The Phillies took care of business in the regular season finale, beating the Nationals in a convincing 9-3 rout. However, their season officially ended moments later as the Astros held on to beat the Cubs 6-4 to clinch the NL Wildcard.
With nothing to play for but pride, the Cubs had their chances to score, but with two outs and two men on in the ninth, Jose Macias squashed the Phils’ hopes by lining out to second to end the ballgame.
For the Phils, they can hang their heads high after a fine season. They finished 88-74, their best record since 1993, playing some of their best baseball when it mattered most.
The Phils will carry many more positives than negatives forward into next season, including a 36-game hitting streak from Jimmy Rollins, three returning players with over 100 RBIs in Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu and Chase Utley, and a possible rookie of the year in Ryan Howard.
As for the pitching staff, they’ll get another year from their two best, Jon Lieber and Brett Myers, and will look to retain all-star closer Billy Wagner.
Beer Leaguer take:
The result can be mapped back on several roads, but the biggest leads to a season sweep at the hands of Houston. The Phils finished 0-6 against the Wild Card winners, including a devastating sweep at home at the beginning of September. The season will also be remembered for a number of games when Manuel made questionable choices that may have cost them some games, some bullpen meltdowns in the early going, and times when the Phillies offense couldn't produce.
When it’s all said and done however, the Phillies are the best team in the National League that won't be playing baseball in October. They have winning records against all the division winners, and I honestly believe they can hang with any of them, even the Astros.
If only, right?
If only we could see the team we saw this month play in the postseason. If only fans didn't have to wait 12 long seasons to see it.
During the stretch, the Phils demonstrated uncanny perseverance, making for the most enjoyable September in years. Unfortunately, close only counts in horseshoes, and the ride ended this afternoon.
So my thoughts immediately turn to next season, where things are looking promising - very promising - regardless of the personnel choices made this offseason. Go out and get some pitching and try to get younger at catcher and third. Do those things and the Phils should be in great shape. Thanks to an emerging generation and a solid veteran core, this is a team I still trust.
Even though the Phils are finished, Beer Leaguer is just getting started. I have a boatload of projects in the pipeline to take you through to next season, including a season recap beginning next week and some interspersed thoughts on baseball and the Philadelphia sports scene. Also, stay tuned for details on my upcoming print annual.