The Philadelphia Phillies used to dominate the NL East and all those in it. Of course, for most of the glory years, Phillies fans like myself weren't used to seeing NL East clubs who could keep up with us and beat us. The Atlanta Braves threatened to be that team for a while last year, but suffered one of baseball's worst collapses last September - which was capped off by a season-killing sweep from Philadelphia.
The Phillies lived to regret sweeping the Braves in those meaningless games, since they had to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs as a result. But the Braves are getting the last laugh of their own in 2012, as they contend for another playoff berth and keep beating up the Phillies along the way.
The latest example came on Aug. 6, as Atlanta came to Philadelphia and cruised to a 6-1 victory. It was really nothing new, given how the Braves swept the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park right before the All-Star break. But it doesn't matter if they face off at Philadelphia or at Atlanta, since the Braves are 8-2 against the Phillies this year regardless.
Those wins look pretty important right now, as the Braves are building up a lead for a berth in the NL wild card game. However, if they keep winning like this, they can possibly avoid all that and catch the Washington Nationals for the NL East title. With the Nationals still on track to shut Stephen Strasburg down in early September, the Braves may be favored to reap the benefits.
Since Atlanta did collapse so thoroughly last September, with a wild card berth seemingly locked up, the constant reminders of last year should keep the Braves on track this September. As long as they hang around with contenders and beat the teams they're supposed to beat - with the Phillies now in the latter category - the Braves should avoid the worst this time.
It is actually unfortunate for Atlanta that it only plays Philadelphia in two more series after this week. When the Phillies had nothing to play for at the end of last season, they still delivered the final killing blow to the Braves - in what may become the last hurrah of their golden era. 12 months later, Philadelphia is playing out the string for far different reasons, but Atlanta can't take advantage in the final week-and-a-half of the regular season.
The Phillies can only watch and see who finally takes the NL East crown away from them in the next two months. And every time they play the Braves these days, they make Atlanta look more and more like the heirs to the throne.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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