Thursday, November 5, 2009

5 reasons it doesn't feel right the Phillies lost

In the wake of watching the New York Yankees celebrate their 27th World Series Championship, something just doesn't feel right about it. It really did seem as if the Phillies were going to repeat this year. Not that the Yankees didn't deserve it, (moral arguments aside) because they clearly played better than the Phillies. But here are 5 reasons why the it felt like the Phils were going to repeat.

1- Philadelphia had the best starting pitcher in the postseason. Cliff Lee went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in the postseason. Last year, it was Cole Hamels with similar numbers. It felt as if the Phillies were riding their ace to postseason series victories this year, just like they did last year. If one pitcher gets you two wins the World Series, one would think that team could somehow muster 2 wins in the other 5 games. If you were to be told Cliff Lee would win 2 games in the World Series and C.C. Sabathia would win none, who would you think would have won the series? The Phillies haven't lost to C.C. in both postseasons, last year with Milwaukee and this year with New York. Philadelphia rode Cliff Lee this year like they rode Cole Hamels last year. It just seemed as long as they had the best pitcher in the playoffs, it would be very difficult for them to lose a series. Wrong.

2-NLCS game 4. Last year, it was a clutch 3 run home run by Matt Stairs that capped a wild victory and put the Phillies up 3 games to 1 and all but guaranteed them a World Series birth. But it wasn't only the World Series birth it guaranteed. It also guaranteed that this team would come out of nowhere to win games and their heart would not allow them to lose. This year, Jimmy Rollins 2-out 2 RBI double in game 4 proved exactly the same fate in the NLCS. That hit won the game, put the Phils up insurmountably at 3 games to 1 and all but proved that the same style team was back again this year, ready to win the World Series. There would be no such comebacks in the World Series.

3-Up until the World Series, the Phillies hadn't lost more than 1 game in the past 5 postseason series. This is a well known fact that even minute sports fans would know. Also that they always lost game 2. But looking deeper into this, it seemed the Phillies always had the confidence that there wouldn't be a problem. They seemed to make all the right adjustments to keep themselves out of harms way. Same thing this year. Losing game 2 to the Rockies and losing home field advantage could have hurt them badly. Then they won the next 2. No problem. Losing to the Dodgers game 4 after losing game 2 and potentially losing the recently gained home field advantage looked problematic. Nope, won that game and the next one. 4-1, no problem. Losing game 2 and jumping to an early 3-0 lead against the Yankees in game 3, it felt as if they were going to continue their pattern. But as Cole Hamels was a different pitcher this postseason than last, as was the Phillies World Series results.

4-Comebacks. Game 4 against Colorado. Crazy. Game 4 against LA. Crazy. Game 4 against New close. After being down 2-0, the Phils came back to tie it. After being down 4-2, the Phils game back to tie it with Utley and Feliz home runs, the latter coming in the bottom of the 8th and making it a fresh battle of the bullpens in the 9th. This just seemed as if another great Philadelphia late game victory was in store. Similar to last year against the Rays where the Phils had a 9th inning walk off in game 3 and back and forth battle to score the winning run in the 7th inning in game 5. Game 1 and game 4 against the Dodgers, both come from behind wins. This year in the World Series, it just didn't happen.

5-They weren't supposed to win. Last year Manny and the Dodgers were supposed to be just too much. Last year the Rays had already beaten the best team in the postseason in the Boston Red Sox. The Phillies would be easy. This year the Dodgers were different. They had the best record in the National League. They had a young, potent lineup that walked through St. Louis. Certainly, the Phillies and their bullpen struggles couldn't compete with LA's great bullpen and homefield advantage. That storybook feeling was coming back. No way could they beat the Yankees, the best record in baseball, $423 million dollar offseason, a lineup of all-stars. Then, Philly takes game 1 in dominating fashion. It was happening all over again. Except, it just didn't continue that way.

After all that this team went through this year, from Cole's struggles, to the Ibanez off-season signing and the Lee mid-season signing to the Myers, Hamels, Romero DL stints, it just seemed as if the Phillies and Charlie Manuel were going to find a way to do it again. But this wasn't the same team. Brad Lidge wasn't the same. Their offense sputtered where they thrived last year. Howard didn't show up to the World Series, neither did Rollins or Victorino. Cole Hamels collapsed physically and mentally and with him went any chance of a 2nd dominating pitcher. As real as it felt that a repeat was bound to happen, the team just was not the same as 2008's heroic ballclub.

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