The Philadelphia Phillies couldn't have started their series with the Miami Marlins any better. Those Phillies fans like myself who are still paying attention were impressed that they shut the Marlins out twice in a row. With Roy Halladay coming out to wrap up the series on Aug. 15, and with Halladay back to his old self in his past two starts, Philadelphia had a sweep - if not a total three-game shutout - in its sights.
However, when it comes to Halladay and the Phillies, they cannot stay hot for an extended period of time. As such, the ace and his team's shutdown streaks both ended in Miami, as the Marlins finally got some runs and then piled them on for a 9-2 victory.
The final score is somewhat misleading, since Halladay wasn't completely outgunned. He did go seven innings and only allowed six hits - but unlike Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick, he let the Marlins on the scoreboard. What's more, Miami scored three times while Mark Buehrle limited Philadelphia to two runs through seven innings.
But when the bullpens took over, the Phillies' usual problems with relief pitching took over as well. While Halladay kept his team in the game, B.J. Rosenberg, Raul Valdes and Michael Schwimer were not so lucky. They combined to let the Marlins score six clinching runs in the eighth, although they hadn't scored a single run in their previous three games.
The bullpen clearly let this get out of hand for the Phillies, yet Halladay opened the door by letting the Marlins get a taste for runs again. The old Halladay would have shut them down after Hamels and Kendrick knocked them out beforehand - and even the Halladay who breezed through his last two starts might have as well. But when he takes one step forward this season, it is usually followed by a step back - just like Philadelphia's season as a whole.
The Phillies and Marlins were expected to battle for first place when the season started, and now they are reduced to fighting their way out of last place. Yet Philadelphia could have pulled into a third-place tie with the collapsing New York Mets if they'd finished a sweep. Third place still leaves the Phillies a long way from the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals - but staying out of last is pretty much the only thing left to play for this year.
Despite giving away this final game, the Phillies still put a bit more distance between them, the Marlins and the cellar. However, after shutting Miami out in the first two outings, having Halladay pitch in the finale really should have secured Philadelphia a sweep, at least. Yet in 2012, Halladay still just isn't the safe bet that he used to be.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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