The Philadelphia Phillies ended last September by sweeping the Atlanta Braves, completing the Braves' historic collapse and appearing on track for another championship. Of course, Phillies fans like myself are resigned to a far less eventful September in 2012. But while Philadelphia has severely regressed in 12 months, Atlanta is right where it was to start last September, with a playoff berth seemingly in sights.
Can the Braves end this September a lot better than they did the last one, and actually secure a spot in October? It may not be a good sign that Atlanta ended its last horrific September against Philadelphia, and is starting this September against the Phillies as well. The symmetry matched up further on Aug. 31, as the Phillies started this weekend series with an 8-5 extra inning win at Atlanta - almost like how they ended the Braves' season last year.
Of course, the game on Aug. 31, 2012 was different than the one on Sept. 28, 2011. In that one, the Phillies prevailed in 13 innings and eliminated the Braves from the wild card race, despite their large lead in it a month earlier. Although Philadelphia had nothing to play for that night, it still broke Atlanta's heart - and lived to regret it when the St. Louis Cardinals repaid the Phillies in the NLDS.
But almost a year later, the Phillies have nothing to play for against the Braves again - only under far different circumstances. Philadelphia rested its starters and sent out scrubs last year because it was rested for the playoffs. This time, the Phillies are starting scrubs because they are out of the playoff chase altogether - and still managed to beat a much more motivated Braves team in extra innings at Atlanta again.
This victory was more remarkable because Philadelphia has been awful against Atlanta all season. In addition, Roy Halladay couldn't even get out of the fifth inning after giving up two two-run homers. But the Phillies rallied back and actually made Cy Young worthy closer Craig Kimbrel blow a ninth-inning save, then finished the Braves off in the 10'th instead of the 13'th.
If the Phillies can keep beating the Braves in the first two days of September, will it be a sign that history could repeat itself in Atlanta? For the next four weeks, the Braves will keep facing constant reminders of what happened 12 months ago. They've faced those reminders all year and looked okay so far, but it can be a different story when things really count.
Last September ended with the Phillies completing an historic Braves collapse, so could this September start with the Phillies triggering another one? Since Philadelphia won't personally pay for it in October this time, it might as well take a shot - it has nothing better to do this month anyway.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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