October that this was where the franchise would be this September, I would have signed up for that 100 times out of 100," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Sept. 28 in Atlanta. "The performance of some of our young players, players like Cesar Hernandez, Cameron Rupp, Odubel Herrera, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Hector Neris. I'm missing plenty of them. I'm not trying to single anybody out. I think that all suggests very positive things for the future.
"On top of that, and this has been well documented, but just the performance of the Minor League system. Collectively, with the winning percentage, but also the performance of individual prospects, the accolades that those players have received, it would be hard not to look at this season as a real positive step in the right direction."
But before the calendar officially turns to 2017, here is a look back at the five best moments from the Phillies' 2016 season.
5. A simple throw and catch
The Phillies had a 4-3 lead with one out in the top of the ninth inning May 14 at Citizens Bank Park, but the Reds had runners on second and third. That is when pinch-hitter Jordan Pacheco lofted a fly ball to Phillies left fielder Tyler Goeddel. Goeddel made the catch and fired the ball to home plate. Catcher Rupp caught it a split-second before Eugenio Suarez dropped the hammer on him. Rupp got clocked and fell over, but he held on to the ball to save the game.
4. Phillies turn triple play
Maikel Franco, Hernandez and Tommy Joseph turned the 32nd triple play in franchise history in a 6-5 victory over the Padres at Petco Park on Aug. 7. It came at a critical point in the game, too. Phillies right-hander Edubray Ramos had walked Derek Norris and Jose Rondon to start the seventh inning to put San Diego in position to take the lead. The play took just 4.6 seconds to complete as Franco fielded Jabari Blash's ground ball to third, stepped on the bag and went around the horn for the triple play. It was the Phillies' first triple play since Aug. 23, 2009, when Eric Bruntlett turned a game-ending unassisted triple play against the Mets at Citi Field. It also was the Phillies' first 5-4-3 triple play since April 21, 2007, when Abraham Nunez, Chase Utley and Wes Helms turned one in Cincinnati.
3. Bye bye, Pap
Everybody loves to see a villain lose and that is what happened April 17, when the Phillies enjoyed a walk-off victory in the 10th inning against the Nationals and former teammate Jonathan Papelbon. Freddy Galvis hit a two-out double to the left-field wall to score Andres Blanco from second base.
"I played behind him for three years," Galvis said about Papelbon. "So I know the way he pitches and maybe a little about what the ball does. He's got the split and the fastball. I know he likes to throw the fastball. I think he threw me four, five fastballs, so I was ready for it."
2. Vinny from Philly dominates
Velasquez showed his potential April 14 against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park, where he allowed three hits and struck out a career-high 16 in a shutout victory. His 25 strikeouts in 15 scoreless innings were the most in a pitcher's first two starts with the Phillies since at least 1913. Hall of Fame right-hander Jim Bunning held the previous record with 20 in 1964. Velasquez also became the seventh pitcher in MLB history to throw a shutout with at least 16 strikeouts and zero walks.
"My face doesn't show it, but it was fun," Velasquez said. "I'm fully excited. Man, gosh, it's still hitting me."
1. The Big Piece's farewell
Ryan Howard provided the Phillies and their fans some of the greatest moments in franchise history as a fixture in the middle of a lineup that won the 2008 World Series, two National League pennants and five consecutive NL East titles from 2007-11. The Phillies honored the 2006 NL MVP on the final day of his Phillies career in the season finale on Oct. 2 at Citizens Bank Park. It featured a memorable and emotional pregame ceremony, and Howard receiving a standing ovation as he left the game in the top of the ninth.
"We love you, Ryan," yelled a fan, clearly audible during a pause in his remarks.
"I love you, too," Howard said. "I want to thank you guys, the fans, again for making this all possible. For making it fun. We had some good runs, didn't we?"
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.