The Philadelphia Phillies had a chance to end the first half on a strong note against divisional rivals. If the Phillies had done well and made up ground against the Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia fans like myself would have been optimistic for a second half run. But after getting swept for the second time in this stretch, it is a much different matter.
The Phillies completed their 1-8 run against the Marlins, Mets and Braves by losing a third straight home game to the Braves on July 8. It basically happened just like the last two losses, as late Atlanta hits, another Brian McCann home run and a lack of Philadelphia offense solidified a 4-3 defeat.
Like they did on July 7, the Phillies got an early lead with a few quick runs and then barely got anything afterwards. Ironically, it was a replacement player who got all of the Phillies' RBIs, as Jason Pridie got a two-run home run and an RBI double in place of Shane Victorino. His sudden benching and Pridie's success certainly helped fuel trade rumors around Victorino going into the break.
But aside from this last minute fill in, the rest of the Phillies' hitters had little success, just like usual in this series. Despite having to face both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the Braves held the returning stars to a combined 1-for-8 performance. With Philadelphia unable to hold a 2-0 or 3-2 lead, all Atlanta had to do was wait until Vance Worley was taken out to make its move.
Naturally, McCann was the one to deliver the crushing blow off of Raul Valdes, who got within one strike of ending a harmless seventh inning. But when he needed one more strike, he let McCann hit his third home run of the series instead to break a 3-3 tie. Although there were still three more innings to go, this pretty much decided the outcome then and there.
This was a game where Dan Uggla snapped an 0-for-20 slump with a two-run homer, where starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens went seven innings for only the second time, and where McCann hit his third home run in Philadelphia after just snapping a 58 at-bat homer drought earlier this week. But the Phillies were the cure for what ailed them, which is the only thing they seem to be good for now.
The Braves now hold second place and the second wild card spot going into the break after this sweep. Meanwhile, the Phillies have fallen 10 games back of a playoff spot, are 14 back in the NL East and are five games back to even get out of last place. With that kind of first half, getting swept by the Braves was the only way for it to end - along perhaps with the season for all intents and purposes.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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