The Phillies had gotten 24 outs going into the 9th inning against the Braves tonight, and a sweep seemed all but a certainty. The Phillies looked like they would close to within 7 games of the Wild Card and sweep the Braves in Atlanta giving them a boost going to Cincinnati. With three outs to go, Charlie Manuel brought Jeremy Horst out to start the 9th. Horst struggled and with 2 base runners on, Charlie went to Papelbon. Two things were very clear right away: Papelbon was not mentally ready to come in and did not have any location of his pitches. A walk to Micahel Bourn, led to a ground ball to Third Base hit by Prado which should have ended the game, but it didn’t. Kevin Frandsen tried to play it from the side and it went off his glove and into the outfield. As I was watching the Prado at bat, I realized with Papelbon’s location the last person I wanted to see was on deck was there, Chipper Jones. As Jones came to the plate, it was as if an enormous black cloud of unmet expectations, losing, and frustration hung over the Phillies, it was labeled 2012. It was a gut check for this team. Would they find a way to lose? Or would they show that this team was different than the one before the Trade Deadline. Then Chipper hit a Matt Stairs- like bomb and it was over.
Blame could be put on Charlie, Fransden, or Papelbon. They all had their part, but maybe it is deeper than that. Does a championship caliber team lose that game? No. Sure, all teams make mistakes but good teams find a way. Someone makes a play, someone makes a pitch, everyone on that team knows they are gonna win somehow. I have played alot of baseball in my life, and I have found one common thing. Good teams when bad things start to happen take a deep breath, recollect themselves and take it to another gear to finish it off. Bad teams have something bad happen to them and all goes wrong because they know it will. Why, because baseball is all mental. Sure, the blame could be spread around tonight, but the Phillies have done this all season. It was their destined fate.
For whatever reason beyond talent, experience, and the will to win, the Phillies just can’t hold the levees when something bad happens this season. They hope to win, but don’t see it as a formality like past seasons. Injuries are seen as barriers, not hurdles to their success. Errors are not a chance to wake up, but a play which will haunt them. Most importantly like tonight, for the first time since 2006, the teams that play the Phillies see them as beatable. It’s almost parallel to when Rocky is fighting Drago and Drago gets cut. Everyone realizes he is human, and he can be beat. Teams playing the Phillies duing their run saw them as possibly the toughest team in baseball, because they didn’t lose these kind of games. It’s just that kind of season for the Phillies. One swing encapsulated an entire season.