Generally, losing one game doesn't matter. But, the Philadelphia Phillies know that their 6-4 loss to the Houston Astros last night reinforces the Wild Card time pressures that they are currently facing.
Every game matters
The baseball season is incredibly long. I wouldn't have it any other way, because I love this sport.
Losing one game, or dropping a series sometime in the spring, doesn't feel that important because there are so many games yet to be played.
But, the Phillies' sub-par performance through late-July put them in a position that many felt they couldn't recover from. Possibly, that's still the case.
Traveling to Texas to play a team that has the worst record in baseball included advantages and disadvantages. Clearly a squad of that caliber isn't filled with All-Stars, but those players have pride.
Former Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs' pitcher Tyler Cloyd assumed the rotational spot that was vacated by Vance Worley. The 'Vanimal' wasn't having a good year, due to a variety of health and connected performance issues. So, his replacement had the opportunity to provide a more consistent effort.
Pitching on 'short rest', this rookie's line shows that he surrendered three earned runs (a three-run home run) in three innings to the Astros. Despite his 15-1 combined record at Double-A and Triple-A this season, Cloyd's limited velocity implies that he will need to rely on his guile to remain in the majors on a long-term basis.
Even though Cloyd's former Triple-A teammates' Phillippe Aumont earned the loss and Jake Diekman blew the save, those young men weren't fully responsible for the final outcome of the game.
The eleven men that the Phillies left on base are the main reason why I think the Astros weren't forced to bat in the bottom of the ninth. But, losses happen in a pennant race and teams can't be expected to execute perfectly every night.
Banking on near perfection
Let's randomly speculate that if the St. Louis Cardinals can hold onto their second-place Wild Card spot, that the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Milwaukee Brewers will all fall behind the Phillies at some point. (We also shouldn't forget about the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are now only 0.5 games behind the Phillies in this supplemental playoff race.)
Philadelphia and St. Louis have both played 144 games. In order for the Phillies to personally stop the Cardinals' chances of extending their reign as World Series champions, they will need to win most of their remaining 18 games.
Because the Phillies are now positioned four games behind the Cardinals, with the previously mentioned three other teams sandwiched between them, there is almost no margin for error. Philadelphia's fans hope that this late-season surge can continue, while also realizing that steep challenges remain ever-present.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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