The Philadelphia Phillies have had a notable history with the Houston Astros over the last 30+ years. Phillies fans like myself like to remember narrowly beating the Astros in the 1980 NLCS, getting Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence from them before trade deadlines, and letting them endure Ed Wade as a general manager.
But Houston has also been an annoying pain in the neck for Philadelphia sometimes - and managed to inflict pain one last time before it left for the American League in 2013.
In the last game that the Phillies and Astros played as National League rivals on Sept. 16, Houston rallied for its third win in what was supposed to be an easy four-game series. The 7-6 Astros win may have well been the next-to-last nail in the Phillies' coffin, if not the last one.
It wouldn't be the first time that a heartbreaking Astros win over the Phillies cost Philadelphia a playoff berth. Back in September 2005, a ninth-inning Craig Biggio home run off ex-Houston closer Billy Wagner made the difference in Philadelphia losing the wild card - while Houston went on to the World Series. It was common practice for the Astros to derail the Phillies in the first half of the 2000s, although Philadelphia got the last laugh in the next half.
In those years, the Phillies became a powerhouse while the Astros went from a perennial contender to cellar dwellers. Even when Philadelphia took a step back this season, Houston tumbled even further and was on track for 110 losses. However, the Astros didn't even lose their 100'th game this weekend, thanks to only losing once to the Phillies.
Philadelphia should have won all four games, considering how hot it had become and how cold Houston still was. But instead, the Phillies blew late leads in the first and last games of this series, while also getting shut out by a pitcher with only one win this season. Yet after being shut down by Dallas Keuchel, the Phillies got out to a 4-2 lead in the finale - only to yield a four-run seventh inning.
If the Phillies finish one or two games back of the second wild card spot, these three losses to the Astros will be the reason why. Of course, all the defeats in the first five months of the year also played a part, yet these losses to one of the worst teams in years are a much easier scapegoat.
How could a Philadelphia club that blew past the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds in recent weeks lose all these games to the most inferior opponent around, at the worst possible time? Unfortunately when that inferior opponent is the Astros, all of this is thrown out the window for the Phillies.
The only relief is that Houston can't ruin another September for Philadelphia ever again - although it could always ruin October in a decade or two.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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