This year has been a long one for the Phillies and their fans.
But this weekend’s series against the horrifically awful Houston Astros may be the final nail in the coffin. In fact, it’s impossible to see how what transpired in Houston is anything other than that.
The Phils’ young bullpen blew yet another game on Sunday, a 7-6 loss to the 48-99 Houston Astros, one of the worst teams the National League has seen in the last 20 years. The loss capped a disastrous weekend in Houston, a place in which the Phils have experienced a lot of devastation over the last few years.
Sunday’s loss was the third in four games to the worst team in the NL, and in the process, pushed the Phillies four games behind St. Louis, the leaders for the second wild card spot. Even worse, the Phillies now trail Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh as well, with just 15 games left.
Four games down, 15 games left, and four teams to pass.
The odds are incredibly long now.
How long? The only realistic shot the Phillies have to pass all those teams is to win their last 15 games.
Seriously, the Phillies really have to go 15-0, or 14-1 at the very least, to have any realistic shot of finishing tied for that second wild card.
Raise your hand if you think THAT is going to happen.
Sunday’s loss belonged to the bullpen. While Roy Halladay still isn’t back to being the Roy Halladay of old, he was good enough to hand over a 4-3 lead to the ‘pen after six innings. Unfortunately, Antonio Bastardo and Phillippe Aumont, two young arms with lots of talent but still a lot of inconsistency, choked that lead away to a team of no-name youngsters, most of whom should still be in AAA.
And while Aumont entered the game in a tough spot in the 7th, with two runners on and one out, Aumont gave up a walk and two straight two-run hits, facing three batters and retiring none of them. The hits he gave up were to players by the names of Justin Maxwell and Matt Dominguez.
Braun and Fielder they are not.
The gravity of this weekend’s horror show seems to be lost on some of the players, including the revitalized Jimmy Rollins, who said after the game, “It’s not good, but it’s not deflating. A loss is a loss. We just don’t have room for any more.”
No, a loss is not JUST a loss. A loss against a tough team is a loss. It stinks, but it happens.
Losing three of four games, in the middle of a playoff hunt, to one of the worst professional baseball teams in the modern National League is something far, far worse.
Starting pitcher Roy Halladay, who is still struggling to recapture his form on the mound, tried to explain why the Phils had so much trouble with the Astros this weekend.
“I don’t know if it’s because they’re a young team,” he said. “Sometimes they’re aggressive. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re taking. I think the whole series, we never really figured out what their plan was. It was all over the place. It made it tough.”
Now, I love Roy Halladay as much as the next guy, but let’s be honest here.
That’s a bullcrap answer.
The Astros are 48-99. THEY HAVE 99 LOSSES. There are NO OTHER TEAMS in the National League who have had trouble with this squad.
This was a group of patsies, a group of losers, a team ripe for the picking. And in this series, the Phillies gave up 6, 6, 5, and 7 runs to a team with a collective batting average of .238.
A team WITH 99 LOSSES.
Perhaps we need to be honest about this whole thing. This little two-week run the Phils put on was awesome, and it portends very good things for 2013.
But the fact is the Phillies are not a playoff team. Even in this era of two wild card teams and five playoff teams per league, this Phillies team is not a postseason worthy.
The bullpen is full of young arms, many of whom are plenty talented with good stuff, but are woefully inexperienced and inconsistent. You cannot win games consistently with a bullpen like the one the Phillies have.
The Phils also have no third baseman, no left fielder and no center fielder. Their right fielder is still a work in progress, although he had some promising moments at the plate against the Astros. The starting catcher still isn’t playing every day, and the starting first baseman and second baseman, while still somewhat productive, are definitely on the downslope of their careers.
Oh, and their best pitcher, Roy Halladay, clearly isn’t the same pitcher he used to be. Whether he can ever recapture what he had before remains to be seen.
There are a ton of holes on this team, too many to be a real playoff contender.
But it was a fun run, ripping off seven in a row and pulling to within three games of a wild card spot, even if it was short-lived. Only, don’t tell that to Mr. Halladay.
“If we let three games get the best of us, we wouldn’t be where we are right now,” Halladay said afterwards. “This was a chance to put us in a better spot and it didn’t happen the way we wanted. If we let these three games get the best of us, then we’re in trouble. There’s still a ways to go. We can still make a run at it. We would have just been in a better spot.”
I understand the platitudes. The players must tell themselves these things in order to stay motivated.
But the truth is, there ISN’T a ways to go. There are only 15 games left, and four teams in front of the Phillies that all control their own destiny more so than the Phils do.
It’s quickly becoming time to see if Darin Ruf can play the outfield and how Chase Utley might handle third base in a real game situation. It’s time to continue testing the young bullpen arms and analyzing what’s possible for 2013.
Because after this weekend’s stinkfest in Houston, it’s almost impossible to see how the Phillies can recover from this debacle.