The Philadelphia Phillies lost the last game (7-6) of their four-game series in Texas to the Houston Astros. Why would a team that's making a late-season playoff push lose three games in four days to a team that is destined to eclipse the 100-loss barrier this year?
Was the Phillies recent September winning streak revealed as nothing more than a burst of unsustainable emotion?
Wild Card realities
The Phillies are on their way to play the New York Mets in a three-game road series that begins on September 17. They packed their 73-74 record with them and know that there are only 15 games left in the 2012 season.
Optimists will choose to believe that they could sweep the fourth-place Mets and also hope that every potential playoff team in front of them loses as much as possible this week. If those dreams come true, Charlie Manuel and his boys of September would be able to open their three-game home series against the Atlanta Braves (starting on September 21) with a smile.
Realistic playoff hopes have been lessened b ecause of the Phillies poor performance against a group of mostly borderline major league players at Minute Maid Park in Houston this weekend. Now, let's step back for a moment and try and remove some emotion from the equation.
To be completely honest
Before we look too far down our noses at the Astros, we should not forget that the Phillies have many spots on their roster that are currently filled with borderline major league players. There are many former Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs' players (and a few Reading Phillies players) who have been sitting in the dugout with our old friends this month. That's natural after August 31, but not if those people are being counted on to play major roles in this month's diamond drama. Some have been counted on as key components for longer than that as well.
Take an honest look at these names: Erik Kratz, Kevin Frandsen, Domonic Brown, Pete Orr, Phillippe Aumont, Jeremy Horst, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, B.J. Rosenberg, and Tyler Cloyd. Every one of those professional athletes is trying their best and many of them have performed quite well in a variety of pressured situations. But, that's not the main point.
Familiar Phillies' faces like: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick, and Jonathan Papelbon have performed at varying levels this season.
Think whatever you want about general manager Ruben Amaro Junior's offseason decisions, or Charlie Manuel's managerial style. The need to rely on the large group of inexperienced players that was previously referenced for an extended period of time has created consequences, plain and simple.
The bottom line
Review all the statistical analysis that you like, analyze every team's remaining schedule, and the performance of human beings still reigns supreme. If the Phillies don't complete this miracle comeback it will be disappointing, but it will also be completely understandable.
If this Phillies' team clinches a Wild Card berth, I will consider it to be the second-greatest accomplishment of this great playoff era that began in 2007. Obviously, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays to win the 2008 World Series would rightly be rated as the high point. And yes, I would put a 2012 second-place Wild Card finish above the 2009 World Series appearance against the New York Yankees because of the personnel that has been used this season.
There are still games to be played and the Phillies have not been eliminated yet. Most importantly, everyone in that Philadelphia dugout (including the manager and his staff) have shown resilience, heart, and determination. In consideration of all that has happened this year, I consider this to be a respectable season.
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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