The Philadelphia Phillies and Roy Halladay have each had uglier seasons than usual. Phillies fans like myself are used to seeing the team and its ace dominate together, but their paths in 2012 have been much rougher. They each started iffy, collapsed during the summer and got hotter again in August and September - but each may have bottomed out on Sept. 22 against the Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies needed Halladay to be his old self and keep their wild card hopes flickering. Instead, one of the worst performances of Halladay's career may have been a death blow for Philadelphia, as it suffered an 8-2 loss it really couldn't afford.
The mere idea of Halladay being unable to survive the second inning of a game was once laughable. Now it is still stunning, but not really that surprising anymore. The Braves had their way with him and never let up, starting with Freddie Freeman hitting a three-run homer in the first with two outs and two strikes.
Halladay also let the second inning get away from him, as he was charged with four more runs - all with two outs. He never got that third out this time, as he gave the Phillies no choice but to take him out of his misery. In fact, this may have been the day that Philadelphia was put out of its misery as well.
If the Phillies had won this game, they would have gained ground on the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers - and kept from losing ground to the St. Louis Cardinals. Instead, the Phillies are now four games back of the Cardinals with just 10 games to play, which looks more and more insurmountable.
The Halladay from last year wouldn't have let a big game like this slip away so horribly. But this is not the Halladay from last year, and these are not the Phillies of years past - no matter how much the last few weeks have helped us forget for a while.
Halladay and the Phillies have been winning more since August, yet they have not really been dominant. Even though Halladay came into this game with a 10-7 record, and Philadelphia had gotten three games over .500 itself, these marks are still misleading. Despite salvaging winning records, the ace and this team have still taken significant steps backwards this season.
As such, the two may have deluded themselves to think they could salvage a postseason berth anyway. But that illusion is one big step closer to being shattered after this shellacking. Given how Halladay and the Phillies have gone down, up and down again together this season, it makes sense that they suffered this killer blow together as well.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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