The Philadelphia Phillies need to sweep a lot of teams to have a chance at saving this season. As such, Phillies fans like myself hoped that sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers last week would get the ball rolling. But although Philadelphia needs to sweep a lot more teams, it in turn can't afford to get swept itself - especially by the team it has to catch for a playoff berth.
Therefore, the three straight wins over the Brewers were more than canceled out by losing three straight to the Atlanta Braves this past weekend. In fact, the 6-2 loss that finished it all off on July 30 may have been the final nail in the Phillies' coffin.
Even Roy Halladay couldn't bail the Phillies out, although that really isn't a surprise anymore. Halladay hasn't won since he returned from injury, yet Philadelphia bailed him out from losses with two straight late rallies. But he wasn't so lucky this time, as the Braves put him into a 3-0 hole that the Phillies couldn't rally from.
Still, Philadelphia closed the gap to 3-2 by the seventh inning, which fueled some hope that they could save Halladay from defeat again. However, it was Atlanta that came up huge in the late innings, particularly in the seventh with three insurance runs. The first came on a fielding error from reliever Jake Diekman, before Freddie Freeman put things away with a two-run single.
The Phillies scored a bunch of runs late to stun the Brewers three straight times, yet only scored five runs for the entire series with the Braves. That might have been enough back in the days when Halladay and company shut down everyone in their path. But these are not those good old days - and any hope for some good old days to reappear this season might be gone now.
The Braves are not only in the lead for the second wild card spot, they lead the Phillies by 12 1/2 games. Rallying from large deficits like that can happen - although it is very rare - yet Philadelphia has to leap over several other clubs in the process. That would have been unlikely even if the Phillies swept the Braves, but it would have been more realistic to imagine then.
Sweeping Milwaukee was nothing, especially since the Brewers are another 2011 playoff team doomed to playing out the string. Getting swept by a potential 2012 playoff team in the Braves - and facing another one in the Washington Nationals next - is a much more telling sign of where the Phillies are right now, and where they'll likely be for the next two months ahead.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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