The Philadelphia Phillies suffered a death blow at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals in last year's playoffs. But Phillies fans like myself aren't the only ones who are bitter at the Cardinals, since the Atlanta Braves have now been victimized by them for two straight years. Yet while the Braves' own collapse cost them a wild card spot over the Cardinals in 2011, a few loopholes cost Atlanta a year later.
If Bud Selig never implemented a second wild card this year, the Braves would have clinched a spot in the NLDS days ago. Instead, they had to face the Cardinals in a playoff game on Oct. 5, despite finishing six games ahead of them. Yet the Braves still lost by 6-3 in this debatable one-game playoff - which became even more debatable due to an odd use of the infield fly rule.
With the Braves down 6-3 in the eighth, a fly ball hit by Andrelton Simmons dropped between two St. Louis fielders, which seemed to load the bases with one out. But just before the ball hit the ground, the infield fly rule was called, and was stood up because shortstop Pete Kozma was one of the fielders after the ball.
Since an infielder was in pursuit, it gave the Cardinals a loophole to get awarded a second out - even if it was a wrong call no matter what. They still had to survive having the bases loaded eventually - after trash was thrown onto the field by many Braves fans. Yet after all this drama, St. Louis didn't allow any runs after Michael Bourn struck out, then got Dan Uggla out with two men on in the ninth.
The Cardinals started this year's postseason run by winning a do-or-die game on the road against a heavily favored opponent - just as they did in 2011 at Philadelphia. Yet just as in 2011, the Braves were really the Cardinals' first true victim. This time the only difference is that they have umpires and Selig to blame for their misfortunate as well.
Nevertheless, Atlanta put itself in this position by falling behind in the first place, despite having the unhittable Kris Medlen on the mound. Yet St. Louis touched him up for five runs and was helped in large part by three Atlanta errors. And while the Cardinals didn't appear to be anything special in the regular season, they have a habit of turning the switch back on when things really count.
If the Phillies had managed a longer September hot streak - or had a few hot streaks in past months - perhaps they could have done what the Cardinals did. But St. Louis pulled away from Philadelphia and broke Atlanta's hearts - two things it has been quite good at in the past.
The fact that history has repeated itself for St. Louis may not bode well for the Washington Nationals, the rest of the National League or even the American League. However, since the 2012 Cardinals needed more help - in more ways than one - to win the wild card over the Braves, maybe they are just living on borrowed time. Of course, that doesn't benefit the Braves or the Phillies now.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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