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Cardinals Return to Philadelphia 10 Months After Starting Phillies' Downfall: A Fan's Take

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The Philadelphia Phillies last hosted the St. Louis Cardinals 10 months ago, although it feels like 10 years ago. Phillies fans like myself are now about ready to declare Oct. 7, 2011 as the night that Philadelphia's baseball dynasty died. After losing 1-0 to the Cardinals and losing the NLDS to the future world champions that night, the Phillies have tanked ever since - yet the Cardinals are back in a familiar position as they return to Philadelphia on Aug. 10.

St. Louis got the chance to eliminate Philadelphia in the first place due to a hot late run and a huge Atlanta Braves collapse. A year later, the Cardinals are once again working on a big run to make the playoffs, whereas the Phillies are already playing out the string.

Despite losing Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa, the Cardinals are still hanging around in the NL Central and wild card races. In fact, they are starting to get hot yet again, as they've closed within five games of the division leading Cincinnati Reds and within 2 1/2 games of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second wild card. Given what happened last year, no one in the NL wants to see the Cardinals storm into the playoffs yet again.

But that is no longer the Phillies' problem, since they don't have to worry about the playoffs this year. Unlike St. Louis, Philadelphia wasn't equipped to lose its big stars this season, even though they only got hurt and didn't leave or retire. While the Cardinals still have David Freese, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday to lead them and have added Carlos Beltran, the Phillies' leaders have either slumped, gotten hurt or done both.

It is puzzling how the Cardinals lost their two biggest icons and could still be as dangerous as ever, whereas the Phillies are pretty much starting all over again after their icons got hurt and got old. A lot has changed for these teams in 10 months, yet only one of them has found a way to adapt so far.

All the Phillies can do is relive the past to kill time, as they adjust to their first meaningless August and September in ages - and their first free October since 2006. October 2011 ended an era in Philadelphia, although it could have been different if the Phillies just scored two more runs off the Cardinals.

But because they didn't, they are now an afterthought while the Cardinals return to Philadelphia as a world champion chasing another playoff berth. Those used to be the days for the Phillies, but they have looked further and further away ever since last Oct. 7.

Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.

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