The Philadelphia Phillies were flying high coming into their weekend series with the Atlanta Braves. Phillies fans like myself finally got to enjoy some momentum earlier that week, after sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers and ensuring Cole Hamels will stay in town. However, sweeping the Brewers was pretty easy - despite needing three comebacks - since Milwaukee is even more dead in the water than Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, the Braves are a playoff team at the moment and are poised to make sure they don't have another September collapse. So now that the Phillies are facing an actual contender, they have been brought back down to Earth and reality, as their 2-1 loss on July 28 further proved.
After Cole Hamels got knocked around and lost control on July 27, Joe Blanton, of all people, proved to be more stable. Yet despite Blanton's seven innings of four hit ball, the Phillies only got four hits of their own in eight innings against Mike Minor. This was a surprising pitching duel between pitchers at the bottom end of the Phillies and Braves' rotations, yet Philadelphia was less equipped to handle it.
Two early runs gave the Braves all the cushion they would need, as Chase Utley's homer in the fourth only cut the deficit to one. In fact, after the fourth inning the Phillies never got another base runner - which really isn't the way to make a comeback. Although Philadelphia torched Milwaukee's pitching at the very end of games, Atlanta is a bit more stable on that end.
This isn't the first time the Phillies have had momentum stalled recently when they've faced an actual contender. Right after the All-Star break, Philadelphia went 4-2 against the Colorado Rockies and the then-struggling Los Angeles Dodgers, and could have gone 5-1. But that brief run was halted when they faced a first place San Francisco Giants team from July 20-22, and nearly got swept by this much hotter club.
This weekend has started exactly the same, as a Braves team holding the second wild card spot has proven to be too much to handle for the Phillies. Philadelphia can beat up on its fellow weak sisters all it wants, but it means nothing without beating the best in the NL as well. Unfortunately, since the Phillies are no longer among the best in the NL, this has been too difficult of a task.
Beating the Braves this weekend might have spawned hope for a season-saving run in the final two months of the year. However, now that the Phillies are 11 1/2 games back for a playoff spot and could drop another game back on July 29, reality has shown its ugly head again. And with the NL East leading Washington Nationals lying ahead after this, reality may get uglier by the day.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
Other stories from this contributor