7 more division games remain that will be meaningless in the standings, though it was the first 70 of them that won the East.
Do you remember the hype over the past month? All that the Philadelphia Phillies needed to do was keep the Atlanta Braves close … that these last 7 head-to-head games would be the deciding factor… that this was the biggest pair of match-ups of the year.
That chatter ended pretty quickly this weekend.
Surely somebody must have gone through each clubhouse and pumped up their guys to make sure that they were ready. I mean – hype aside – the margin was 5½ games. The Phillies did have a chance.
That chance actually evaporated pretty quickly as the Braves made sure that there would be no momentum gained, no psychology at work, no rallying points, and no point to escape a relentless lineup that pitched, hit, and fielded exceptionally for nearly the entire weekend.
- On Thursday, the Phillies held the lead for exactly 2 half-innings: top of the 1st and top of the 3rd. On each occasion, they were immediately matched.
- On Friday, they had a 1-0 lead for 2½ innings, then a brief 3-run cushion (Acuna’s “non-error” error). However, an immediate 5-run outburst ended that hope of a win from the visitors.
- Saturday: Philadelphia never had the lead and was essentially snuffed from the get-go… behind 4-0 after 2 frames.
- Sunday: they never managed a lead.
So over 36 total innings, the Phils were in the lead for a total of 4 innings, and only once after the 3rd inning in any game. They committed 4 actual errors and otherwise looked lost in the field at times.
The Braves did not officially commit an error (Acuna’s mid-read on a liner as noted), but they completely had the look and feel of a different team… and while I was going to limit that statement to the defensive side of the ball, it really applied offensively, too.
The Phillies made sure that both Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola would be in line to pitch in this series, with Nola being the anchor guy that would seal the deal on Sunday in the event that we want need more hype for next weekend.
Instead, the Braves met every challenge with an able answer that kept their rivals at bay for the entire weekend. With every inning and every game, it was more and more obvious which club was ready and which club wanted it more.
Would things have been different had the Phils managed to take Game 1? That would have put them 4½ behind with Arrieta and Nola still to come. The answer to that has to be maybe, though I’d still have to add “but not likely”. The Braves were still out-playing them – even with a somewhat shaky bullpen giving up teaser runs here and there.
It felt as if the Phillies actually weren’t up for the series and had essentially defeated themselves before arriving. So now they depart the deep South with their season all but over… 9½ back with 7 to play and only a single game over .500.
From the Other Side
Philadelphia fans have to wonder now how they managed to go to Atlanta with the season on the line and come back with… well, less than nothing, really.
Here are a couple of lines from those who write about them:
- “The Phillies are bowing out of the National League East race in spectacular fashion.”
- “A collapse that began at the beginning of August has finally reached rock bottom. The Atlanta Braves take the NL East division crown after another disappointing loss by the Phillies.”
They were stunned. It was disbelief that a team could not even compete. Now at 78-77, this is a result bad enough to make them have to question everything they built this season – the players, the manager, the analytics… everything.
Perhaps the signature moment of the series that describes Philadelphia’s play this weekend was when Max Fried picked off Odubel Herrera (scroll below that link for the video) in the 6th inning.
It was like he was in another world – caught flat-footed and hardly moving – when the throw came over. Lucas Duda actually had to step off 1st base and go out to tag him rather than put the glove on the ground as usual.
That’s how badly Atlanta beat up the Phillies… they hardly moved all weekend.